Things to Do in Arches National Park, Utah

Looking for things to do in Arches National Park, Utah? Here are the best hikes and photo opps in Utah Arches and Monument Valley, Utah.

Monument Valley Utah | Monument Valley pictures

I’ll be the first to admit that Utah was not #1 on my bucket list. But Alex and my recent trip there has us convinced it is one of the more beautiful places on Earth! Monumental red rock sculptures jut out of the landscape like Renaissance sculptures. These landscapes are some of the most epic in the entire country. Here are a few of the highlights of our 24-hour trip through Utah Arches National Park and Monument Valley, including all of our things to in Arches National Park and our Monument Valley pictures.

To get to Utah Arches and Monument Valley, Alex and I drove north from Flagstaff (here’s our post on Things to Do in Flagstaff). Across the border, the desert sand turns red and oddly-shaped formations jut out on the horizon: cathedrals, medieval castles, and massive statues. I forced Alex stop the car several times to take badly photos of the rocks with my smartphone. My sneaking suspicion I was wasting my time on small potatoes was confirmed when we came upon this place: Monument Valley Utah, stunning and otherworldly.

Related: 8 Secrets: How to Take Better Pictures on Vacation

Monument Valley Utah

Monument Valley Utah is one of the most otherworldly places on Earth. Though truly, it feels like you’re on Mars! This view is mysterious and iconic all at once. To get to Monument Valley, you take a long road into the desert that feels like you’re on the road to no where. Don’t worry, keep going! You get to a booth that charges a $20 entry fee, but it is absolutely, absolutely worth it. Keep going and you’ll find an unassuming looking parking lot and building. But when you go to the other side, you see THIS. Here are a few of our Monument Valley pictures.

Monument Valley Utah | Monument Valley pictures

Monument Valley Utah | Monument Valley pictures

Monument Valley Utah | Monument Valley pictures

The beautiful rock formations rise out of the ground like monuments that took hundreds of years to chisel out of the rocks. What an incredible place! We wanted to stay in Monument Valley Utah forever. Next time, we’ll budget for more time here. When my parents visited to Monument Valley, they stayed in The View Hotel where their room had a view right onto the iconic rocks. There are also Navajo led tours of Monument Valley.

Since we only had a short amount of time, we mainly took lots of Monument Valley pictures! While we could have stayed all day, we just made a quick stop. We were ready to get to Arches National Park! The road on the way out of Monument Valley was just as magical. It reminded us of the Wizard of Oz! Here are a few photos of the view from the road out of Monument Valley…

Monument Valley Utah | Monument Valley pictures

Monument Valley Utah | Monument Valley pictures

Monument Valley Utah | Monument Valley pictures

Arches National Park Utah

From Monument Valley, we traveled to Moab, Utah to Arches National Park.  Arches is an national park with some of the most unique rock sculptures in the US.  We drove directly to the park and hit it around 5:00 pm, the perfect time to see the rocks lit up bright red in the evening sun. What are the things to do in Arches National Park? Basically, hiking to and around the most spectacular rock formations you’ve ever seen. This one is called Park Avenue, a play on the towering skyscraper like structures.

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches

What to eat

Side note: before entering the park, we stopped by a local grocery to grab a picnic dinner. Here’s a travel tip: we’ve found the best way to eat healthy on a budget while traveling is…the grocery store! We hit up the local Moab Utah grocery store (City Market) and headed to the salad bar and the deli counter for fresh, whole food salads. Our picnic above includes superfood salad with kale and blueberries, edamame salad, salad bar with bulgur and cauliflower, fresh bread, and goat cheese. It was so delicious and perfectly hit the spot! We found a hidden little picnic spot to eat it with the view of the super iconic Balanced Rock formation. Just wow!

Balanced Rock

We spent the entire evening in Utah arches hiking and photographing the formations, and the light was magical. Hitting Arches at golden hour is perfect for photography. If you’re not familiar, golden hour is that brief time period of the day where the sun is low enough to cast an indirect golden light over everything it touches. It makes for the best photos because instead of harsh overhead light and lots of shadows, the entire scene is bathed in a warm glow. If you’re in Arches National Park Utah and you’re into photography, make sure to hit your favorite formations at golden hour.

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Balanced Rock

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | North and South Windows

These formations are called the North and South Windows.

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | North and South Windows

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | North and South Windows

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | North and South Windows

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | North and South Windows

And even more fun than golden hour photography in Arches National Park is night photography in Arches! This was one of our most favorite memories from Arches. We watched as the sun set, and then hiked over to Balanced Rock for some stunning night photos.

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | North and South Windows

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | North and South Windows

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | North and South Windows

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Balanced Rock
Here’s Balanced Rock at twilight. Wowza!

