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The Complete Arches Trip

So much more than Moab, this wide swath of land on the eastern edge of Utah

Exploring The Arches Region
Situated on the far eastern side of the state, the Arches region is the perfect destination for anyone looking to experience the best outdoor recreation in the country. From epic, multi-day river rafting trips, to afternoons shredding singletrack against iconic western backdrops, to slickrock hikes across yawning valleys, this is the place to work up a sweat.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of opportunities to take your foot off the gas and take in your surroundings at a more leisurely pace. Arches National Park alone covers 120 square miles within an expansive outdoor land of adventure, which means doing your research and finding trails, views, and campgrounds deeper in the park offer up plenty of “me time”, even during peak season. While first-time visitors will undoubtedly want to check out Delicate Arch, repeat visitors can spend their trip seeking out the 2,000 other arches to discover within the park boundaries to find a unique vantage point to call their own. For those that want to dig deeper into the park’s little-known features, a guided hike with a ranger, or working with a local tour operator in nearby Moab can help you take home a better understanding of the human and natural history baked into the park’s hot red rock formations.

There’s even more to explore outside of the park, from the equally popular Dead Horse Point State Park, to the out-of-the-way destinations like the Manti-La Sal National Forest and the Potash Road. This is a sprawling region with tons of room to spread out and draw your own map in search of adventure.

  • Start: Green River, Utah, roughly three hours southeast of Salt Lake City
  • Finish: From Moab head back to Salt Lake City, or extend your trip by visiting the Canyonlands region
  • Hours of Driving: 15+ hours, including travel between the region and Salt Lake City
Day 1 98 Miles
  • John Wesley Powell Museum
  • Intrepid Trail System
  • Panorama Point

A fitting start to a trailblazing adventure in the Arches region of eastern Utah is at the John Wesley Powell River Museum. Honoring the one-armed boatman who launched numerous expeditions exploring and charting the snaking rivers that cleave their way through the bedrock, this museum will have you itching to get your feet wet later in your journey.

For the rest of the day, you’ll stay high and dry, first at Dead Horse Point State Park. Overlooking the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed views in the world, for good reason. It’s the type of view that many first-time visitors to the Grand Canyon expect to see; a clear shot of the river winding its way 2,000 feet directly below your feet. Those looking to really stretch their legs after a long car drive to the region will be thrilled to take on the Intrepid Trail System, a series of mountain bike singletrack and slickrock trails that offer excitement for every ability.

Where to Stay
Stay overnight in Moab, or return to Dead Horse Point for a fun night in a reservable yurt under the stars.

John Wesley Powell Museum

This famous explorer of the American West took an enviable three-month trip down the Green and Colorado rivers gathering specimens, data and stories that forever shaped this land’s reputation for adventure. Learn about the life and times of John Wesley Powell through a variety of fascinating exhibits.

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Intrepid Trail System

Covering 16.6 miles of ground, the Intrepid Trail System loops around Dead Horse Point State Park with lines following the scalloped ridges overlooking the Colorado River. While we recommend having some singletrack experience under your belt, the Raven Roll trail is a great line for beginners.

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Panorama Point

Timing your arrival into Arches right at dusk is a great way to make an unforgettable first impression. Go eat an early dinner first in Moab before heading to the center of the park towards panorama point. Far from the light pollution of the town — bring a flashlight — you’ll join others in some serious stargazing.

Day 2 100 Miles
  • Delicate Arch Sunrise Hike
  • Devil's Garden Primitive Loop
  • Fiery Furnace

The best way to have a positive Arches National Park experience is to have a strategic, flexible approach to your day. Even some of the most popular destinations within the park can feel empty if you pick the right time to visit. Case in point is the iconic Delicate Arch. Most visitors already know it’s one of the busiest hikes in the park at sunset. Come sunrise? It can be nearly empty, especially on weekdays. Similarly, there are a handful of trails that continue beyond their most famous feature, and carving out a little time to see what’s just a little further down the trail can yield big rewards.

Another way to ensure you have ample room to explore is to seek out hikes that require a guide. Aside from the opportunity to learn valuable insight from an expert ranger as you scramble over the red rock, ranger-led hikes naturally limit the number of visitors on a given trail, no matter when you venture out.

Where to Stay
Stay overnight in Moab, or return to Dead Horse Point for a fun night in a reservable yurt under the stars.

