The Delicate Arch is one of the most famed formations in Arches National Park and all of the American Southwest. Visitors travel from around the world to enjoy the Delicate Arch hike. The Delicate Arch is so revered it even graces the Utah license plate and has become a well-known depiction of the state.
Out of all the Arches we saw around Moab, I found the freestanding Delicate Arch to be the most awe-inspiring. It’s honestly hard to believe a unique formation like this exists in the world. This 46 feet high and 32 feet wide arch is the largest free-standing arch in the park, but you won’t truly grasp the size as soon as you stand under it.
If you want to complete the Delicate Arch hike yourself, here’s all you should know.
Get a US Parks Pass to Visit Arches
To enter Arches National Park, you are required to purchase a Parks Pass. Pass prices are as follows:
- 1-7 Day Vehicle Entrance: $30.00
- 1-7 Day Motorcycle Entrance: $25.00
- 1-7 Day Individual Entrance (foot or bicycle): $15.00
If you are visiting multiple US National Parks it’s best to purchase an America the Beautiful Pass for $80 for the year and grants you access to all registered parks. At just $80 for a year it’s quite a steal and you won’t have to worry about stopping at park gates to pay!
hiking the Delicate Arch Trail
- Distance: 3.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 480 ft
- Delicate Arch Hike Time: 1-3 hours
- Difficulty: Easy to Moderate, depending on your fitness level
- Best Time to Visit Arches: Spring, Fall, Sunrise and Sunset
- Arches National Park
**From April 1 to October 31, 2023, all visitors entering Arches between 7 am and 4 pm require a timed entry ticket in addition to a park pass or entrance fee to enter the park. Learn more here: Timed Entry Pilot - Arches National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov). Those without a ticket may enter before 7am or after 4pm, the park is open 24/7.
Where is the Delicate Arch?
The Delicate Arch is in Utah’s Arches National Park, one of the most affordable destinations to travel in the US. The entrance to Arches is US-191 N. The trailhead for Delicate Arch is along the Arches Scenic Drive, about 35 minutes drive from Downtown Moab. In the summer, this road can become congested and cause delays.
Where Does the Name Come From?
Before we started the Delicate Arch hike, I thought the Delicate Arch was named for being so delicate it may one day just fall down. However I was wrong. The term “delicate” first came about in a 1934 article that described it as “the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area.”
It’s also donned other names from early settlers like the “Old Maid’s Bloomers,” “Schoolmarms Bloomers,” and “Cowboy’s Chaps.”
put in the legwork to get to Delicate Arch
Unlike some other beautiful Arch formations in Arches National Park, Delicate Arch cannot be viewed from the road. You must get out of your car and walk to see it. The only way to get up and close to Delicate Arch is to hike to it.
Don’t worry, though, it’s not a challenging hike and is easily doable for children and even those with some mobility issues. I think it’s one of the best hikes in all of Moab!
So how long is the Delicate Arch hike? This trail climbs 480 feet (146 m) and is 3.2 miles (round trip), and will take you between 1-3 hours to complete. The one hour is if you don’t take much time to hang out at Delicate Arch, and 3-4 hours is if you really take time to hang out.
We ventured out for this hike for sunset, and the hike took us about 2.5 hours with an hour stop at Delicate Arch and hiking back in the dark, but we are fast hikers on the trail.
The Delicate Arch Hike is Not too difficult
The Delicate Arch trail is rated as moderate, but I think it is a pretty easy trail to explore. It’s well-trodden and easy to follow. There’s nothing complicated about the hike, and it’s a gradual 12% grade on rock most of the way.
There’s one “exposed section” right before you get to Delicate Arch, but it’s plenty wide enough to walk on without feeling like you may fall.
You will have to walk up sheetrock which can be slippery if wet. I would suggest shoes with good traction. My favorites are the Salomon Speedcross which are great for tackling the trails and hiking in the desert.
There’s A Lower More Accessible Viewpoint
If you aren’t up for hiking to Delicate Arch, there’s a more accessible viewpoint lower that will get you a great view of the arch. This is a flat trail that will take roughly 5 minutes to get to the “Lower Delicate Arch” viewpoint (50-yards) and 20 or so minutes (0.5 miles) to get to the “Upper Delicate Arch viewpoint. It’s an excellent option for young children or those that don’t want to hike too far. See the information here.
When is the best time to tackle the Delicate Arch Trail?
The best time to visit Delicate Arch for photography is at sunset. It’s not just great for photography, but overall enjoyment, and with cooler temperatures, it’s hard to complain! The next best time to hike to Delicate Arch is sunrise before the crowds and heat set in. As far as the best months to visit Arches, I would highly recommend visiting in spring and fall.
