Do not leave Arches National Park without seeing Delicate Arch. The emblematic arch appears on the Utah License plate, and while it is certainly not the largest in the park, it is probably the most memorable. Two overlooks provide a distant view of the arch, but the best way to see Delicate Arch is to hike right up to it. This incredible 3-mile trek is a must-do for anyone visiting Arches.
Begin from Delicate Arch Trailhead and head east past Wolfe Ranch, the former home of the park’s earliest Caucasian inhabitants. The homestead was built alongside Salt Marsh, which the trail crosses with the help of a wooden bridge. Not long after, a side trail to the left visits petroglyphs along a rock wall.
The trail takes a gradual climb up slickrock slopes, eventually ascending 500 feet to the arch. The wide gravel trail is reduced to a weathered line across exposed sandstone. Follow the cairn-lined track across bare rock as it turns northward, leveling some before swinging to the right around the back of a sandstone fin. A path cut into the ledge presents the only way forward.
The building anticipation can make the mile and a half journey to Delicate Arch feel long, but as you traverse the ledge, the trail curves to the right and Delicate Arch appears. Wow, what a sight!
Delicate Arch stands on the side of a bowl shaped depression, flying solo above the surrounding rock. There is something special about this place that is hard to describe. If you arrive around sunrise or sunset, the spiritual beauty will be undeniable.
Delicate Arch is only about fifty feet tall, and stands in an area where the surrounding stone has been removed. Somehow, this stubborn span perseveres, looking both breathtaking and perilous. The arch appears frail, but defiant. The creation and steadfastness of Delicate Arch seem improbably, but thank god it’s there. The vast colorful landscape behind the arch sets the backdrop for one of the most striking views in any national park.
Have a seat along the sandstone amphitheater and watch the light play off Delicate Arch. When you are ready to head back, probably after the sun has gone down, return the way you came. This awe-inspiring sight will stick with you. Delicate Arch is incredible.
To get to the trailhead: From the visitor center, drive 12.3 miles up Park Avenue and turn right. Continue an additional 1.2 miles and turn left into the parking area for Delicate Arch Trail.
Trailhead address: Arches National Park, Moab, UT 84532
Trailhead coordinates: 38.73565, -109.5206 (38° 44′ 08.35″N 109° 31′ 14.13″W)
|Landscape Arch |
This level 2.5-mile hike visits the longest natural arch in the world along with two other enjoyable arches.
|Skyline Arch |
This short 0.4-mile hike ends below a wide arch near the top of a sandstone fin.
|Balanced Rock |
This short loop circles a perilous block of sandstone balancing near the center of Arches National Park.
|Double Arch |
This 0.8-mile hike visits a pair of connected arches in the Windows region of Arches National Park.
|Window Arches |
This one-mile loop presents three arches in close proximity, the North and South Windows and Turret Arch.
|More trails in Utah |
Explore other hikes in Arches National Park and elsewhere.
|Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park |
This 0.7-mile loop visits a picturesque arch spanning across the mesa's edge in the Island in the Sky.
| Morning Glory Bridge in Moab |
This 6-mile round trip hike travels through a scenic canyon to a 243-foot long natural bridge.
|Arch Rock in Joshua Tree |
This short hike leads to a natural arch in the granite formations by White Tank Campground.