You really want to see Arches National Park, but you only have time on your road trip or vacation to spend one day there. This happens to me and our family quite frequently actually. If we had all the time in the world, we could spend days exploring and soaking in these gorgeous national parks, and that would be ideal but that is not always the case.
If you only have one day to visit, I have devised a plan for your family to see and experience the most of Arches National Park in one day.
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Top Tips for Spending One Day in Arches National Park
- Arrive as early as possible or if you are visiting between April 1-Oct 31, 2023, you will need a timed entry ticket. Click HERE for more information on this. If you enter before 7am and after 4pm you do not need a timed entry ticket.
- Fill your car up with gas before entering the park.
- Bring a picnic lunch and plenty of snacks especially for the kids. This insulated cooler is great for packing food and snacks.
- Bring plenty of water with you to stay hydrated.
- Plan whether you want to stop at the Visitor Center at the beginning or end of the day, and double check its hours to make sure you get there before it closes.
- Pick 3-4 Arches or trails that you really want to see and/or hike to and focus on getting to those.
- Map out ahead of time where each of these Arches and trails are located.
- Be flexible–parking lots fill up and so if there is not a place to park, you may consider continuing to forward and come back to a certain trail or Arch later.
- Don’t overdo it. This tip is especially important with kids. With the kids, things take a lot longer and many times there can also be meltdowns squeezed in with the day. Keep in mind that the most important thing here is the memories you make with your family.
- Soak it all in. Arches National Park is so gorgeous and truly amazing. Enjoy your hikes with your family and the beauty of the Arches.
Recommended Things to See in Arches National Park
Arches Visitor Center
I recommend saving the Visitor Center for later in the day. This is so you can get into the park right away, get ahead of some of the crowds, and just get on to seeing what you want to see.
That said, if you want to stop at the Visitor Center to get a map, talk or ask questions to a Park Ranger, use the restrooms, etc. I would not hesitate to stop.
Make sure that you double check when the Arches Visitor Center closes so you don’t miss getting your souvenirs and National Park stamps if you collect those.
Park Avenue Viewpoint
This viewpoint is the first stop after the Arches Visitor Center. If this viewpoint is on your list, I would recommend saving this stop for on your way out of the park and continuing on into the park to beat the crowds and get some of the limited parking spots ahead.
We visited this viewpoint when the sun was about to set, and it was absolutely stunning. I totally recommend saving this one for later in the day if you can.
Make sure though that if you want to go to the Visitor Center to save enough time to either see this first and then go to the Visitor Center before it closes, or go to the Visitor Center and then drive back out to Park Avenue afterwards.
This viewpoint is just over 3 miles from the Arches Visitor Center so it is not too far of a drive to go back to it after stopping at the Visitor Center first even though it might feel like you are doing a lot of back and forth driving.
The most important thing is that you do what is best for your kids and family. If everyone is melting down and seems tired you may want to stop quickly at Park Avenue and then proceed to the Visitor Center.
This is another popular sight to see. It is just down the road from Park Avenue Viewpoint. With only one day in Arches National Park, I would recommend skipping this one at first as well and coming back to it later.
You can see Balanced Rock from the road. If you wanted to hike to see it even closer, the hike is super easy, and you can even bring a stroller if you wanted.
The hike to Balanced Rock is just .3 miles round trip.
The Windows Section
The Windows Section is located about 12 miles from the Visitors Center. This would make a great first stop as the kids may be getting antsy to get out and do some hiking!
Additionally, the Windows Section shares the same parking lot as the Double Arch. This gives you the chance to park once and see two different sights.
The Windows Loop Trail is one mile long, and you can see the Turret Arch as well as the North and South Windows.
This hike should take you about 30-45 minutes with kids.
The distance from the shared Window Section parking lot to the Double Arch is .6 miles round trip.
This hike will likely take you about 15-20 minutes.
The Delicate Arch is a bucket list item for many people who visit Arches National Park.
This hike to the Delicate Arch is a bit more strenuous and longer than some of the other hikes in the park.
The hike to the Delicate Arch is 3 miles round trip and ascends 480 feet.
This hike is a bit challenging to do with children unless you have kids who are a tad older or are more seasoned hikers.
