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Is Sunrise at Delicate Arch Worth It?

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Everything You Need to Know about Watching Sunrise at Delicate Arch in Utah

We visited Arches National Park in Utah, while we were on a road trip through Utah back in 2017, just so that we could watch the sunrise at Delicate Arch.

Was sunrise at Delicate Arch worth it?

Were there crowds of people there even at sunrise?

I will let you know very soon, but first a bit of a background story of Delicate Arch and the very unusual national park it is located in.

Delicate Arch is one of the many natural arches located in Arches National Park in Utah USA. I know, the park’s name is very original. 😉 It is also one of the best places in Arches National Park for sunrise photos.

This was our first overseas trip together and Dave and I rediscovered photography together on this trip. We ended up buying our first interchangeable lens camera when we got back to Australia and it was the start of our photography journey that may be following along today on Instagram.

Out of all of the natural arches in the park, Delicate Arch is the most popular and therefore most famous. I was seeing photos of it all over social media before we went and so it was added to our travel bucket list.

🌵 Fun Fact: Delicate Arch is the national monument of Utah and is actually pictured on the Utah car license plates!

Now I’m going to pass on my knowledge watching the sunrise at Delicate Arch and everything you should (and shouldn’t) do to make your trip a memorable one in the best way possible!

📍 Where is Delicate Arch Located

Delicate Arch is located in Arches National Park in Utah. The closest town to the park is Moab, which is where we stayed while we were there.

Click here to open the map in Google Maps!

How to Get to Moab from Salt Lake City

If you are coming from overseas or elsewhere in the US, I recommend flying into Salt Lake City International Airport and picking up a rental car there. I like using Rentalcars.com to find the best price.

It will take you almost 4 hours to drive from Salt Lake City to Moab. From the International Airport, you will need to head south on N 3700 W toward 510 N.

Arches National Park Road

Keep to the right and let the road turn into Crossbar Rd and then take the ramp onto Terminal Drive. Use the left 2 lanes to take the I-80 E/I-15/I-215 ramp to Salt Lake City/Ogden/Provo.

In about 3.7 miles, merge onto the I-15 S/I-80 E toward Cheyenne/Las Vegas. In another 50 miles, take the US-6 E exit toward Price. Continue on US-6 E for 128 miles and then merge onto I-70 E/US-6 E.

You will then need to look for exit 182 toward Moab and merge onto US-191 S.

2024 Update – New Reservation System

During the 2024 season from April 1 to October 31st, 2024 there will be a pilot timed entry system implemented. Reservations will be able to be booked 3 months in advance. The goal for this system is to help manage traffic as Arches National Park is becoming more and more busy every year. We visited during Summer back in 2017 and I can confirm that this new system is much needed! 

📆 Best Time to Visit Arches National Park and Delicate Arch

Learn from our mistakes and do NOT visit Arches National Park in Summer! In July, the average high is around 38 degrees Celsius (100 F) and you will find yourself not wanting to do anything during the day.

couple standing in front of Delicate Arch at sunrise

The best time to visit Delicate Arch is during Spring or Fall to make the most of the cooler temperatures. These are however, also the busiest times in terms of tourism to visit the area, so make sure you plan well ahead of time to book your accommodation and any tours and activities you want to do.

🛎 Where to Stay Near Arches National Park

The best place to stay near Arches National Park is in Moab, which is about a 30 minute drive from Delicate Arch. We stayed at the Sun Outdoors Arches Gateway in their log cabins because it was a more affordable option but there are loads of other amazing options.

Luxury

Sorrel River Ranch photo from above
Credit: Sorrel River Ranch (via Tripadvisor)

Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa is a luxury resort in Moab with gorgeous rooms and amazing views of the Colorado River and surrounding desert. The sunsets from here are to die for!

Mid-Range

Red Cliffs Lodge Utah
Credit: Red Cliffs Lodge (via Tripadvisor)

Red Cliffs Lodge is like something out of a rustic dream! It is also located outside of Moab which means the surrounding views are insanely beautiful! The lodge includes an outdoor pool and is home to Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage and Moab’s Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo Experience. The lodge also has massages, guided yoga and meditation classes, tennis courts, and horseback riding all onsite.

If you stay here, make sure you check out the stars at night! Because there is little to no light pollution, this is an excellent area for star gazing.

Budget

Apache Motel Moab
Credit: Apache Motel (via Booking.com)

The Apache Motel is only a couple of blocks from the main Downtown area in Moab including shops and restaurants. This is actually the first motel ever built in Moab so it is a historic landmark! They are super pet friendly with a dog wash and fenced dog park and have some really great reviews about the many different details of the motel that you just wouldn’t find anywhere else!

🥾 The Delicate Arch Hike

Hike Stats

Distance: 5.1km / 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 192m / 629 ft
Time: 1.5 hours
Toilets: At the parking lot / trailhead

Hiking Directions and Description

We found the hike from the parking lot to Delicate Arch a little confusing, especially in the dark on the way there. Luckily, there were others on the trail so we ended up following them.

The key is to try to follow the rock cairns (rock piles) which have been set up by the park rangers to guide you. I recommend having offline maps to also help you stay on the right trail.

man with tripod standing in front of Delicate Arch at sunrise

It should take you about 30 minutes to drive from Downtown Moab to the parking lot at Delicate Arch.

