Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

We finally made it to our ultimate destination, the place that inspired our entire spontaneous Utah road trip: Arches National Park! The otherworldly arch formations had been popping up all over Instagram photos in the months prior, and though we had made a bit of a detour on our trip chasing the warm weather, we were greeted with gorgeous blue bird skies and sunshine upon our arrival. The impromptu detour had paid off!
In a national park that has over 2,000 unique arch formations, we had one specific arch in mind that we were dying to photograph at sunset – the iconic Delicate Arch.
The hike to Delicate Arch begins at the Wolfe Ranch turnoff, about 11 miles up the Arches Entrance Road. You will see a sign advertising Delicate Arch at a right turn, and the trailhead begins at the ranch, on the left side of the road. The hike is only 3 miles round-trip and described as “Difficult” or “Moderate” depending on which hiking guide you consult, but we saw young children doing it with ease. There are a couple of sections where you walk along a ridge with exposure, but these sections are short and the ridge is fairly wide and level.
The trail to Delicate Arch is dotted with various cairns along the way, which makes up for its lack of signage. It can be difficult to identify a trail after you go up and over the first big hill, so keep an eye out for cairns and just keep following them. The terrain rises and falls and there are many large rocks to admire and play on!
Delicate Arch stands more than 480 feet above the parking lot and trailhead below, and you won’t get even a glimpse of it until you are coming around one of the last ledges – but when you see it, you know. Its presence is commanding and it stands alone away from other arches, which is rare in this park.
I highly recommend catching Delicate Arch at sunset. We were greeted with an absolutely stunning sky display, and apparently this is quiet common at this location. This arch was once part of the upper section of a sandstone fin called the Entrada formation, but erosion over the years caused Delicate Arch to be all that is left of that formation.
There’s is a natural sandstone amphitheatre below Delicate Arch – a giant bowl that Delicate Arch rises above and appears to “look over”. Glenn went down into the bottom of the bowl to grab some shots while the sky came alive while I opted to shoot from the level of the arch. Note: this is a busy spot for photographers at golden hour and they do not take kindly to people gathering in front of the arch taking selfies for long periods of time. (We witnessed two girls get “booed” by likely 40+ photographers during the moments when the sky came alive!)
We stayed at Delicate Arch long after the sun went down and photographed the arch under the moon and stars. Having such an iconic spot to ourselves was amazing. If you decide to do something similar, be extremely careful on the hike back out. We had a 1300 lumens flashlight with us in addition to headlamps and other flash lights and still got lost on the way out due to the lack of a trail. Just try to follow the cairns as much as possible!

Keep an eye out for my next blog post where I’ll chat about Canyonlands National Park and show my photos of the jaw-dropping scenery! Better yet, sign up for my mailing list, to be notified by email when a new blog post goes live!

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Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

I’m Jenn, a photographer, travel writer, and content creator based out of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. I’m glad you’re here – now let’s explore!

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