Delicate Arch

A short but moderately strenuous hike to the most photographed natural arch in the world.

★★★★★

Wow factor

★★★★★

Overall rating

★★

Difficulty

★★★★★

Access road

★★★★

Crowds

There are a few must-sees in the Moab area and this is one of them. If you don’t want to hike up to the arch there’s a viewpoint below from which you can see it, but it’s distant and barely worth the stop. Far better to leave the car and hike the 3 mile roundtrip trail to get a real perspective on its size and relationship to the landscape. It's best done towards sunset when the light on the arch is at its best. It’s cooler too. The parking lot is usually very busy or overflowing so you may have to wait around for a space. Arriving early in the morning will guarantee you a spot. Take plenty of water as there isn’t much shade.

 

The well-cairned trail passes the preserved Wolfe Ranch House, built in the late 1800s but deserted in 1910. After crossing Salt Wash on the bridge take a short detour to the left to view some well-preserved Ute petroglyphs. Shortly after, the trail hits the base of a huge slickrock expanse (no shade) that’s steep. You’ll be walking up this to the top. Close to Delicate Arch you’ll notice a small window on the right hand side. Clamber up here for an unusual view of the arch. The views from the main overlook are stunning with the La Sal mountains behind. Even when it’s busy it’s nice to sit here for an hour or two and just watch the light changing.

 

There is some Arch etiquette. If you must take a picture of someone under the arch then do so quickly allowing others to do the same thing. The first time I visited a couple had lunch under the arch while the rest of us waited before getting the shot.

© 2015-2020 Bob Palmer.