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Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Sarah Puckett
The Arches Scenic Drive is a breathtaking journey through the iconic red rock landscape of Arches National Park in Utah, home to over 2000 arches. Spanning approximately 18 miles, this winding road offers visitors a front-row seat to some of the park’s most spectacular natural wonders, including towering sandstone arches, towering cliffs, and panoramic vistas. Along the way, travelers will encounter numerous viewpoints, trailheads, and picnic areas, making it the perfect route for exploring the park’s stunning scenery at a leisurely pace.
We’ve visited Arches National Park together several times over the last decade+ and each time we find something new to inspire us on the Scenic Drive!
Join us as we take you on a stop-by-stop itinerary along the Arches Scenic Drive, where you’ll witness magnificent red rock formations, hike to mesmerizing viewpoints, and marvel at some of Mother Nature’s most extraordinary creations. Get ready for an unforgettable journey through one of America’s most treasured national parks!
Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.
Arches Scenic Drive Map
To help you plan your day on the Arches Scenic Drive, I’ve created this map that includes every stop along the itinerary, optional walks and hikes, and geological formations/points of interest that you can see from the road.
Here is a key to the map:
- Red Stars: Main stop on the itinerary
- Green Hiker: Optional short walk or hike
- Blue Camera: Formations to see along the way
Arches Scenic Drive At-A-Glance
- Length: The Scenic Drive is approximately 18 miles long.
- Time: 1.5 to 2 hours without stopping. Plan for a full day with stops and walks.
- Accessibility: The drive is paved and suitable for most vehicles, including RVs and trailers.
- Start/End: The Scenic Drive begins at the park entrance station and ends at Devil’s Garden.
- Fees: A $30/vehicle park entrance fee is required to access the Scenic Drive in Arches National Park
- Opening Hours: The drive is open year-round, but some areas may close temporarily due to weather conditions or construction.
- Services: There are restrooms and picnic areas available along the route.
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Arches Scenic Drive Stop-By-Stop Itinerary
Now for the good stuff! We’ve put together a stop-by-stop itinerary for the Arches Scenic Drive, highlighting not only every stop, but also optional hikes, and unique features you can see right from your car.
1. Park Avenue Viewpoint
Begin your journey with a stop at the Park Avenue Viewpoint. Take in the stunning vistas of towering sandstone formations resembling city skyscrapers. This viewpoint offers a glimpse of the famous Park Avenue Trail, a moderate hike that winds through a canyon flanked by towering monoliths.
2. La Sal Mountains Viewpoint
Drive to the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint for panoramic views of the distant snow-capped peaks contrasting with the desert landscape. This viewpoint provides an excellent photo opportunity, especially during sunrise or sunset when the mountains are bathed in golden light.
3. Courthouse Towers Viewpoint and Trail
Stop at the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint and Trailhead to marvel at the impressive sandstone formations, including the Courthouse Towers themselves. Consider embarking on a short hike to explore the area further. Named for their resemblance to a row of courthouses, these formations are a testament to the geological forces that have shaped the landscape over millions of years.
4. Three Gossips Formation
Face west across Arches Scenic Drive and look for the Three Gossips, a unique rock formation resembling three towering figures engaged in conversation. This striking formation is a popular subject for photographers due to its intriguing shape and dramatic backdrop.
5. Tower of Babel Formation
Back on Arches Scenic Drive, you’ll pass the Tower of Babel to your right, a massive sandstone pillar rising from the desert floor. While not as well-known as some of the park’s other landmarks, the Tower of Babel is no less impressive and offers a glimpse into the park’s diverse geology.
6. Sheep Rock Formation
Directly to your left as you pass the Tower of Babel is Sheep Rock, a sandstone formation resembling a grazing sheep, and admire its unique shape. This whimsical rock formation is a favorite among visitors and provides a picturesque backdrop for photos.
7. Petrified Dunes Viewpoint
Stop at the Petrified Dunes Viewpoint to see ancient sand dunes that have turned to rock over millions of years. This unique geological feature offers insight into the park’s rich history and is a fascinating sight to behold.
8. The Great Wall Formation
Back on Arches Scenic Drive, you’ll pass the Great Wall on your left. Named for its resemblance to the iconic structure in China, the Great Wall is a testament to the park’s diverse and awe-inspiring landscapes.
9. The Phallus Pillar Formation
Also on your left just past the Great Wall is the Phallus Pillar, a towering sandstone spire that stands out against the desert landscape. While its name may raise eyebrows, the Phallus Pillar is a striking example of the park’s unique rock formations.
