Distance: 1.5 miles (one way)
Type: Out and back
The Delicate Arch hike is easily the most popular hike in Arches National Park, bringing hikers to arguably the most recognizable natural arch over a 1.5 mile moderate hike. The arch towers over a sandstone bowl, the opening rising 46 feet above the ground.
Those who don’t hike regularly will likely find this hike to be more along the lines of a strenuous hike, since a major chunk of it ascends directly up a sandstone butte.
Delicate Arch Trail Description
The trail begins from the large parking area along a well maintained trail. You quickly reach the historic Wolfe Ranch on your left before crossing a bridge over a wash. A brief detour takes you past some remarkable petroglyphs of bighorn sheep. It adds a negligible amount of mileage so it’s worth heading over to check them out. The trail to the petroglyphs leads right back to the main trail so you don’t even have to backtrack.
At this point the Delicate Arch Trail begins ascending a few paved switchbacks, the trail returning to a more standard, but still wide, trail at the top.
Once at the top of the switchbacks the trail winds up and down and through the desert landscape and small hills. After crossing over a wash lined of slick rock, you’ll quickly climb up some stairs carved into the sandstone. From here, the trail ascends a large slab of slick rock for nearly 0.5 miles, never letting up in gaining elevation.
Once closer to the top, signs point the way toward Delicate Arch, the trail making a sharp bend high up on the sandstone. From there, the trail snakes through pleasant juniper trees and sandstone buttes enclosing the small area. Signs will direct you across a slick rock bowl before skirting below a large alcove and sandstone butte.
Continue below a smaller arch and round the bend where Delicate Arch jumps into view rising high above a sandstone landscape dropping downward below its opening. Behind Delicate Arch the La Sal Mountains create a striking and jagged horizon, the rugged mountains contrasting the sandstone features. Beautiful views abound from any angle, and if you’re lucky, you won’t be joined by too many people, but that’s a rarity these days. Nevertheless, it remains a must-do hike in Arches National Park.
From the Arches National Park entrance station, head up the main road into the park for 11.5 miles, and turn right onto Delicate Arch Road. Look for the large parking area on the left after 1.25 miles.