Summer temperatures in the desert can be miserable. If visiting during the summer months, it’s best to try and get out for sunrise and sunset to avoid the midday heat. If you must hike in the middle of the day, make sure to bring lots of water, sunglasses, and a hat – there’s not a ton of shade on the hike.
As we were heading down from our sunset hike, we saw a few groups heading up to Delicate Arch for some stargazing at night, which would also be a fantastic time to check out the famous Arch.
Stay after sunset and bring a headlamp
If you head up for sunset, I suggest staying a bit after the sun goes down. The longer you wait the better the colors get, and the crowds clear quickly.
We stayed for about 30-40 minutes after the sun officially set to grab photos and enjoy the scenery and were among some of the last people left at Delicate Arch. Bring a headlamp as you’ll want it for hiking back in the dark.
The crowds are not too terrible at Delicate Arch
We visited Arches National Park during spring break in early April – high season. The previous week we were Zion hiking Angels Landing and checking out Horseshoe Bend in Page and the crowds were high.
I expected the Delicate Arch to have crazy crowds knowing its popularity and Instagram fame. While the hike certainly was busy, it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded, and there was plenty of space for hiking comfortably.
Once we arrived at Delicate Arch, there were endless opportunities for photos with the Arch and lots of space to kick back and enjoy the view.
Now with the timed entry system, the crowds should be even more manageable.
Take Your Time to Explore the Area
The hike to Delicate Arch is a pretty one, with plenty of fantastic desert views throughout. My favorite part of the hike was a slight detour off route. The Twisted Doughnut Arch (officially known as Frame Arch) can be found right before you get to Delicate Arch and gives unique views.
To see the view from Twisted Doughnut, you’ll need to venture off-trail to your right. Climb the rock with well traction shoes to see the view!
Be Courteous to Other Photographers
When you reach Delicate Arch, there will undoubtedly be many people who want to get their photo standing under the Arch. There will also be eager photographers with travel tripods positioned to grab a photo as the light gets good.
We found everyone super courteous in letting others get their photo under the Arch individually. A short line even started to form so that everyone could get their photos quickly, ensuring everyone got ones they were happy with.
It was great to see hikers work together, but a few seemed oblivious to the line of families waiting to get their photo and would somewhat “hog” the Delicate Arch.
While I understand it’s a fantastic sight and you may want to take photos of forever, everyone is there to enjoy and snap some pics too, so try to be aware of your surroundings. Or, wait until most people have left if you intend to use a lot of time grabbing photos.
How Much Time do you Need in Arches National Park?
Surprisingly you can see quite a few sights and stop-offs with just one day in Arches National Park. We only spent one afternoon and evening in Arches and were able to stop at plenty of points and see Double Arch, Turret Arch, the Windows Arches, and Delicate Arch.
However, if I had had more time, I definitely would have preferred at least another half day in Arches to do more hiking in the park. Ideally, if time permits, I would suggest spending 1.5-2 days in Arches National Park and saving the Delicate Arch hike for a sunset trip one of those days.
Where to park to hike Delicate Arch
There is a parking lot near Wolfe Ranch with many parking spots. However on jam-packed days, the Wolfe Ranch parking lot will fill up. There is more parking at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint lot, but it is a one-mile walk away to the trailhead, so definitely not ideal, especially if you are short on time.
To avoid parking issues, try to visit outside of peak season and peak times.
What to pack on your delicate arch Hike
- Water: You will want water on this hike. We went out with our Stanley IceFlow bottles to keep us hydrated with extra cold water on this desert hike. They keep drinks cold for hours even under intense heat.
- Sunscreen: As mentioned before don’t venture out without sunscreen. The sun here in the desert is intense and there are few spots for shade.
- Trail runners: You’ll want shoes with fantastic traction for this hike. My favorites are the Salomon Speedcross Trail Runners for hiking in the desert.
- Shorts: Hiking shorts are ideal for hot hikes like this. (Men’s hiking shorts recommendations / women’s hiking shorts recs)
- Hiking Shirt: Moisture-wicking, quick-drying hiking shirts are perfect for hikes like Angels Landing. My favorite hiking shirt is made by Outdoor Research!
- Hiking Hat: Protect your forehead and eyes from the harsh sun.
- Sunglasses: I don’t hike without sunglasses, good ones with polarization too to protect my eyeballs. I only have one set of them after all!
- Snacks: You’ll want something to snack on when you get to the summit. I love energy bars, an apple, and fruit chews.
TRAVEL THE SOUTHWEST
We hope this helps prepare you for the Delicate Arch trail! For more travel around the Southwest, see below: