One of the nice things about visiting Arches National Park with kids is that so many of the trails are short and interesting. Plan to run over slick rock, walk along ledges, assist your climb with cables, or simple saunter on paved paths to red and orange arches. And I’ve added a bonus trail outside the park. On all these hikes the Park Service, and common sense, recommends every member of your hiking party carry at least one liter of water. Here are a few of our favorite hikes.
If you have an adult in your group that is willing to run a shuttle, meander down this one-mile trail. The trail descends steeply through a spectacular canyon and continues down the wash to Courthouse Towers. We did not have a shuttle driver and didn’t want to hike out and back, so the boys and I checked out the beginning of the hike (beautiful!) and the end. Walking in from Courthouse Towers at the end, we quickly dropped into the slick rock wash and the boys ran around like dogs who were just released from the back of a truck after a long road trip.
- Getting there: Start at the Park Avenue parking area and end at Courthouse Towers. The shuttle driver can stop at La Sal Mountains Viewpoint while he or she waits.
- Distance: 1.0 mile (one-way)
A gentle climb up a gravel loop trail leads to three massive arches: North and South Window Arches and Turret Arch. From the South Window viewpoint, follow the primitive trail to circle around the back of the Windows and make a loop. The primitive trail is just a regular trail. We joined a ranger walk on this loop and learned about the people who used to live here and then disappeared. The Hopi are descendants of these people and wonder why we think they disappeared when they are clearly present. But, I digress. The ranger told us that in the desert to the east there are countless pots, arrowheads, and other items left behind when the Anasazi left. All their belongings are now buried and preserved under several feet of sand.
- Getting there: Windows parking area. This is also the parking area for the Double Arch Trail.
- Distance: 1.1 mile (loop trail)
This is a popular trail and one of the highlights of a trip to Arches. The best time to go is at sunset, and everyone knows that. Expect to be part of a group watching the sun turn the park’s most well know arch golden orange. The Park Service recommends taking at least two quarts of water per person. It can get hot and dry out there. Follow open slick rock with some exposure to heights and no shade. The first half mile is well defined. When you reach the slick rock, follow the cairns or the other people. Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail traverses a ledge for about 200 yards (fun, but a little scary if your kids are uncoordinated).
- Getting there: Start at the Wolfe Ranch Parking Area. If you want to see Delicate Arch without walking very far, there are two viewpoints farther down the road (but the view isn’t nearly as good there as it is up close).
- Distance: 3.0 miles (roundtrip)
Devil’s Garden and Double O Arch
There are several arches along the trail to Double O Arch. Getting to any of them makes for a nice walk. The trail starts out relatively flat and gravel-surfaced to Landscape Arch. This spectacular span of rock is more than a football field in length and is a popular destination. After passing Landscape Arch, the trail becomes more challenging (read: more like a normal trail) as it climbs over sandstone slabs. There are narrow ledges with exposure to heights, so again, watch those uncoordinated kids (or yourself). It was really windy the day we hiked it, which added to the excitement. It definitely made the kids nervous on the ridges, but we made it! From Double O Arch it is another 0.5 mile to Dark Angel. Double O was far enough for us.
- Getting there: Start and end at the Devil’s Garden Trailhead and pick up a trail guide there.
- Distance: 4.2 miles (round trip)
This might be our favorite arch. It’s on BLM land a bit west of Arches. To get there (see below) you drive past some amazing “Indian Writing” or petroglyphs. Make sure you stop at these signed locations right on the road. And, as a bonus, Bowtie Arch–also lovely–is adjacent. The hike climbs up and crosses railroad tracks at the start. From there you wander over slick rock, following the cairns on this well-established trail. There are a couple of spots with cables–not really necessary, but they do help you get up and down some of the steeper rock sections and they make parents feel better. There’s even a short ladder to climb. Then it’s on to more slick rock to the base of the arch. My kids really liked this hike because, like Delicate Arch Trail, it’s interesting–cables, ledges, slick rock, and an arch at the end. Much of the route is exposed to the sun and there is little shade available. During hot weather, an early morning or evening hike is recommended.
- Getting there: From Arches National Park, drive south a short distance (before you cross the Colorado River) to Potash Road or Highway 279. Turn west (right) and follow 279 for 10.1 miles to the signed Corona Arch trailhead. The trailhead is located on the north (right) side of the road. Outhouses are located across the highway in the Gold Bar Campground.
- Distance: 3.0 miles (round trip)