Visiting Utah, you will have seen Delicate Arch depicted on the license plates. It is a symbol of Utah and the West. We recommend you take a trip to Arches National Park to see it yourself. But how long will you take to hike Delicate Arch?
The route to Delicate Arch is a three-mile out-and-back trail that can take as little as an hour and a half to finish. However, you should take time to enjoy the view at the arch, which results in an average time of two to three hours. Hiking in winter or at night will result in you taking longer.
Although it is a moderately strenuous hike, the route to Delicate Arch offers excellent views along the way, a close-up view of the arch, and opportunities to view Wolfe Ranch and Ute petroglyphs. If you are in Utah, take the opportunity to do this spectacular hike.
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Why Does It Take Two Hours Or More To Hike Delicate Arch?
The route to Delicate Arch starts at 4,300 feet above sea level and ascends 480 feet over a mile and a half. As a result, it is a moderately strenuous hike. Nevertheless, people in their seventies have completed this hike, so if you are reasonably fit, you should be able to complete it.
Due to the slickrock ascent on the second leg of this hike, which is the most challenging part, you will take about forty-five minutes to hike one way, for an out-and-back time of an hour and a half.
However, you will want to spend time at the arch to enjoy the spectacular view and take photos, so budget time. Most hikers take around two to three hours for a round trip on this route.
If hiking in winter, you will encounter cooler temperatures and lower crowds but potentially more slippery conditions, which could be dangerous on the slickrock. Proceed with caution. We recommend wearing traction cleats over your shoes.
You will take longer to do the hike in such conditions.
It can also be worthwhile to do this hike late in the day to catch the sunset and enjoy the glorious, undimmed view of the stars. Wait for about two hours after the sunset to experience full dark and optimal viewing conditions to see the stars.
A night trip will take longer. Wear headlamps, and proceed with caution. The trail is well marked.
The Route To Delicate Arch
At the trailhead, you can view (but not enter) the remains of the Wolfe Ranch, built in 1888 and abandoned in 1910. John Wesley Wolfe and his son ran 1000 head of cattle on this land. Just after the homestead, you cross Salt Wash over a suspension bridge.
A short spur trail (the Petroglyph Interpretive Trail) stretches for 0.2 miles and is well worthwhile, leading to the Ute petroglyph panel created sometime between 1650 and 1850. Petroglyphs are figures chiseled into the dark desert varnish to expose the lighter sandstone below. The art shows a horseback rider and dogs hunting bighorn sheep.
Head east along the rock wall to return to the main trail and follow it along the graded gravel path to the base of a steep slickrock sandstone hill. The route is easy to follow: just follow the rock cairns (piles) as the route slowly climbs.
In places, park officials have carved staircases into the rock to help you ascend.
The next section of the trail levels out, passing through a grove of stunted junipers and then a narrow wash between giant sandstone domes. Look around on this section of this hike, as you can see some small arches and beginnings of arches.
Just before arriving at Delicate Arch, you will find yourself on a 200-yard ledge with a drop-off to the left that park officials blasted from the rock. Proceed with caution along this section, especially in winter.
Scramble above the trail to find Frame Arch to your right. This small arch is often used as a frame for photos of Delicate Arch, hence its name. It is also known as Twisted Doughnut Arch.
After the ledge, you emerge onto a massive sandstone bowl like an amphitheater, with Delicate Arch standing across from you. The daylight opening under the arch is 46 feet high and 32 feet wide.
You can walk along the edge of the bowl and stand under the arch to look up at it from under. Do not linger, as you will spoil photo opportunities for other hikers.
Beyond Delicate Arch, you can see the snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the distance.
The parking lot for the trailhead fills quickly; aim to arrive before 9 AM. However, you can find additional parking at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint parking lot. Hiking from here adds a mile along the road, for a total round-trip distance of 5 miles.
Tips For Hiking To Delicate Arch
The hike to Delicate Arch is a desert hike; ensure that you bring plenty of water and wear sun protection. Wear good hiking shoes. Bring a change of clothing to prepare for potential changes in the weather.
Bring food and a first aid kit.
Don’t forget to bring a camera. You will want to record the scenery on this hike, especially Delicate Arch itself. We recommend getting a wide-angle lens.
Please do not touch historical artifacts such as the Wolfe Ranch cabin or petroglyphs, and do not climb on structures such as arches.
Due to the warm light conditions, the most popular time to visit the arch is sunset; consequently, it is also the busiest. Sunrise also gives good photo opportunities. Bring a headlamp if you are visiting at either of these times.
Summer is busy and hot. If you visit in winter, you may encounter dangerously slippery conditions; however, you will find far fewer other visitors and may even have the arch to yourself for a while.
Midday in summer is best avoided, as temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and there is no shade. We recommend visiting in spring or fall. Temperatures are moderate, and the rocks aren’t slippery.
Other Information You Will Need About Hiking Delicate Arch
Arches National Park is situated five miles north of Moab, Utah. Drive 12.3 miles up Park Avenue into the park to get to the turnoff to Wolfe Ranch and Delicate Arch. Turn right and drive another 1.2 miles to the trailhead parking lot.
You will need a seven-day pass to enter the park. Alternatively, purchase a Southeast Utah Parks Pass or an America the Beautiful Pass.
For a chance to see a dramatic and iconic symbol of the West, visit Arches National Park in Utah and do the Delicate Arch hike. The hike is a 3-mile round-trip and will take two to three hours.
If you are doing the hike in winter, expect it to take slightly longer. It will also take longer if you elect to hike in the dark to see the spectacular views of the stars.