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A Trail Guide to the Delicate Arch Sunrise Hike | Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is one of the most iconic natural features in Utah (it’s even on their license plates!) — and for good reason. Aside from the strange formation being something to marvel at itself, this natural arch perfectly frames the stunning rolling hills and rock formations around it. Because this arch is so popular, the best time to see it without the crowds is at sunrise. Here’s your trail guide to the delicate arch sunrise hike in Arches National Park, Utah.

The Delicate Arch Sunrise Hike in a Nutshell

Views

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Technical Difficulty

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Overall Experience

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Delicate Arch Hike Key Information

Trailhead: Delicate Arch Trailhead

Hike End: Delicate Arch Trailhead

Length: 3 miles / 4.8 km

Time: 1.5 hours (but give yourself more time to stop and admire the arch!)

Ascent:  480 ft / 146 m

Difficulty: Intermediate – it’s not technically difficult, but you do walk up a steeper path on the rock and there’s a little bit of exposure at the end of the hike.

How to Get to the Delicate Arch Trailhead

To get to the Delicate Arch Trailhead, drive into Arches National Park and follow Arches National Park Road until you reach the trailhead turnoff on the right.

Arches National Park Timed Entry Reservation

To get into Arches National Park, you’ll need to get a reservation to enter between 6am and 5pm. These reservations were implemented to manage crowds, and the National Park rangers WILL turn you away if you don’t have one.

To make a timed entry reservation, visit the NPS website. Reservations for the month open at 8am 3 months in advance (so to book for an entrance any day September, visit the website at 8am on June 1st).

They also release a limited amount of tickets for the next day. You can reserve next-day tickets at 6pm. For visits during peak seasons, we recommend booking 3 months in advance, rather than the day before, to be extra sure you’ll get an entry reservation.

To see delicate arch at sunrise, we grabbed a 6am reservation the day before. We were traveling during the shoulder season, so there were about 80 tickets available the evening before.

Our Experience Hiking Delicate Arch at Sunrise

We got to the Arches National Park Entrance Stations right at 6am and there was a small line of cars waiting to get in. Because we have the America the Beautiful Pass, we were able to get through the line relatively quickly.

Despite it still being pretty dark out, the drive to the trailhead was already beautiful and full of viewpoints I was itching to explore, but we didn’t stop! We wanted to nab a parking spot at the Delicate Arch Trailhead!

It took us about 15-20 minutes to drive to the trailhead. The trailhead is decently sized and there were about 20 other cars there when we arrived. We visited during the shoulder season, so there was plenty of parking available, but if you’re hiking during the peak season, I recommend getting to the trailhead as early as possible.

From the trailhead, follow the path to Delicate Arch! The trail starts out really flat, then you start winding up a few gentle switchbacks. It’s nothing too challenging and the path is well paved.

After about 15 minutes, the path will turn into rock and the trail will start getting a little steeper. This is where I felt the most effort was needed, but if you just turn around and look back at the way you came, you’re rewarded with a great view, so you can always stop and rest enjoy that view.

The trail then alternates between rocky and dusty as you move uphill. It’s nothing too strenuous.

Just before you reach Delicate Arch, there’s a little exposed section where there’s a dropoff to your left. The trail isn’t narrow, but if you have a fear of heights, this part might be a little tough for you.

The trail then opens up and you’ll be on the rim of a bowl, with Delicate Arch right before you! There’s plenty of space to sit and watch the sunrise, which I highly recommend doing!

This is an out and back hike, so when you’re ready to head back to the trailhead, just go back the way you came!

“Detour” to See the Petroglyphs

On the way back, just when the trail gets flat near the parking lot, there’s a small path to the right, which will take you to the petroglyphs. There are petroglyphs depicting a man riding a horse with livestock. I’d never seen petroglyphs before, so this 5 minute ‘detour’ was well worth it!

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