Arches National Park is home to over 2000 natural arches and boasts the largest concentration of arches in the world. Of all those 2000 arches, there is one that stands out – Delicate Arch. This arch gets more press than all the other arches combined. It is the star of both Utah’s license plate and state quarter! Visiting Arches National Park without seeing Delicate Arch seems like visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffle Tower. Who doesn’t want their picture made with this icon?
Delicate Arch is not visible from the park’s main road. To see this rock star, you can either trek the 3 mile round trip Delicate Arch hike or visit the much easier to access Delicate Arch Viewpoints area to see the arch from about a mile away.
If you are physically able, I recommend making the Delicate Arch hike which begins at Wolf Ranch. It is a much more rewarding experience. Should you decide to hike this trail, here are some things to keep in mind:
- It’s uphill. Delicate Arch hike has an elevation gain of 480 feet. Once you pass the first flat section of the trail, the elevation gain is primarily up open slickrock. The trail is marked with carins.
- There is no shade. Most of the trail traverses slickrock. So, there is basically no shade. The sun can be quite intense during the most challenging part of this hike. Consider wearing a hat and don’t forget your sunscreen! Also, don’t expect respite from the sun once you reach the arch. There is no real shade up there either.
- Water is a must. I know this is obvious but still worth mentioning. It would be really easy to get dehydrated on the Delicate Arch hike. Arches National Park is a high desert environment, so I suggest bringing plenty of water since you’ll be exerting quite a bit of effort.
- You won’t be alone. The Delicate Arch hike is popular. If you are seeking solitude in Arches National Park, look elsewhere. During busy times of the year, getting a photo of Delicate Arch without people in it can be challenging. Be patient and you’ll likely have an opportunity, albeit brief.
- Mind the drop off. In general, this is not a trail where you have to worry about taking a tumble off a cliff. However, there is a short section right before you reach the arch where you might want to keep the kiddos close.
- You may not want to leave. The stonework here is mesmerizing. Gazing on this giant spectacle from different perspectives never gets old. It is a bit of work to get up to the arch, so allow yourself extra time to sit and stare.
The Delicate Arch hike is not easy. But, the payoff is worth every uphill step! With the La Sal Mountains as a backdrop, this natural wonder poses perfectly on the rock face. No wonder this Delicate Arch steals so much of the spotlight!