One park one trip for Utah
Utah has 5 National Parks. Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. And all these are not too far from each other, which is why most park visitors try to fit more than one park on their trip.
With Vegas (LAS) being close to Zion and Bryce and Salt Lake City (SLC) close to Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, visiting these National Parks can be really cheap if planned in advance. From the bay area, all the round trip flights to SLC or LAS we’ve booked have been $100 or cheaper if booked a couple months in advance. Instead of rushing to do more than one park in a trip, it makes sense to visit Utah multiple times for each park given how cheap the flights are.
If you’re visiting Arches National Park, the park that contains the highest density of natural arches in the world, here are some things we loved.
Arches Visitor Center
Most of my park visits begin at the Visitor Center to know if there are any weather alerts, or to talk to talk to rangers, or buy souvenirs. There’s always something to learn from the movies and ranger talks that happen at the visitors center.
Most visitor centers have water fountains to fill water bottles and hydration bagpacks for hiking.
Park Avenue and Courthouse towers
- Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead: 1mi steep hike, then retrace.
- La Sal Mountains Viewpoint: 360 view: Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, and The Organ in the Courthouse Towers area
While Courthouse towers are beautiful, one can skip this if they are in the park only for a day and rather spend more time on the hikes of Landscape Arch and Devil’s Garden.
Arches is a living desert. While new rock formations and natural bridges are being made by nature, a lot of existing ones continue to be slowly eroded due to natural forces. Balanced Rock and Delicate Arch are two such things in the park to check out while they exist.
The Windows Section
This is the most scenic place in park. Hiking to the base of double arch is 15min walk from parking lot. Within an hour one can do all of North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch even at a slow pace.
Devil’s Garden begins as a mostly flat hike for the first 1.9 miles and hike to landscape arch. This section has the Hike gets slightly tougher beyond this, but all of that comes with great views.
Arguably the most famous place in park. The Delicate Arch symbolizes Utah and is the picture seen on Utah issued license plates.
There are 3 ways2 options:
- Hike to arch: 2L water per person [2-3h]
- Upper viewpoint (via lower viewpoint on the way): 0.5mi trail [20min]
- Lower Viewpoint (few steps from parking lot) [3-4min]
The actual hike gets the best views of the Arch, so if you’re doing this, there’s no need to do the other two.
The first half of the hike is plain and somewhat boring with okaish views but later changes to great views.
One hike outside the park
The hike to Corona and Bowtie Arch. However this hike is just outside the National Park, which technically makes this not a part of Arches National Park.
The trail begins by crossing this railway track.
This area is under BLM, not NPS. This means there aren’t ranger, or too many signs or restrooms in the area. This comes with lesser popularity among tourists, which means you can practically have the area to yourself. When we went there, there were hardly any other hikers out there.