10. Balanced Rock Viewpoint and Trail
Visit the Balanced Rock Trailhead and take a short hike to see the iconic Balanced Rock, a massive boulder balanced atop a slender pedestal. This popular landmark is a must-see for visitors and offers a glimpse into the forces of erosion that have shaped the park’s landscape.
11. Windows Trail
Explore the Windows Trail, a short, scenic hiking trail leading to several impressive arch formations, including North Window and South Window, as well as Turret Arch. This easy 0.6-mile hike is suitable for all skill levels and offers stunning views of the surrounding desert scenery.
12. Double Arch Trail
From the same parking lot as the Windows Trail, take a short walk to see the impressive Double Arch, two massive arches side by side. This easy hike is accessible via a paved trail and offers excellent photo opportunities of the unique rock formations.
13. Panorama Point
Drive to Panorama Point for breathtaking views of the surrounding desert landscape. This overlook provides panoramic vistas of the park’s iconic rock formations and the Salt Valley, making it a popular spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts.
14. Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint
Stop to view Delicate Arch from a distance at the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint. While the hike to Delicate Arch is 3 miles round trip and moderately difficult, this viewpoint offers a glimpse of the iconic arch without the trek.
15. Salt Valley Overlook
Visit the Salt Valley Overlook for panoramic views of the Salt Valley and surrounding area. This overlook offers a bird’s-eye view of the vast expanse of salt flats and sandstone formations, making it a great spot for photography.
16. Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
Get a glimpse of the intricate and labyrinthine canyon formations at the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. While access to the Fiery Furnace requires a permit or guided tour, this viewpoint provides a sneak peek into the fascinating geology of the area.
17. Sand Dune Arch Trail
Explore the unique Sand Dune Arch, nestled among towering sandstone fins. This short walk leads to a secluded alcove with a sandy floor.
18. Devil’s Garden Picnic Area
Conclude your journey at the Devil’s Garden Picnic Area, where you can enjoy a relaxing picnic surrounded by stunning desert scenery. This shaded picnic area is the perfect place to unwind and reflect on your adventures in Arches National Park.
Tips for the Arches Scenic Drive
Best Time to Go
While Arches Scenic Drive can be enjoyed year-round, there are certain times when the experience becomes even more extraordinary.
Spring and fall bring pleasant weather without the heat of summer or the snow and ice of winter.
BUT, to avoid crowds, winter is the best time to visit Arches National Park.
Additionally, visiting in the early morning or late evening will also help you avoid the busiest times in the park, as will visiting on weekdays instead of the weekends.
Arches National Park Packing List
Here’s what we recommend bringing with you on your trip to Arches National Park!
- Sturdy Hiking Boots: Opt for ankle-supporting boots designed for navigating Arches National Park’s rocky terrain, like these stylish Columbia hikers.
- Lightweight Clothing: Stay cool with breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics. Protect yourself with long sleeves and pants; I recommend these desert-friendly sun shirts for women and men.
- Sun Protection: Shield yourself with a wide-brimmed hat and UV-protective sunglasses. Ensure safety from the sun’s rays with this high-SPF sunscreen.
- Layers: Stay comfortable throughout the day by layering up with a lightweight jacket or sweater. Check out these versatile options for women and men.
- Daypack: Carry essentials comfortably in a reliable daypack. Check out this affordable option for women and men.
Water + Food
- Hydration System: Stay hydrated in the desert with a reliable hydration pack, water reservoir, or water bottle.
- Snacks and Meals: Fuel your adventure with energy-boosting snacks like trail mix and granola bars. Pack a nutritious picnic lunch.
- Binoculars: Enhance your experience with binoculars for bird watching or closer observation. Consider these high-quality binoculars.
- Camera: Capture the stunning landscapes with a camera or smartphone. Document your journey with these photography essentials.
Need more national park packing guidance? >>> Click here to read the ultimate national park packing list!
Wildlife on Arches National Park Scenic Drive
Arches National Park boasts diverse fauna such as mule deer, rabbits, coyotes, reptiles, birds of prey, and smaller mammals that occasionally cross roads in search of food or water sources. To protect both wildlife and visitors’ safety, keep an eye out for wildlife, be extra cautious at dawn and dusk, and reduce your speed near wildlife habitats!
Final Thoughts on Arches Scenic Drive
In conclusion, driving the Arches Scenic Drive is an incredible way to experience the natural beauty and wonder of Utah’s iconic national park.
From the towering red rock formations to the delicate arches that have been carved by time, each stop along this itinerary offers a unique glimpse into nature’s artistry. Whether you choose to hike, take photographs, or simply soak in the breathtaking views, exploring this unforgettable landscape will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.
So pack your bags, fuel up your car, and embark on an adventure like no other on the Arches Scenic Drive.
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