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Best Hikes in Arches National Park | Utah's Mighty 5 Road Trip

Updated: May 8

The Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah are an incredible way to experience the array of natural wonders the state has to offer. A road trip through these parks will bring you through stunning canyons, over rocky peaks, and under massive arches -- all in one week! I highly recommend getting yourself an America the Beautiful National Park Pass before heading off on this trip.


In this series, I'm taking you on a journey through the Mighty 5. It's broken down by each park for easier consumption and for those that are looking for info on just one or two instead of the entire five. I'm giving all the juicy details of the parks, including where I would definitely hit with more time or skip if I'm in a rush.


You can also view the entire trip in video form here!


In this leg, we're exploring Arches National Park. This was the second park I visited on my road trip after Canyonlands. Arches NP contains the highest concentration of natural arches in the world with over 2,000 arches in its 119 square miles (76,519 acres). There are adventures of every level and we'll be sampling from them all over a day and half.



We've got tons to see, so let's get started!


Highlights:

  • Fiery Furnace (2.1+ miles)

  • Devil's Garden Trail (7.9 miles)

  • Salt Valley Overlook (0 miles)

  • Delicate Arch Lower and Upper Viewpoints (0.5 miles)

  • Balanced Rock (0.3 miles)

  • Petrified Dunes Viewpoint (0 miles)

  • Ken's Lake Campground

  • The Windows Trail (1 mile)

  • Double Arch (0.6 miles)

  • Park Ave Viewpoint (0 miles, with optional 2 mile trail)


Total mileage: 12.4+ miles (wiggle room for Fiery Furnace wandering and Park Ave Trail)


Favorite Adventures: Fiery Furnace, Devil's Garden, Windows Trail, Double Arch, and Park Ave viewpoint -- lots of goodies!


Check out this leg of my road trip in this video (Fiery Furnace and Devil's Garden) and the first half of this video (Salt Valley Overlook and on)!


I woke up this morning to quite a different scene compared to the previous night. There was a lovely dusting of snow as far as I could see. It was absolutely frigid this morning. The windows of my car were frozen on the inside from the condensation of my breath!


A desert scene with red rock structures and a light layer of snow.
Snow-covered view from Hamburger Rock Campground.

I started this morning around 6:30 and packed up quickly to make my way over to Arches National Park. Canyonlands and Arches are just down the road from each other on opposite sides of Highway 191. The drive to the Arches National Park Visitor Center from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center in Canyonlands is just 35 minutes. From my campsite in Hamburger Rock Campground, the drive is around 1 hour and 30 minutes.


My main goal for this day was to complete the Fiery Furnace hike. The remaining time I had this day would either go to the Devil's Garden trail or to shorter hikes and viewpoints if I had less time.


Fiery Furnace requires either going on a ranger-led tour of the area, or doing a self-led tour with a separate permit. I did a self-led tour and tackled the maze on my own! These permits must be reserved online between two and seven days before the hike date. You'll then need to head to the visitor center the day before or the day of your hike, watch an educational video and listen to an orientation talk, and receive your physical permit.


Note: As of the writing of this article, ranger-led tours are paused. They are anticipated to return in May 2024!


I was a little early to pick up my permit, so headed to the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint to get ready for the day while I waited for the visitor center to open. I made a quick breakfast, got dressed, brushed my teeth and did my skincare -- all while enjoying a stunning view.


Once the visitor center opened, I went to grab my permit and drove over to the Fiery Furnace trailhead!


A dirt trail between tall red canyon walls.
Fiery Furnace hike.

Fiery Furnace is a hike unlike any other you're likely to encounter. The trail meanders through a natural maze of red rocks and sandstone canyons. According to the NPS website, there are several possible ways through the maze, but there is one marked route hikers can follow to avoid getting lost.


Remember to bring plenty of water, sun protection, and some snacks! You can spend anywhere from one to several hours exploring all the areas of Fiery Furnace.


A small white arrow on a post in the middle of desert plants and red rocks.
Easy to spot marker in Fiery Furnace.

The markers for this unofficial trail are small brown arrow signs that blend in with the surrounding stone. Some markers are easily visible and propped up on posts; others are placed in more hidden locations up high on the walls or on the ground. These markers make it easy to choose your difficulty level. Keep an eye out for and follow the arrows if you'd like to stick to the trail. Ignore the arrows and choose your own path if you'd like to test out the maze's many routes for yourself.


