Let me tell you, Arches National Park is AMAZING! It completely blew me away. By the end of your visit, Arches is most definitely in my top 5 favorite National Parks. I have wanted to hike and view Delicate Arch from the very first time I saw a photo of it. The hike to the arch is one of the most famous hikes in the National Park Service. Being in the shadow of this massive arch is one of those spots that your mind can hardly comprehend what you are viewing. I cannot put into words how amazing this hike is.
Delicate Arch is a large natural arch that has an opening of 46 feet high and 32 feet wide. Over the years the arch has had several unofficial names including Salt Wash Arch, Cowboy’s Chaps, and Old Maid’s Bloomers.
Sunset is by far the best time to view Delicate Arch due to the glow on the arch, but the early morning is cooler and less crowded. We visited in mid-September and the temperatures were comfortably in the 60’s when we started our hike around 7 am. As we finished our hike around 10:00 am, the parking lot was starting to overflow and the heat was setting in. I would recommend getting a very early start to this hike.
The Delicate Arch Hike
The Delicate Arch trail is a beautiful hike, and the beginning of the Delicate Arch trail is pretty easy and then quickly ascends the steep slick rock. During our hike, there were enough hikers on the path that we had no problems finding our way. There are also rock cairns along the trail to guide hikers along the way.
The trees that grow out of the barren rocks are completely fascinating. The early morning was indeed a very special time to hike the trail.
After ascending the slick-rock and crossing the rocky landscape, we came upon an arch up above the trail. It is a steep spot, but with careful footing, we were rewarded with this view! Check out how tiny the people are compared to the arch. It is mind-boggling to imagine how this was created.
After passing the smaller Delicate Arch viewpoint, the trail leads to this! How can you not be completely in awe?
You can see how massive this arch is. The visitors lined up to take a turn having their photos taken in the opening of Delicate Arch. As you can see why this is basically the symbol of Utah.
The view was so incredible! Everyone just waiting around and moved to different positions and waited for the sun to move to a different spot. Due to this amazing view, I could have sat here all day… but it was time to move on
After leaving the Delicate Arch area, the trail leads past these really interesting formations. It seems like the landscape changes around every corner in southern Utah.
As you can see from the photos below, this is a steep area and proper footwear is a must. From the “best” of my knowledge, this view is approximately the halfway point. If you look towards the middle of the photo, you can see the parking lot and the road leading to. It looks fairly intimidating, but it was not as difficult as I expected.
Towards the end of the trail, as you approach Wolfe Ranch, be sure to take the side trail to the petroglyphs. I believe this is the first time I have seen petroglyphs. I wonder if they had a designated artist that solely carved?
Towards the end of the trail as you near the parking area, you will pass the “Wolfe Ranch”. The Wolfe family settled this area in the 1800s. I really can’t comprehend how life was in this barren landscape. You have to wonder if the early settlers realized how special it was that their homestead was within a mile of Delicate Arch. The rest of the world had not discovered the amazing beauty of this area yet, therefore I imagine that they had it pretty well to themselves.
After finishing the Delicate Arch hike, we did the Sand Dune Arch trail. I 100% recommend this trail to anyone visiting Arches National Park.
Have you hiked to Delicate Arch? What are some of your bucket list hikes?
How Long Does It Take to Hike To Delicate Arch?
How long does it take to hike to Delicate Arch is probably one of the most popular questions when planning a trip to Arches National Park. Visitors are trying to plan their day and determine Delicate Arch hike time. I would plan for at least three hours minimum. This is a strenuous hike to reach the famous view of the arch.
Depending on the physical fitness of the group, time of day, and how long you spend viewing Delicate Arch, this could be done in more or less time. For reference, here if the breakdown of our time.
- We hiked from the trailhead at Wolfe Ranch to Delicate Arch in 45 minutes.
- We began our hike very early in the morning in September, so the temperature was comfortable. If hiking the trail in heat, the time needed will likely be longer.
- We are in decent physical shape. We passed a lot of people on the trail, but a few passed us. Depending on your abilities, this time could be slightly less or quite a bit more.
- Reaching the viewpoint as quickly as possible was our mission, and we decided that we would spend time enjoying the views and side trails on the way back down.
- We spent about 45 minutes viewing the massive arch. We sat and rested and took in the incredible view from multiple locations. Quite a few people spent a lot more time there than we did. We already had our breakfast, but a lot of people enjoyed their breakfast or a snack in the shade. If you choose to do this, please remember to pack out your trash.
- Our return hike to the parking lot lasted about an hour. We slowed down and took our time on the return trip. During this time, we soaked in the beautiful views, spent time at the petroglyphs and wandered through Wolfe Ranch.
The Delicate Arch hike is a very popular hike. It is one of the most famous and popular parks in the National Park system. Despite the popularity, do not under-estimate this hike, especially in the hot summer months. Arches National Park rates this hike as difficult. Because of this, please take the following points into consideration.
- This trail is approximately a three mile trail roundtrip with almost 500 ft of elevation change
- During warmer months, this hike can be VERY hot with little to no shade, therefore carry at least 2 liters of water per person. We visited in the middle of September and there were signs at the trailhead warning that heat kills and to carry plenty of water. Due to safety concerns, a park ranger was stationed at the trailhead as we were leaving.
- There is a segment of the trail just prior to arriving at Delicate Arch that skirts along the edge of a cliff. I was a bit concerned about this section, but it was not as sketchy as I anticipated. Of course, I forgot to take pictures.
- A large portion of the trail climbs slick-rock, due to weather conditions, this can be very slick in winter.
- Find out more from the NPS.