On day two of our family trip to Arches National Park, we hiked the complete 4 mile roundtrip trek to Delicate Arch. Nightly thunderstorms contributed to flash flooding throughout Arches, and as a consequence many areas of the park were closed. The roads leading to Delicate Arch included.
There are three hikes to view Delicate Arch. One is just a short 100 yard jaunt. The second is a half mile, and includes some stairs. Neither of these were open due to the flash flooding. Neither of these offer as stunning of views either. So, even though Gabriel was in the middle of battling bronchitis, he was insistent on hiking to Delicate Arch. (Why did we visit Arches National Park when Gabriel had bronchitis? We rented our home on airbnb.)
This left the real whopper of a 4 mile hike for us to traverse. Some people say it’s 3 miles, some people say it’s 4; we’re going with 4 because that’s what the harrowing journey felt like. Aware of the closures on Day 1, we planned our second day entirely around it. We knew it would be strenuous, even when we are all healthy – plus we had a 2 year old with us, but didn’t bring our hiking backpack. Big mistake.
► Ranking: #cleandiaper
The day started out with a drizzle, so we started our hike shivering with sweatshirts on. It only took about 10 minutes for us to warm up, so that definitely ended up being a bad idea.
The initial part of the trail is very easy and is along a paved path. Approximately 15 minutes in you can see the giant looming petrified sand dunes that the trail crosses. They appear to shoot straight upwards. They were slick, and it was arduous. This marks the end of the easy part. After that, you’ll cross through a sandy gorge and then along a semi narrow path that borders a sheer drop off until you reach Delicate Arch. From the beginning of the trail to the summit at Delicate Arch, you’ll ascend 480 feet.
I’ve lived in Utah for 7 years now. Delicate Arch is plastered all over this state, including every license plate, but I never knew it was perched on the outer rim of a cliff. It’s surrounded by a bowl that resembles a caldera that slopes downwards butting up next to the arch that rises from the escarpment. It is so striking because there are no other features near it. No other arches, trees, rocks, etc. It is extraordinarily magnificent, placed there almost as a decoration for the vast desert.
► For Kids: This is a great hike! It’s hard, but we were battling bronchitis and I swear to you being born at sea level has given me weak lungs. The kids did awesome, and they loved seeing the varying landscapes along the path. We crossed muddy puddles, there were huge rock structures accessible through an easy climb, viewpoints, and an incredible reward at the end.
The final stretch of the path can be scary for little ones. Gabriel carried our baby, (because in addition to having weak lungs, I also have intense vertigo), and I held our little guy’s hand. He was terrified of the drop off, and for good reason, it was extremely far down.
On the way back, knowing the worst of it was over, our kids had a blast climbing all the boulders and giant rock structures, splashing through the muddy water, jumping off rocks into the sand, and seeing the tadpoles in the standing water. Even our baby did great – we were impressed.
Delicate Arch is the pinnacle of this National Park, and it’s worth whatever hike it takes to see it. We’re so glad we took the time and energy to make the expedition, and it proved a worthy goal. Have you made this hike? What did you think?
► Nap-Time Version: A synopsis of the 4 mile hike to Delicate Arch at Arches National Park. Well worth it.
Check out Day 1 and Day 3 of our Family Trip and download your free copy of a 3 Day Family Itinerary touring Arches National Park.