Small white arrow on the ground, reddish-brown stone, point up toward rock spires.
Hidden marker in Fiery Furnace.

I won't spoil the mysteries for you, but know that there are many fun surprises to be found within the maze. You'll be rewarded for wandering off the marked path and checking each possible path and dead end.


Fiery Furnace requires a certain degree of strength and agility. You'll be doing some rock scrambling, walking along uneven terrain, and squeezing through narrow slots in places. If you're at all worried about this, check with the park rangers, go with another person, and give yourself plenty of time.


Rock spires and a path along a rock edge.
A section of the Fiery Furnace hike.

There are portions that are difficult to follow as they leave the dirt and travel along the rock, making it impossible to track the footprints of hikers that came before you. Keep your wits about you and make sure you don't wander off any edges!


Remember to look behind you periodically for some incredible views. Here's one I captured as I was heading through a narrow opening in the rock.


A desert scene seen through a narrow opening in rock walls.
A view in Fiery Furnace.

I started my journey through Fiery Furnace just before 11 a.m. and was back out by the parking lot around 12:40 p.m., putting my time at around 1 hour and 45 minutes. I definitely could have spent more time in the maze exploring different paths, but mostly stuck the main trail for the sake of time. I'd love to return and wander for an extra hour next time.


A desert scene with red and white striped rock structures on the left and snow-capped mountains in the background.
The view from the Fiery Furnace parking lot.

Settled back in my car, I drove over to the trailhead for Devil's Garden. This was easily the most crowded place I visited in Arches National Park. There are several options for hiking here with varying lengths depending on what you want to see and how much time and energy you'd like to spend. I had my sights set on the full loop, which is 7.9 miles and includes a section of primitive trail.


Some highlights of the Devil's Garden Trail are Landscape Arch, Double O Arch, and the Dark Angel. The trail is wheelchair accessible up through Landscape Arch, which is a 1.8-mile out-and-back trip from the trailhead.


If you're short on time, I recommend doing this shorter section of the trail so you can still see this section of the park. Landscape Arch is one of the top arches to catch since it's the longest in North America and one of the longest natural arches in the entire world at 306 feet across!


A very wide and thin arch over desert plants and rocks.
Landscape Arch

For those that choose to continue along the entire Devil's Garden loop, several other arches await you: Double O, Partition, Navajo, Private, Pine Tree, Tunnel, and more. I challenge you to try finding them all -- I certainly didn't!


A small arch within a larger one with a person standing underneath.
Double O Arch

The primitive section of Devil's Garden was a fun area to hike through and requires a little more advanced hiking skill. You'll find yourself traveling over uneven ground, doing some rock scrambling, and tracking the trail with minimal markers. Be prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and proper shoes.


There wasn't as much to see along this portion in terms of arches and rock formations. It's still a fun trek and I'll always opt for completing a loop trail instead of doubling back when I can.


Woman in a baseball cap smiling to the camera with snow falling and rock spires in the background.
Snow on the primitive section of Devil's Garden.

On my hike, it started snowing pretty heavily and I was ready to be back at my car. Thankfully, it wasn't bad enough that the trail was slippery or hard to follow. I picked up my pace and was back at the trailhead by around 3:40 p.m. Since I started hiking just after 1:00, the entire loop took my just over two and a half hours -- at a pretty quick pace.


I knew I'd be leaving Arches NP pretty early the next day, so I wanted to make use of what little daylight I had left. I took off from the Devil's Garden parking lot to head toward my next stop.


I made a super quick pit stop at the Salt Valley Overlook for a snack. This viewpoint wasn't anything to write home about, but was a good enough spot to park and eat a PB&J. It's a definite "skip" if you're short on time.


My stop lasted just long enough to inhale my sandwich before heading off again to tackle the Lower and Upper Viewpoints for the Delicate Arch. In just half a mile, you'll stop at two viewing areas for the famous Delicate Arch. This beautiful free-standing arch is the background of the Utah license plate!


A free-standing arch seen from a distance.
Delicate Arch from Upper Viewpoint

Unfortunately, these viewpoints are pretty far from Delicate Arch. The iconic arch formed a tiny circle on the horizon and on my phone screen as I tried to snap a couple pictures. Even with my iPhone camera zoomed all the way in, the angle wasn't ideal for viewing the arch. Rock structures behind the arch blocked the blue sky from showing through.


The Upper Viewpoint is closer to Delicate Arch and does have a better view, so is worth the extra bit of mileage.