Tips for Prepared Travelers
Hiking Southern Utah with Younger Children: Tips for Family-Friendly Adventure

Delicate Arch Sunrise Hike

This incredibly demanding hike is best experienced with a ranger. In fact, you can’t even enter the trail without reserving tickets in advance. This labyrinth of sun-baked ledges, canyons and sandstone outgrowths will challenge your agility and resolve, and more than earn you an extra helping at dinner afterward.

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Devil's Garden Primitive Loop

If you take the 7.2-mile loop along with all the short spur trails to nearby arches and other features, this becomes the park’s longest maintained trail. It’s also one of the most spectacular hikes you can take in any national park. Follow the crowd toward Landscape Arch then leave them behind on the remote loop.

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Fiery Furnace

This incredibly demanding hike is best experienced with a ranger. In fact, you can’t even enter the trail without reserving tickets in advance. This labyrinth of sun-baked ledges, canyons and sandstone outgrowths will challenge your agility and resolve, and more than earn you an extra helping at dinner afterward.

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Day 3 60 Miles
  • Jurassic National Monument
  • Bull Canyon Overlook
  • Moab Dining After Adventure

Give your boots a breather today and lace up your driving shoes. Day offers you a choice of two scenic drives exploring the greater Arches region, the first is a drive north along the best-named highway in the state; the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway (see the article and itinerary). This 512-mile loop can be an entire family vacation on its own, but it’s also a great detour during your Arches journey. Traveling north towards the town of Helper, you’ll stop over at the Jurassic National Monument to look at the largest collection of Jurassic-era fossils in the world. 

South of Arches, you can instead opt for the shorter La Sal Loop that climbs up and over the entirety of the Moab Valley and Canyonlands National Park. Driving the entire loop straight through from Moab takes about 3 hours, but there are plenty of places to stop along the way, including checking out 200 million-year old dinosaur tracks at the Bull Canyon Overlook in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Where to Stay
Return to your lodging in Moab after a long day on the road.

Jurassic National Monument

Tucked away in the rugged San Rafael Swell, Jurassic National Monument (formerly Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry) is an opportunity to learn about prehistoric animals as well as witness a working dig. It’s known internationally for having the densest collection of Jurassic-era dinosaur fossils ever discovered. Bring a lunch and enjoy a picnic in this ancient hunting ground.

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Bull Canyon Overlook

An hour southeast of Moab is the Manti-La Sal National Forest, full of scenic overlooks that give you stunning views of the entire Arches region. A special treat can be found at the Bull Canyon Overlook; preserved theropod dinosaur tracks, dating back over 200 million years.

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Moab Dining After Adventure

There are a lot of great places to eat in Moab. Adventures out here can stir up a quite an appetite. For those days, here are a couple of excellent options to replenish the calories spent on the trail.

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Day 4 28 Miles
  • Corona Arch
  • Potash–Lower Colorado Drive
  • Extend Your Outdoor Adventure in the Arches Region

The final day in the Arches region begins with another early-morning hike to another stunning arch. Corona Arch lives just outside the national park boundary, proving that when it comes to natural beauty, a national park really is just a line drawn on a map. Get your last look at the famed arches of the region before making your next move. During your journey, you’ll no doubt meet people who have completed some enviable experiences, so today is your day to decide to extend your stay and take a deep dive on an outdoor adventure that really speaks to you. Multi-day rafting trips down the Colorado River; ATV and OHV tours through Castle Valley; extended mountain biking excursions; now that you’ve gotten to know the area, you can make a decision on how you want to cap off the journey of a lifetime.

Where to Stay
On the riverbank, trail, or roadside, depending on your chosen adventure.

Corona Arch

Arguably the most famous arch without “delicate” in its name, a trip to Corona Arch is a great way to cap off a Moab vacation. Spend the early morning hiking this fun, 3-mile out-and-back scramble across slickrock to the arch, with stops at the Pino and Bowtie arches along the way.

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Potash–Lower Colorado Drive

If Arches is just the first stop on a bigger national park vacation, take the quieter 17-mile scenic byway of the Lower Colorado-Potash Road between Moab and the outer boundary of Canyonlands National Park. This road follows the winding path of the Colorado River, and has many places to stop and view native petroglyphs, fossilized dinosaur tracks and even more arches.

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Extend Your Outdoor Adventure in the Arches Region

If you have a few extra days to spend in the region, now is the perfect opportunity to tackle a more involved adventure like a two or four-day rafting trip through Cataract Canyon, a guided OTV tour along the Steel Bender Trail, or a 3-5 day bikepacking trip on mountain bikes along the Kokopelli Trail connecting Moab with Fruita, Colorado.

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