Arches National Park is only a few miles outside of Moab. It is the national park with the highest concentration of arches. They come in all kinds and forms and a visit is pretty spectacular!
Arches is very popular and (if I remember correctly) is visited by roughly 2 million people every year. From our experience it is good to come early, as early as possible or as soon as the sun rises. Arches is open year round and 24h. The visitor center opens up at 9 am. The visitor center is well staffed and one can gather a lot of Information, maps etc. Its about 25mi one way from the visitor Center to devils garden. Roughly 30mi with detours to the windows section (balanced rock, double arch, turret arch etc.) and to the delicate arch viewing points and trail head.
To be early at the gates we stayed in Moab which is basically the place to be for Arches and Canyonlands National Park. There are camp grounds, motels, hotels and hostels, basically accomodation for very little or a lot of money.
Delicate Arch viewpoint was our first stop. There is a parking lot and its only a few minutes up the hill to the view point. We were a little disappointed and left quickly to go to delicate arch trail. Nevertheless Delicate Arch can be seen from two viewpoints and this stop is easily accessible.
The trail (3mi roundtrip, considered difficult), is popular and therefore gets pretty crowded later in the morning. We arrived at about 9am. The return trip takes about 2,5 (no stops for pictures etc. included). Overall it takes 3-4h if you want to take your time and enjoy. Again, as the trail is marked difficult, we were surprised how many people started the hike with inadequate shoes and only a tiny bottle of water or no drink at all (there is no shade at all!!!).
Our second stop was the devils garden trailhead as we wanted to go and see the Dounble O arch. In the end we hiked the entire primitive trail which is about 7mi roundtrip and takes about 4 hours.
The hike is not easy and we would recommend to go clock wise and not anti clock wise as we saw on our way back to the devils garden trail head that you do have to climb down big rocks and stuff which is probably not as easy going up as coming down.
We visited Arches in the first week of May 2016 which is not high season. Nevertheless the park was busy. Lots and lots of peaple, cars and RVs. The parking lot at devils garden is huge but is was packed by early afternoon. The weather was perfect for hiking, temperatures in the higher 60s and lower 70s and sunny conditions almost all day. At the end of the primitive trail a thunderstorm came up which was a bit scary as we there was no shelter anywhere so we were pretty soacked by the time we reached our car 🙂
On the way out of the park we took a detour to the windows section to visit the large selection of different arches from up close.
Arches National Park is an interesting park with lots of different places to go and see. The mountains in the background and the wide, endless plains with just a few arches in between seems kind of surreal. There is something new and different behind every corner. Do try to come early or later in the season. Summer is busy and hot, the arches will still be there but to explore them with thousands of others might not be the most enjoyable experience…