Delicate Arch Trail

Overview: An extremely popular route to the world’s most famous arch, which is pictured on Utah state license plates.

Start: Wolfe Ranch Parking Lot

Distance: 3 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate, but could be strenuous on a hot summer day

Maps: USGS Arches National Park; Trails Illustrated Arches National Park

Drive 11.7 miles north into the park on the main road until you see the right-hand turn to Delicate Arch and Wolfe Ranch. Turn right and drive another 1.2 miles to the parking area on your left (north). To your right is a lot for oversize vehicles.

Trailhead GPS: 38.735502, -109.520666

If you’ve ever seen a postcard or poster of Arches National Park, you’ve probably seen Delicate Arch. This amazing arch has become the symbol of Arches National Park, which is somewhat surprising because it is barely visible from the road.

Be aware that the hike to Delicate Arch is not a stroll. The trail is 1.5 miles to the arch, or 3 miles round trip. Bring extra water (at least one quart per person), wear good hiking s hoes, and try to avoid the midday heat. Much of the trail is on slickrock following cairns (piles of rocks), and there is little shade.

Shortly after leaving the trailhead you cross over a sturdy bridge. Just after the bridge you can take a short side trip to the left to a Ute petroglyph panel. This is worth adding a quarter mile to your trip; however, it’s best to do it on the way back to the car.

During the first part of the hike watch for collared lizards, which can run on their hind feet when chasing prey. They won’t chase you, though!

As you get closer to Delicate Arch, you can see Frame Arch to the right. True to its name, this arch forms a perfect “frame” for a photograph of Delicate Arch, but be careful climbing up to it. Further along the trail follows a ledge for 200 yards—keep an eye on your kids here.

When you finally come around the corner and see the full breadth of Delicate Arch, you’ll know why this is such a classic hike. You can walk over to the arch and have your photo taken standing under it, but when you’re done, please move away so others can take photos.

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