If you are able to do it and have the time, I 100% recommend this hike to Delicate Arch.
The Arch is so awe-inspiring. I couldn’t stop staring at it and didn’t want to leave after hiking there.
Note: I did not do this hike with my children as they were too young to do the entire 3 miles coupled with the elevation gain.
If you are unable to do the hike but still want to catch a glimpse of this Arch, I suggest stopping at the Upper Viewpoint and do the .5 mile walk with some steps in order to see it.
Sand Dune Arch
The Sand Dune Arch is definitely one that I am sure the kids will love.
It is a .4 mile round trip hike through the sand.
The kids will LOVE playing in the sand here. Some families even brought sand toys.
Although the hike is short and should take only 15-20 minutes, you may spend some extra time because the kids will enjoy frolicking in the sand.
This Arch is located in the Devils Garden area. It is 18 miles from the Visitor Center.
Driving between the Main Entrance and the Devils Garden area will take about 40-45 minutes.
This is important to keep in mind when you are planning your day especially again, thinking about what will work best with the kids.
From a personal perspective, my kids likely would not do well driving the entire 40 minutes in one chunk.
We would need to stop at some point to do a hike to at least one arch.
For some families, driving straight out to this area right away and then working backwards seeing all of the arches may work best.
If you plan to hike to the Landscape Arch, it is about 1.6 miles roundtrip. This hike will likely take close to an hour with kids.
Time Needed to Hike to Each Arch
Park Avenue Viewpoint: 15 minutes to enjoy the views and go down the stairs towards the trail (this time estimate does not take into consideration hiking the full 1.8 miles round trip)
Balanced Rock: 15 minutes
Windows Section: 30-45 minutes
Double Arch: 15-20 minutes
Delicate Arch: 3 hours for the FULL hike, 20-30 minutes to the Upper Viewpoint
Sand Dune Arch: 30-40 minutes with sand playing
Landscape Arch: 1 hour
Total Time: about 4 hours Does not include hiking Park Avenue Trail, the full Delicate Arch Trail or any drive time.
Note: With children especially if they are fairly young, it will be challenging to see each of these things all in one day at Arches. On our visit, we had three days and so were able to give the kids some breaks from hiking and sightseeing. I am very realistic when it comes to traveling with kids and know that everything doesn’t always go as smoothly and efficiently as we would like. Take your time and enjoy what you are able to see and do!
Arches National Park in One Day Sample Itinerary
6:45am- Arrive at Arches National Park and take a quick picture in front of the park’s sign
7:00am- Drive to the Windows Section
7:20am- Arrive at Windows Section and begin your hike on the Windows Loop Trail
8:00am- Head back to your car for a drink and small break
8:10am- Begin hike to the Double Arch
8:30am- Drive to Delicate Arch Upper Viewpoint
8:45am – Begin walk to the Delicate Arch Upper Viewpoint
9:20am- Drive to Sand Dune Arch
9:40am- Hike to Sand Dune Arch and enjoy some sand play
10:30am- Drive to Devils Garden
10:45am- Spend some time in the Devils Garden area and hike to Landscape Arch
11:45am- Enjoy a picnic lunch and break
12:15pm- Drive back to Balanced Rock and make any other desired scenic stops along the way
1:00pm- Hike Balanced Rock Trail (It may be a little difficult to find a parking spot, but be patient and one should eventually open.)
1:15pm-Drive to Park Avenue Viewpoint
1:30pm- Spend some time at the Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trail
2:00pm- Head back to the Visitor Center for souvenirs
This is just an example of how you can spend your day at Arches National Park. It is important to keep in mind that sometimes plans need to be altered so have an open mind and be flexible. Depending traffic it may take slightly longer to drive to some of these spots. Also, depending on how quickly or slow your family hikes, things may take shorter or longer to see or do.
Additional Arches National Park Blog Posts to Check Out
I hope this helps you plan your day in Arches National Park and provides you with helpful tips to make your day go smoother. Enjoy all of the beauty this amazing national park has to offer and soak in the memories made experiencing it with your family.
SAVE and PIN this post to refer to it again as you get closer to your trip. May you LOVE your adventure. KW