The most famous arch at Arches National Park is Delicate Arch. The Delicate Arch trail is a wonderful family hike for kids of most ages. We did this hike as part of our stop in Arches on our 21-park, 31-day National Park road trip.
Delicate Arch Trail Summary
- Duration: 3 miles round trip
- Time: 2.5 hours
- Elevation: 480 ft
- Difficulty rating: Difficult
- Safety: take 2 L of water per person; sunscreen; drop offs; flashlight after dark
It is rated as “Difficult” as it traverses over slickrock with no shade. It can be brutal in the full summer heat, so we recommend doing it at sunset. Check local times for sunset, and start about 90 minutes before sunset. The hike to the arch is about 1.5 miles, so 90 minutes should get you there well before sunset. In June, the sun sets around 8:45 PM, so arrive at the parking lot around 7:00 PM. You can always check in at the Visitor Center for current conditions.
You’ll park at the Wolfe Ranch area, where you can find pit toilets. Before starting, be sure you have plenty of water (2 L per person recommended) and sunscreen, since the hike out will be in full sun and hot. The sign at the start of the trail gives a stern warning about how hot and difficult the trail is. I think this sign is to scare off people who think they can just jump out of their car in the middle of the hot day and stroll out to the arch. While you should be careful and prepared, don’t let the sign scare you. It’s a doable hike for families, especially if you do it at sunset.
Hike to Delicate Arch
For the first half-mile of the Delicate Arch family hike, you’ll follow an easy, well-defined trail. Then things get a touch more difficult. You’ll need to look for rock cairns (rock stacks indicating the trail location) to guide you as the path turns to slickrock. Usually there will be other people around to follow, but don’t rely on that as your only resource and be prepared to self-navigate if needed.
The trail will climb steadily and you’ll feel the late afternoon sun and heat. There will be a couple of places where you can get a bit of shade under some rocks, so take breaks as needed.
The last 200 yards of the trail are amazing. You’ll follow a rock ledge with a steep drop-off on one side, rounding out the end of the hike with the arch coming into view.
At Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is located in a large bowl. The edge of the bowl is steep, so use caution. There will typically be several other groups at the bowl enjoying the view, particularly at sunset on a nice day. Expect to wait a few minutes to get your picture under the Arch and be courteous of others.
Scope out a good place to watch the sunset and enjoy the amazing views. There are some wonderful “bench-like” seating ledges around the top of the bowl, as well as some spots next to the wall where you can lean back and relax. The temperature will drop somewhat as the sun goes down, particularly in the fall and winter, so you might consider packing a light jacket.
Hike back to Parking Lot
If you start back shortly after the sun sets, you can most likely make it back to the parking lot before it is fully dark. The hike back is 1.5 miles and is a bit easier, since it is downhill. Even so, come prepared with a flashlight. The views at dusk on the way back are incredible as red and orange light up the sandstone formations all around. It should only take about an hour to get back, depending on your pace and how often you stop to enjoy the views.
Another option is to purposefully wait until it is dark before starting back. As a Dark Sky Park, Arches National Park is amazing in the evening. With a full moon, you can see quite well and the moon will light up the desert. When no moon is out, the starts will be amazing and the milky way will be visible. If you do venture out at night, make sure you have a plan, flashlight, and are fully prepared.
More Family Activities at Arches
Have you already added the Delicate Arch family hike at sunset to your list?Looking for more fun things to do with your family at Arches National Park? Check out our other articles:
Arches National Park Logo
Are you visiting Arches National Park and looking for a logo? We have created our National Park logos for you to make custom family road trip T-shirts, hoodies and more. You can download our National Park Logos here.
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