Visiting Canyonlands and Arches National Parks

Nestled just 30 minutes apart from each other in Utah’s stunning Moab area, Arches and Canyonlands national parks offer a unique blend of natural wonders millions of years in the making. Arches boasts thousands of iconic stone arches and easy trails, perfect for quick visits and stunning photography. Meanwhile, Canyonlands offers bird’s-eye views of canyons and mesas, ideal for immersive adventures. Together, these parks complement each other, offering a perfect mix of adventure and serenity in nature that can be enjoyed during the same trip. This guide highlights how to experience the best of both, ensuring a journey filled with memorable experiences at two of the Southwest’s most spectacular national parks.

Must-See Attractions in Arches National Park

Explore more than 2,000 natural stone arches carved from Jurassic-aged sandstone. Perfect for those pressed for time or new to desert hiking, Arches offers short, easy, and well-marked trails, making it ideal for quick visits or leisurely hikes. Additionally, its smaller size allows visitors to see much within a day. Make the most of your visit to Arches by adding these stops to your itinerary.

Delicate Arch

The symbol of Utah, the Delicate Arch is the world's most famous natural arch. The three-mile round trip hike is moderately challenging but rewards you with stunning sunrise views, framing the La Sal Mountains through its perfect red arch. For those preferring not to hike, Delicate Arch is visible from two viewpoints off the main road: the Lower Viewpoint, an easy 100-yard walk to a distant view, and the Upper Viewpoint, a half-mile trek with stairs for a closer view.

Double Arch

Located in the Windows Area of Arches National Park, Double Arch features a pair of closely set arches, including the park's tallest. An easy, 30-minute, half-mile hike takes you directly to the stunning duo, visible from the parking loop. This trek combines convenience with the natural beauty of two of the park's most spectacular arches.

Landscape Arch

With its impossibly thin span, Landscape Arch is a breathtaking site, showcasing nature’s artistry and resilience. It is the longest natural arch in the U.S., stretching 306 feet. You’ll have to park your car and set out on an easy, 1.9-mile out-and-back trail to view this otherworldly looking arch.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock is one of Arch's most iconic attractions. This gravity-defying formation captivates visitors, making it a popular spot for a quick photo, and is one of the few park features visible directly from the road–so you can enjoy it without leaving your car.

Arches Scenic Drive

This fully-paved, 25-mile out-and-back route is the only one of its kind in Arches, leading past most of the park's viewpoints and trailheads. For those short on time or less inclined to hike, a drive through the park—with brief stops of about 10 minutes at each viewpoint—can be completed in roughly three hours.

Arches National Park Discovery Tour

Join a half-day guided tour  (available in the morning and at sunset) that combines driving with short hikes to explore the park's splendors. This tour reveals how sandstone fins transform into the park’s famous arches, a secret best discovered in person. All hikes are optional, with the longest being just a mile long. While the tour doesn't include a hike to Delicate Arch, it typically stops at the viewpoint, offering a glimpse of this iconic landmark.

Visiting Arches National Park

Just five miles north of Moab lies Arches National Park. Entry costs $30 per vehicle for a week, though it's free with an America The Beautiful Pass. From April to October, reserve a Timed Entry Ticket for visits between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. via The best times to visit Arches are spring (April to May) and fall (September to October) when daytime temperatures are milder and there are fewer crowds. Open 24/7, the park offers spectacular stargazing after dark.


The Best of Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park offers an expansive wilderness of deep canyons, towering mesas, and breathtaking vistas, often overlooked in favor of the nearby Arches National Park yet equally enchanting. The park is divided into four distinct districts by the Colorado River: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. Each area presents its own set of extraordinary experiences, from peaceful scenic drives to challenging backcountry explorations. You’ll want to add these stops to your Canyonlands itinerary, and explore our guide to the best hikes in Canyonlands for even more adventurous activity ideas.

Island in the Sky

Begin your exploration at the Canyonlands Visitor Center, where a short walk across the street unveils your first majestic look at the park’s unmatched desert views. The Island in the Sky district, known for its accessibility, offers unforgettable vistas from Grand View Point and Mesa Arch. The easy hike to Mesa Arch, just 0.7 miles round trip, promises spectacular scenery at any time of the day, though sunrise is particularly jaw-dropping and is perfect for capturing that iconic photograph.

Green River Overlook

Make your way to the Green River Overlook to experience a stunning bird's-eye view of the park's grand rivers carving through the canyons below. This vantage point also offers views of The Maze district and the White Rim Road, adding to its allure. Celebrated as one of the prime spots in the Island in the Sky district for sunset viewing, the Green River Overlook is accessible via a brief and easy walk on a paved path from the parking lot.

The Needles

Venture a bit further to The Needles district, where challenging hikes await amidst a breathtaking landscape of rock spires and red sandstone formations. The Chesler Park Loop stands out with its vibrant Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires and numerous  trails that meander through dramatic scenery, making it ideal for solitude seekers and nature enthusiasts alike.

White Rim Road

For adventure enthusiasts equipped with high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles, White Rim Road presents an unforgettable 100-mile loop journey. This off-road experience circles the Island in the Sky mesa, providing spectacular views along the way. To explore this route, all vehicles, motorbikes, and bicyclists must obtain a day-use permit for single-day trips on the White Rim.

Scenic Driving Tour

For a laid-back exploration of this stunning park, start your day with a half-day scenic driving tour  that showcases the stunning vistas of Canyonlands National Park, the Canyon Rims National Recreation Area, and the La Sal Mountains. Enjoy the convenience of lunch, expert guidance, and transportation, all included in the experience.

Guided Hiking Adventure

Set out on an all-day guided hiking  adventure through Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park, with the opportunity to visit several unique areas. This tour invites you to discover the spectacular beauty of the Moab region's national parks, offering a curated exploration of unique attractions tailored to your interests and abilities.

Visiting Canyonlands National Park

Entrance is $30 per vehicle for a week, but it's free with an America The Beautiful Pass. Similar to Arches, cooler temperatures in spring and fall make these seasons ideal for exploration. Aim for at least a two-day visit to truly take in Canyonlands. Conveniently, Canyonlands does not require timed entry reservations and remains open 24/7, allowing for a more flexible visit and offering endless opportunities for adventuring during the day and stargazing at night.

Where to Stay Near Arches and Canyonlands

For the ultimate desert getaway, consider staying at ULUM Moab, located 25 minutes south of Moab. Ideally situation in a secluded and breathtaking canyon-rimmed bowl, next to iconic Looking Glass Arch, this upscale retreat offers luxury amidst nature, just a short drive from both parks. ULUM Moab provides the perfect base for your exploration, ensuring your adventure in the American Southwest is as memorable as it is comfortable.

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