Utah is the land of arches. There are literally thousands of them, but one arch stands above the rest in fame and admiration – Delicate Arch – and a visit to Arches National Park is hardly complete without taking in the sight of Delicate Arch for yourself.
Hiking to see Delicate Arch is not too difficult, but it does require some planning and preparation to see this extraordinary landscape in its best light. It’s also important to consider the heat and time of year.
Sunrise and sunset are prime time to see this most magnificent arch in the gorgeous glow of warm buttery light that makes the orange hues burst in color.
We opted for sunrise because we visited in August when daytime temperatures were 104 degrees, but overnight temps dropped into the 60s. The hike to Delicate Arch isn’t overly difficult — it’s just 3 miles roundtrip — but it does gain 480 feet in elevation which can be a bit challenging and there is absolutely no shade, so it’s best to avoid the heat of the day.
If you go:
Arrive at the parking lot a good 45 minutes before sunrise and begin your hike with headlamps. Finding the right path to follow is easy. There won’t be nearly as many people on the trail during this time of day, but there will definitely be other hikers. The summer mornings are delightfully cool and comfortable.
The trail is well marked, but also a lot of opportunities for detours. There is one spot early on the trail (not far from the parking lot) where you can see petroglyphs.
There are times you might question if you are on the right path, but often there are enough other hikers that finding the right way is easy — and then the magnificent arch comes into view.
We recommend giving yourself 2 – 3 hours total to hike and experience Delicate Arch. It can be a bit of strenuous hike for kids. We ended up carrying our 5 year old for a little ways but overall we suggest this is totally doable for families traveling with kids. We saw many families on the trail with younger kids than ours, though we do suggest coming prepared with a hiking backpack if you have toddlers.
The sunrise was around 6:30 a.m. and it was beautiful to watch it rise and shine on the arch. While there were dozens of other people there to experience it at sunrise, it was absolutely nothing compared to the hoards of people who we passed on the trail as we were leaving and they were arriving around 8 a.m.
Best advice for this hike – get here early. Very early. Beat the heat, beat the crowds and enjoy the beauty of sunrise at Delicate Arch.