Delicate Arch

The next morning, we arose early to see Arches National Park’s most famous site, Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is truly stunning. We chose to view it at sunrise for logistical reasons; the parking lot is currently under construction so with limited spots, it’s nearly always full! We got one of the first spots at 5:00 am. Next time, we’d try in the evening to see it turn red with the evening light, but any time of day is worth the hike. The climb was pretty strenuous and there are some spots where you’re on a ledge, so make sure you’re up for it! It felt fabulous hitting 15,000 steps by 9:30 am (thank you, FitBit).

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Delicate Arch

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Delicate Arch

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Delicate Arch

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Delicate Arch

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Delicate Arch

Landscape Arch

The final rock formation that we visited was a hike to Landscape Arch. This was an easy hike and Landscape Arch was beautiful. But after seeing Delicate Arch, it was obvious why Delicate Arch is the centerpiece of the park.

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Landscape Arch

Things to Do in Arches National Park Utah | Utah Arches | Landscape Arch

Overall, we spent only 24 hours in Arches National Park Utah. Next time we’ll take more tim eon our visit, but even 24 hours was absolutely spectacular.

Notes:

  • We stayed in the Comfort Suites in Moab and had a great experience.
  • We recommend entering Arches National Park early in the morning or later in the evening if it’s during peak season (we were visiting during spring break).
  • We did not get a chance to try any restaurants in Moab Utah. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments below!

More travel posts

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

21 Comments

  • Reply
    Heidi @foodiecrush
    May 20, 2015 at 9:29 am

    So glad you got a chance to visit our great state. Next time I hope you’ll make your way north to SLC for a visit. For good eats, Zax has a lunchtime pizza bar with about 20 different hot slices of pizzas, huge burgers and brews and Susie’s Branding Iron is known for it’s crazy good burgers and you can’t go wrong with the fried pickles. If you’re a golfer, the local muni course is not to be missed. Thanks for your gorgeous pictorial, now I need to get away for the weekend.

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 21, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      We’d love to come up to SLC for a visit :) I’m jealous that you can get away to Arches on a weekend!

  • Reply
    Moira
    May 20, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Your photos are gorgeous! My family went to Moab a couple of summers ago when my dad was finishing an Ultra-Marathon there. We spent the week driving through Utah and back to Oregon going through all of the National Parks; Arches, Monument Valley, Zion, Brice. It was amazing. My favorite restaurant in Moab was the Jailhouse Cafe, they used to do this amazing Medici Mocha that had orange in it, but I’ve heard they since stopped doing espresso, which is a shame.

    Moira

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 21, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Sounds like an amazing trip! We definitely want to hit Zion and Bryce on our next visit out. Thanks for the restaurant tip!

  • Reply
    Amanda
    May 20, 2015 at 11:03 am

    These pictures are incredible. I haven’t had much a desire to see this part of the country in the past but your photos made me reconsider.

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 21, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      I know! Utah definitely doesn’t get enough travel cred :)

  • Reply
    Lety
    May 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Gorgeous pictures, Love the ones that transition from daylight all the way to night and stars!

  • Reply
    Ashley
    May 21, 2015 at 9:46 am

    These photos are completely amazing! My goodness. Not sure how we haven’t made a trip there yet! I just love the progression in the photos. I’m so glad you risked your life for these shots! ;) (now come back to colorado)

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 21, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      You really need to get over there! It’s definitely worth a drive across the mountains.

  • Reply
    Ileana
    May 21, 2015 at 10:02 am

    This is magical. What beautiful photos!

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 21, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks! It really was a magical place.

  • Reply
    Ashlae
    May 22, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Pretty sad that I live soooo close to Arches but have never been. These pictures have me convinced THAT needs to change. ;)

  • Reply
    Soohie
    May 24, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Monument Vallley is so impresive, and so beautiful. I’m enjoying the mix up of food with travel, thank you.

  • Reply
    Grace
    May 27, 2015 at 1:13 am

    GORGEOUS! I want to visit Utah this summer. Really nice job capturing it.

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 27, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Thanks Grace!

  • Reply
    Kate
    May 27, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    These photos are unreal! Just added these parks to my travel list!

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 28, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Thanks Kate! You should definitely get out there :)

  • Reply
    Sarah | Well and Full
    May 28, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Oh. My. GOSH. The photos you took are absolutely STUNNING! Visiting the national parks in Utah is on me+my boyfriends’ bucket list – we’re dying to see Arches NP, Canyonlands, and Bryce NP. You’re so lucky to have had this experience, thanks for sharing your photos! :)

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 28, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Thank you! We want to get out there for another trip; so much of Utah left for us to explore.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    November 1, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Forgot that I had saved your post at the time for my upcoming trip to Moab. It was an amazing trip, one i wont soon forget. Gorgeous shots!

  • Reply
    Ailsa lena
    November 26, 2018 at 6:19 am

    lovely pictures, Love the ones that transition from daylight all the way to night and stars!

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