Delicate Arch Trail to Delicate Arch Sunset hike Arches National Park Utah

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.

Delicate Arch
Looking back on the trail as it starts up the slickrock

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 View
Delicate Arch

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.

Delicate Arch Utah
Delicate Arch

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.

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch

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)

Elevation Profile
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Photos

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These photos were taken in June of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Arches National Park Landscape Arch
This level 2.5-mile hike visits the longest natural arch in the world along with two other enjoyable arches.
Arches National Park Skyline Arch
This short 0.4-mile hike ends below a wide arch near the top of a sandstone fin.
Arches National Park Balanced Rock
This short loop circles a perilous block of sandstone balancing near the center of Arches National Park.
Arches National Park Double Arch
This 0.8-mile hike visits a pair of connected arches in the Windows region of Arches National Park.
Arches National Park Window Arches
This one-mile loop presents three arches in close proximity, the North and South Windows and Turret Arch.
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This 6-mile round trip hike travels through a scenic canyon to a 243-foot long natural bridge.
Arch Rock Hike Joshua Tree Arch Rock in Joshua Tree
This 0.3-mile loop visits a natural arch in the granite formations around White Tank Campground.
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Tagged with · Arches · National Parks · Petroglyphs
Distance: 3 miles · Elevation change: 500 feet

2 Comments on Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

  1. Jessica says:

    This is the most beautiful of all the arches. you must go around sunset, and as you turn the corner the arch is all lit up! amazing!

  2. I was at Delicate Arch in 2002 in the beginning of July. It was, as you could image, very hot! The sun was just coming down, and I knew very little about the park back then. I did manage to get a few good shots of Delicate Arch before sundown, though I was an amateur photographer so they came out kind of junky in retrospect. Now, I’m just a little less amateurish.

    I can’t wait to get back to Arches and hike some of the trails, it was one of my all time favorite spots in the country.

    By the way, thanks for your comment on my lens on Squidoo about Arches.

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