Arches is probably one of the most famous national parks in the US. You’ve probably seen a lot of beautiful red rock photos on social media, especially Delicate Arch. The problem is a lot of these places can be huge tourists traps if you arrive at the wrong time. We learned quickly after talking to a few locals and are passing the tips along to you!
PS, Don’t forget to bring a hat, lots of sunblock, and more water than you think you need! We allocated 1L of water per hour. Also if you are a dog owner, please don’t leave them inside your car when it’s 100 degrees outside! It can be over 120 degrees inside the car, even if you leave the windows open. We unfortunately saw this a few times while in Arches.
Sunrise is the best time of the day here. Except for a few photographers and their tripods, the attractions remain relatively empty. If you stay 20 minutes after the sun rises, the entire place will clear out for you to enjoy. Another added bonus is that in the summer Moab reaches 100, sometimes 110 degrees. You won’t want to be out after 10AM and before 4PM.
The best places to visit at sunrise are:
- The Windows Section: This section includes North and South Window, Turret Arch, and Double Arch. The cool morning is great for scrambling through North Window and using it as a frame for Turret Arch.
- Mesa Arch in Canyonlands: This isn’t in Arches, but I had to give a quick shoutout to this destination on many photographer’s Top 10. I don’t see myself as a photographer at all, but even I had to check this place out at sunrise.
- Delicate Arch: The arch on Utah’s license plates and the most crowded place in Arches during the day. You’ll want to come as early as you can to truly enjoy this landmark.
Sunset is another time where you’ll want to be outside. The temperature drops maybe 15 degrees from peak afternoon, and the sun’s rays light up a lot of the red rocks. The downside with visiting everything at sunset is that you might still see some crowds, so you’ll want to go to more of the less famous locations:
- Fiery Furnace: This beautiful, mapless maze requires a permit which can be picked up from the visitor’s center. You can either choose a ranger guided tour or a self-guided permit. If you are confident in your navigational skills, I recommend doing the self-guided permit at sunset.
- Balanced Rock: Balanced Rock is a very short viewpoint that makes for a good photo stop on your way out from Fiery Furnace. The sun hits it perfectly and lights up the red rock
- Park Avenue Scramble: Park Avenue is a popular 2 mile roundtrip route near the visitor center in Arches. What’s lesser known is a nice scramble that many tour guides will take climbers. You can hike this route and get a great view of the surrounding towers and arches. Park at the Park Avenue Parking Lot, and then make your way down the paved road towards the visitor center about 100 yards. You’ll see a path on your right. Follow this until it hits a rock scramble, and go up! Turn back whenever you’re done with your adventure and head back to your car.
You’re probably wondering what you’re supposed to do during the middle of the day. This might sound a little extreme, but I think the perfect sleep schedule while at Arches is 11PM-4AM and then 1-4PM. We followed this schedule almost every day because we wanted to enjoy the area without bumping elbows with hundreds of other people. We would enjoy sunset, go to Moab to eat, take a big nap in AC while it’s 105 degrees outside, and then wake up for sunset.