Article by Maggie Slepian - Backpacker, trail runner, climber, and mountain biker
Arches National Park is one of the most visited national parks in America, and partly because of its popularity, this was the first park I went to in Utah. Rounding out the park are over 2,000 naturally occurring stone arches across the desert landscape. There are many remarkable features, but Delicate Arch has to be one of the most famous natural stone arches in the world. I hiked out here because if you’re in Arches, you kind of have to — like backpacking in Big Sur when you’re in California. With nearly 50’ of vertical, open space and standing over 30’ wide, Delicate Arch is the tallest freestanding arch in the park. There are plenty of hikes and trails that avoid the crowds in Arches, but seeing Delicate Arch for yourself is awe-inspiring, even if you’re surrounded by fellow hikers.
How long does it take to hike to Delicate Arch?
My hiking partner and I took this as a casual stroll during our quick stop in Arches. While there are a few viewpoints along the way, reaching the arch is a three-mile round trip with just under 500’ of elevation gain. It’s worth the two to three-hour jaunt to see this incredible feature up close, rather than from the viewpoints farther back. If you bring water, it’s doable for many people and families.
How difficult is the Delicate Arch Hike?
This hike is short and steady, and the trail is easy to follow, but due to the elevation gain, this trail should be considered moderately difficult. During this three-mile hike, you’ll pass by the Wolfe Ranch cabin as well as a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs as you make your way to the arch. There’s no drinking water at the trailhead, so be sure to bring water and sun protection if you’re hitting the trail during the hotter parts of the day.
Can you hike Delicate Arch at night?
Hiking in Arches at any time of day is great, but at sunrise and sunset, you’re in for a real treat. If you choose to hike to Delicate Arch at sunset, you’ll be rewarded with incredible evening light illuminating the arch’s yellow and orange colors. Stay a little later, and the stargazing is some of the best you’ll find anywhere. Temperatures are a little cooler so make sure to pack an extra layer or two, and bring the headlamps along; the hike back to the car is straightforward, but made easier with some light to guide the way.
Backpacker, trail runner, climber, and mountain biker
Maggie is an avid outdoor enthusiast based in Bozeman, Montana. When she's not in front of a computer writing and editing, she can be found backpacking, trail running, mountain biking, climbing, shooting archery, or trying to teach her cat how to walk on a leash.