However, if I had had a couple more hours, I would have definitely opted for the Delicate Arch Trail that brings you right up to the arch itself. This is a different trailhead from that of the viewpoints! If you're visiting Arches during the summer when you have more daylight hours, this should be entirely possible on Day Two, instead of the viewpoints trail that I did.


Moving onto our last hike of the day, Balanced Rock is a 0.3-mile trail that should definitely be on your Arches itinerary. You really get your bang for your buck with this quick stop.


A large, red rock balanced on top of a rock tower.
Balanced Rock from the front.

Balanced Rock is easily visible from the road, but taking the time to walk all the way around it gives you a totally different perspective. I loved seeing it from all angles. It looks so precarious up there!


A narrow rock balanced atop a rock tower.
Balanced Rock from another angle.

By now it was around 4:50 p.m. and I wanted to make my way to camp. One last roadside stop at the Petrified Dunes Viewpoint rounded out my day. There's not much information about this spot on the NPS website (that I could find) or anywhere in the park's info. It was an interesting stop, but I'd skip it if you're at all short on time.


A desert scene with shrubs and rock mounds covering the ground.
Petrified Dunes Viewpoint

I wrapped up my day with a cozy meal and warm sweatpants over at the Ken's Lake Campground. This was an ideal spot just 25 minutes away from the visitor center. Campsites are currently $20/night and can be reserved up to six months in advance here.


Pro tip: I booked a site close to the lake thinking that would be the nicer section, but realized upon arrival that the better view was opposite the lake and toward the La Sals. I recommend booking campsite 30 for a great view!


A three-panel image with the left-most labeled "facing the lake" with a view of a rock ridge. The center and right panels are labeled "facing the mountains" and show red rock ridge lines and snow-capped mountains.
Views at Ken's Lake Campground

Enjoy a relaxing night under the stars and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow is going to be packed with adventure so we're going to need it.


The next morning, we're up bright and early again. First, we're headed back into Arches to finish a few short trails. Let's head to the parking area for The Windows Trail first.


The Windows Section is one of the most iconic areas in Arches National Park. In a short 1-mile hike, you'll get to see a bunch of huge arches. The giant one you'll see first from the parking lot is the North Window.


A large arch with blue sky seen through it.
North Window

Head up the trail and right into the arch for an amazing view of the valley beyond. This arch looks just like a massive eye to me!


Turning around from the North Window, you'll be facing Turret Arch with its distinctive structural shape and tower on the left side. You can walk right up to the arch and explore all around and underneath it.


A dirt path leading up to a large rock structure with an arch in the middle and rock spire on the left.
Turret Arch

Turning around again, you'll now see the North and South Windows side by side -- looking like a huge pair of eyes in the stone! The trail takes you around to get a closer look, but the South Window doesn't give you the same opportunity to climb into it that North Window and Turret Arch did.


A rock wall with two large arches side-by-side.
North and South Windows

Once you're satisfied with the Windows area, take the short connector path over to the Double Arch Trail. It's just a few minutes walk and will save you from needing to move your car and find parking again.


Two large arches, one behind the other.
Double Arch

The Double Arch is a magnificent pair of rock loops that you'll access via a 0.6-mile trail. This was easily one of my favorite arches in the park due to it's massive size, beautiful structure, and the fun scramble of climbing into it. You'll get an amazing view in both directions if you choose to climb up. Just watch your footing as those rocks can be loose or slippery!


A desert scene with a winding road and distant rock structures framed by a stone arch above.
View from inside Double Arch facing the parking lot.

Snap your last photos and soak in a final sight of the arches before hopping back in your car and driving to Park Ave.


The Park Avenue Viewpoint is accessible right from where you park. Step up the expansive view of towering rock walls and the shaded canyon in between. My journey stopped at the paved viewpoint for lack of time, but I would have loved to complete the 1.8-mile hike into that canyon if I had had an extra hour.


View of tall, red rock walls with the right side in shadow.
Park Ave Viewpoint

This beautiful stop is one of the first you'll come across when entering Arches NP and it feels a fitting farewell stop on our way out. Although it's not obvious at first glance, there's a small arch high on the wall to the right. Keep your eyes peeled for it when you visit!


Now we're ready to say goodbye to Arches and head off to our next park: Capitol Reef.


Thanks for coming along on this journey with me and I hope to see you out there.


Happy adventuring,

A

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