Everything to Know About Hiking to Delicate Arch

This article is for anyone doing the Delicate Arch hike – read on for details!

A view of the orange and brown rock that makes up Delicate Arch with a beautiful landscape behind it.

Arches National Park is one of the coolest national parks in the country, filled with orange rocks, crazy rock formations, and jaw-dropping, otherworldly natural arches. The most famous of these arches is easily Delicate Arch, a very tall, completely free-standing arch located in the middle of the park.

If you only do one hike in Arches National Park, it has to be Delicate Arch. I mean, there’s a reason it’s on the Utah license plate; it’s gorgeous and majestic and a fun hike to boot.

So! With that introduction, let’s get into everything you need to know about doing the Delicate Arch hike.

Reservations at Arches National Park

First off, to even get into Arches, you will need a reservation, and pay the entry fee. Entrance costs $30, or you can also use your National Parks Pass.

Arches uses a timed-entry reservation system to be able to access the park between 7am-4pm. Reservations are released 3 months ahead of time on a block schedule (e.g. on February 1, reservations are released for May 1-31). A limited number of tickets are also available the day before.

To make a reservation, you will need an accounnt on Recreation.gov. Then, go to the reservation page here, and select an available date and entry time. Reservations are free, but there is a $2 processing fee. Reservations time slots do sell out, sometimes weeks or even months in advance, particularly for popular times of year.

If all the reservations are gone for the dates you want, never fear. You can still enter the park before 7am or after 4pm without a reservation (but you will see need to pay the entrance fee). Additionally, if you are doing the Fiery Furnace hike, you can enter the park anytime of day with a Fiery Furnace permit.

Getting to the Trailhead

While many other popular National Parks require using a shuttle service to get around (e.g. Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon South Rim), there is no shuttle service available in Arches. You must have your own transportation, and drive yourself through the park.

Thankfully, Arches is easy to navigate and drive, and parking lots do tend to be big, though they can fill up. If a parking lot is full, you will need to go to another spot, and come back at a later time.

Crowd Levels at Delicate Arch

One of the perks of the reservation system (which is only a year old in Arches) is that it is helping significantly to manage overcrowding at Arches. The last time I visited Arches (in peak season in 2022), the trails all certainly had people on them, but there wasn’t overcrowding, even at Delicate Arch. That being said, unless you are hiking at sunrise, expect there to be quite a few people around you on the trail at at the summit.

A Breakdown of the Hike

Here’s a full breakdown of what it’s like hiking to Delicate Arch.

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 3.2 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: About 600 feet
  • Time to hike: Plan for 1.5 to 2 hours for hiking, plus more time at the top
  • Difficulty: Moderate


The parking lot at the trailhead is very large – we were there at a peak time (right before sunset) and it was still only about ¾ full. There isn’t a water refill station here, but there are vault toilets just off of the parking lot.

If you pass by the parking lot for Delicate Arch and continue driving on the road, you will come to the parking lot and trailhead for Upper and Lower Viewpoints of Delicate Arch. This is a totally different walk/hike, with far away viewpoints of the arch (which are nowhere as cool as the actual hike), so don’t continue on to that parking lot.

The Trail

The trail starts off on a dirt/gravel path. You will very quickly walk past Wolfe Ranch, a little old homestead that belonged to some early settlers in the Moab region.

Log cabin with lots of bushes behind and around it at the starting point of the Delicate Arch hike.

You’ll also enjoy great views off over the hills and mountains:

View from the trail with big orange and brown rocks in the distance.

The path then starts gaining elevation as you ascend what seems like one big massive rock. The rock is grippy so its easy to walk on, and we found this section to be a very manageable steepness. While many hiking trails in Arches are just marked by cairns (stacked rocks), this one does have some trail post signs.

A view of a large rock hill that forms a section of the trail to Delicate Arch. Dozens of people can be seen hiking on this trail in Arches National Park.

There are some spots where little steps have been carved into the rock. These little spots make the hike much easier.

Little girl climbs up "steps" carved into the rock.

Looking back down into the valley:

A woman stands on a flat, large, and tan rock with a beautiful landscape behind her.

At the top of the solid rock section, the trail does level off quite a bit. Although you still do gain some elevation, there are also some flatter sections between here and the summit. This is an extremely fun section of the hike, as you’re *mostly* still on slabs of rock, but there are some little stairways through the rocks, and cut out sections of the trail.

Burnt orange rock with lots of shrubbery growing around it.

The very last part of the trail is along a relatively narrow ledge, with one side being up against the mountain wall, and the other edge having a steep drop-off down below. It’s wide enough that you aren’t in danger of just falling off, but certainly watch small children in this section. And belongings – we had to scramble down to retrieve a water bottle.

Rounded red ridges are seen from a ledge that makes the trail to Delicate Arch.

Pro Tip: As you start the narrow ledge section, look up – there’s a hidden arch that gives you a great view of Delicate Arch. This arch, Twisted Donut Arch, is almost like a little peephole in the rock with a clear sideview of Delicate Arch. It’s generally not very crowded up here, so keep your eyes up as you approach the final ledge section up to the main viewpoint!

Delicate Arch is seen framed through Twisted Donut Arch.
Twisted Donut Arch | A hike to a unique viewpoint in Arches

The Summit and Seeing Delicate Arch!

Delicate Arch with orange rocks all around it with reddish rocks behind it.

I love the way the summit of Delicate Arch is oriented. One minute, you’re hiking along the narrow ledge, with a tall wall of rock right next to you. Then, boom, the rock ends and Delicate Arch is right in front of you, taking your breath away.

Of course, there are also tons of people who decide to congregate RIGHT at the trail end. Thankfully, Delicate Arch sits at the end of a curved, bowl-like rock structure, and there is a lot of room along the ridge to spread out. Most people hang out right at the where the trail ends, but if you continue along the ridge, you can find your own spot.

You can really see the curving effect from this angle at Donut Arch.

View of Delicate Arch with a giant hole in front of the Arch.

A Few Angles of Delicate Arch to Admire

A woman sits in front Delicate Arch with her hat.

There’s a few different picture angles that I think are really fun at Delicate Arch. The first is a straight on shot. If you play your cards right, you can frame out any other people who are along the ridge.

Getting a little bit lower to the ground and angling the camera so that it is just to the left of the arch. Then, wait for the person under the arch (there’s always someone under the arch) to finish their pictures and leave. They have to completely clear out before another person is able to go up, giving you a few seconds where the arch is completely empty. If you wait for that moment, you can grab a few pictures without anyone else in your shot.

This picture below is a great example of this – we angled the camera low enough that our bodies blocked all the people on the left, and we waited *just* as the people underneath taking picures had left the frame, and then snapped the perfect photo.

A couple sits in front of Delicate Arch with red rocks in the background.

Under the Arch

You’ll also probably want to go right up to the arch – the sheer enormity of those rocks above is awe-inspiring. Pictured below: My 5 year old, completely dwarfed by Delicate Arch.

A little girl stands under Delicate Arch.

Just in Front of the Arch

While taking a picture directly under the arch is a great shot to really illustrate how big it is (and how small you feel!), I actually really like the angle just in front and to the side of the arch:

Close up view of Delicate Arch.
Girl sitting admires Delicate Arch.

*chef’s kiss*

Coming Down at Sunset

If you hike to Delicate Arch at sunset, you’ll either need to leave early enough to make it back to your car before dark, or be prepared to hike in the dark. We stayed at the arch until it was very dusky, and hiked the rest of the way down in the dark. Even with our kids, it was not difficult to do this – moonlight illuminated the trail pretty well for most of the way, and we used our phone flashlight as well. Headlamps would be even better.

Best Time to Hike

Generally speaking, sunrise and sunset are the best times to hike to Delicate Arch, particularly between May-October, when temperatures can get very hot during the day. Sunset is by far the most popular time to hike, and you will see the biggest crowds then. The general consensus is that the lighting is best at sunset, when the low sun in the sky glows beautifully on the orange rocks.

Sunrise is another great time to hike to the arch – there are WAY less people on the trail or at the summit, and the air is much cooler. The arch will be much more backlit then, but I’ve seen some pictures from people hiking at sunrise, and you can definitely still get good pictures and see and appreciate the arch in the morning light (aka – it’s not so bright and backlit you can’t even see anything).

If you’ve visiting between November – April, hiking during the middle of the day is a much more reasonable option, as temperatures are mild. If you’re hiking in winter, this also is going to be best because you’ll enjoy the warmer temperatures. Do be careful of slick rocks if you’re hiking in the wintertime.

If you’re hiking in summer, I would highly advise against hiking during the middle of the day, as there is zero shade on the trail, and temperatures can easily soar into the 100’s. Make sure you pack at least a quart of water (4 cups) per person when hiking during the summer.

The Wrap Up

Delicate Arch is a top favorite hike in Arches National Park. It’s a popular hike for a very good reason, and is 100% definitely worth visiting when you come to Arches. People of all ages and a lot of fitness levels can conquer the trail to enjoy the incredible vista at the top.

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