From the parking lot, the trail starts off pretty easy and the first thing that you will notice is the Wolf Ranch. The trails starts getting steeper and once you reach the slickrock sections, you will need to count on the rock piles and your offline maps to help you navigate.

After you have climbed the slickrock, you will make it to a much better defined trail with a steep drop off on one side. This trail will take you around a wall of red rock on your right. Eventually you will emerge from behind the huge wall of rock and see Delicate Arch.

man sitting watching the sunrise at Delicate Arch
This was where we sat to watch the sunrise with everyone else.

There’s something crazy about seeing a rock formation like Delicate Arch in real life after seeing it so often on social media in photos.

❗ Things to Consider when Hiking to Delicate Arch

  • Keep an eye on the weather. The desert can flood very quickly, leaving you stranded. We actually came across a couple who had spent the night in the parking lot because the road leading back had flooded overnight and was impassable.
  • Bring headlamps if you are hiking at sunrise or sunset.
  • Bring plenty of food and water. It is a hike to reach the arch and you will get hungry and thirsty.
  • Bring clothing layers to keep warm while the sun is down. Delicate Arch is located in an exposed area which gets very cold at night.
  • You will need a National Parks Pass shown on your car’s dashboard.
  • Be careful – there are steep drop offs at Delicate Arch. Watch your footing and be aware of others.
  • There is no shade along this hike so make sure you bring a hat, sunscreen and cover ups.
  • Hold onto your belongings. Once you reach Delicate Arch, it is a steep drop off into the canyon bowl so anything that you don’t have hold of will roll straight down and be gone.
  • Leave No Trace and pack out all of your belongings and trash with you.

🌵 Alternative Viewpoints

The classic hike and photography spot is not the only place that you can see Delicate Arch from. There is also the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint and the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. Please note that dogs are not allowed on either of these trails.

Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint

The Lower Delicate Arch viewpoint is only a 5 minute walk from the Lower Delicate Arch parking lot shown on the map in this blog post. Delicate Arch is pretty far away so it is a bit of a long distance view of the arch but this is a great more accessible option with a nice short, flat path.

This is also a good option for you to be able to see Delicate Arch if you find yourself with only free time during a hot Summer’s day. The heat in Moab is stifling and the last thing you will want to do is hike through the desert!

Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint

The Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint is 0.5 miles (0.8km) from the same parking lot. The trail to the upper viewpoint is steep 171ft (52m) and will take you about 30-45 minutes. This part of the trail is not accessible as it takes you up steep slopes and steps.

From the viewpoint, you will be a bit closer to the arch and be able to see the it from across the canyon. You’ll also be able to make out the crowds of people sitting around the arch who have done the full hike all of the way to Delicate Arch.

☀ Is Sunrise at Delicate Arch Worth it?

Delicate Arch is impressive at any time of the day, but there is something magical about sitting waiting in the dark to see the arch appear for the first time.

When the sun does start to rise, the arch changes colours as it gets lighter and you can get loads of amazing photos, each slightly different.

In my opinion, yes, sunrise at Delicate Arch is definitely worth it for the adventure, the photos and the memories.

🎒 What to Pack for Sunrise at Delicate Arch

  • Hiking boots or trail runners – my favourite boots
  • Your camera – Our camera gear is here!
  • Rain gear – even if it is not in the forecast, it could still rain.

Delicate Arch FAQs

Is Delicate Arch Better at Sunrise or Sunset?

Both sunset and sunrise are great choices to see and photograph Delicate Arch.

Sunset at Delicate Arch is the more popular choice for photographers. If you go at sunset, the light will hit the arch dead on, making it glow a gorgeous red/orange colour, making it the more popular choice.

If you go at sunrise, you have more chance that there will be less people around because waking up that early is HARD! In other words, if avoiding the crowds is the most important thing to you, then sunrise might be the right choice for you!

Sunrise at Delicate Arch

Where is the Classic Photo from at Delicate Arch?

You will see the view of the “classic photo” of Delicate Arch as soon as you the Arch first comes into view. You will need to stand on the edge of the bowl to get the shot and you will notice that there will be someone standing under the arch to get their picture taken the ENTIRE time you are there. You will have to just ignore this and photoshop them out later.

Are dogs allowed on the Delicate Arch Trail?

Dogs are not allowed on the trail to Delicate Arch, nor are they allowed on any of the other hiking trails in Arches National Park.

They are allowed to accompany you in the car and at paved pull outs on a leash as well as the campground. You can find more information on pets in Arches National Park here.

Can I join a tour to visit Arches National Park?

Joining a tour often saves a lot of stress when planning a trip. There are a few different tours that will take you to see Arches National Parks such as this full day Arches National Park 4×4 Drive and Hiking Tour starting in Moab.

If you are also wanting to see Canyonlands while you are in Moab, you could join this Full-Day Canyonlands and Arches 4×4 Driving Tour.

What else is there to do in Moab?

Moab is a town for adventurers. There are not only awesome hikes that you can do but also mountain biking, skydiving, white water rafting, airplane tours and so much more! For more to do in Moab, check out my Moab Weekend Itinerary!

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