Delicate Arch Hike: Difficulty, Sunset, Trailhead, Viewpoints
About Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is one of the most iconic rock formations in Arches National Park. With over 1.5 million visitors entering Arches National Park each year, Delicate Arch attracts a crowd, especially at sunset. The formation stands at 60' while the arch itself measures 32' x 46', which you can walk right under should you decide to hike up to this world-famous geological feature.
Frank A. Beckwith first coined the name in January 1934 when he described it as "the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area." In the past, it was called "Bloomers", referring to a lady's undergarment, or simply "Pants Crotch". Can you see the resemblance?
About Arches National Park
With over 2,000 stone formations in the park, Arches National Park has a history dating back to 65 million years ago when time and geological forces continued to merge, fracture, and erode the sandstone, leaving the red rock monuments we see today.
The result is an incredible visit as you witness these changes in action, albeit very slowly! It does get busy at Arches National Park so stay ahead of the crowd and keep up with park updates as you plan your visit.
The traffic to enter the park peaks at mid to late morning and I highly recommend getting there before 8 am or after 5 pm so you can avoid the 45-minute entrance queue and the temporary closures that last 2-3 hours at a time.
Hiking Delicate Arch
- Distance: Approximately 3 miles round trip
- Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous due to elevation gain and exposure to the sun
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Elevation Gain: 480 feet (146 meters) from the trailhead at Wolfe Ranch
- GPS: 38.7435° N, 109.4996° W
Directions To The Trailhead
To hike up to Delicate Arch, head to the Wolfe Ranch Trailhead on Delicate Arch Road. The parking lot can fill up fast on busy days so you can also park at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trailhead. Keep in mind that this will add another mile each way to your hike.
Map Getting to Delicate Arch
Best Time to Photograph Delicate Arch
However, if you want to end your day on a good note, hike up to Delicate Arch for sunset. The warm glow from the last few minutes of sunshine lands right on the arch and brings out the rainbow of red layered across the formation.
Be sure to stay even after the sun moves off because the remaining light will create a colorful backdrop behind Delicate Arch. Don't forget to bring a strong flashlight so you can return to your car - your phone's flashlight won't be enough.
Delicate Arch Hiking Difficulty
Although the trail to Delicate Arch is a moderate hike (3 miles roundtrip), there is no shade and zero protection from the elements. During the summer, the temperature can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit and it is highly recommended that you hike early in the morning or late afternoon to beat the heat.
During the winter, the ice and snow are equally treacherous as the trail does have steep areas and is exposed to sudden drop-offs. Bring plenty of water and wear excellent footwear to stay safe. Visit the Delicate Arch NPS hiking guide to learn more about the possible dangers here.
Delicate Arch Viewpoints
An easier way to see Delicate Arch is by heading to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trailhead near the junction of Delicate Arch Road and Cache Valley Road (4WD). The lower viewpoint is a flat and easy 50-yard walk and is wheelchair accessible.
The upper viewpoint is a moderately strenuous hike that requires a half-mile steep climb. You'll get a much better view here of Delicate Arch across a canyon. But honestly, it is not that great. From this view, the arch is only about the size of your thumb.
Arches National Park Reservations
As you probably know by now, Arches National Park brings in a lot of travelers and your visit may include long waiting hours and heavy foot traffic. In order to ease crowds, the park has a timed entry pilot reservations program starting this year from April 3, 2022, to October 3, 2022.
If your visit falls within this time frame, you'll just need to show your timed entry ticket, photo ID, and park entrance fee or valid park pass. Get your timed entry ticket and learn more.
Other Attractions Near Delicate Arch
If the parking lot to Delicate Arch is full. No worries! Delicate Arch is not the only thing to see in Arches National Park. The park is gigantic, so make the most of your visit and explore some of the other nearby attractions. There is Wolfe Ranch where you can learn about the life of John Wesley Wolfe and see the Ute petroglyphs.
Don't miss Devil's Garden if you love camping and stargazing and make sure you see Landscape Arch, North America's longest arch. If you decide to hike up to Delicate Arch, Twisted Donut Arch is just 3 minutes away.
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