• Delicate Arch is the most famous natural arch in Arches National Park, known for its stunning shape and ease of access.
  • The arch is made of Entrada Sandstone from the Jurassic Period and will eventually collapse due to erosion.
  • Visitors can hike to Delicate Arch on a 3-mile round trip trail with an elevation change of 480 feet, but should arrive early as the parking lot fills up quickly.

Delicate Arch is the most famous of Arches National Park's approximately 2,000 natural arches. Arches is not only famous for its many stunning arches but also for its other eye-catching rock formations such as balanced rock. It is famous for its dramatic shape and for its comparative ease of visiting.

Delicate Arch is one of the top attractions in Arches National Park near Moab (Moab is one of the great outdoor attractions of Utah). The arch is perhaps the most recognized landmark in the park and is depicted on the Utah license plates. Enjoy a scenic drive through Arches, but take the time to stop and hike to Delicate Arch while there.

History Of The Delicate Arch & Its Inevitable Fate

A view of the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash
A view of the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

The Delicate Arch has inspired people for many generations. It may come as a surprise to many, but Delicate Arch was not originally part of the Arches National Monument (the precursor to the national park) in 1929. It was only added to the monument in 1938. The 2002 Winter Olympics' Olympic tour relay even passed through the arch.

  • Formation: Entrada Sandstone (from the Jurassic Period)

Delicate Arch is made up of Entrada Sandstone. The Entrada Sandstone formation was deposited during the Jurassic Period (between around 180 million and 140 million years ago). The prehistoric environments included beaches, sand dunes, and tidal mudflats.

The Delicate Arch will not last forever. No one knows how long it will stand for, but it is certain that it will eventually collapse. The National Park Service in the 1950s even looked into the idea of putting a clear plastic coating around it to protect it from further erosion. That idea ultimately didn't go anywhere.

The arch will continue to weather and erode, and it will one day collapse — there is no time like the present to see it.

Related: Hike The Paria Canyon To The Largest National Arch Outside Of Utah

Size & What To Know About Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch Trail, Moab, UT, USA
Via: Unsplash
Delicate Arch Trail, Moab, Utah, USA

It is the largest free-standing arch in the park (although it is now known that the largest natural arch in the world is in China). The arch is one of the great wonders of nature and is a must for anyone visiting the park. The opening beneath the arch spans 32 feet in width and 46 feet in height.

  • Internal Space: 32 feet x 48 feet (10 meters x 15 meters)

The arch has gone by various names of the year including "Cowboy's Chaps", "Old Maid's Bloomers," and "Salt Wash Arch." The name "Delicate" dates from 1934.

Visiting Arches National Park:

  • Admission Fee: $30 (per private vehicle) - or $55 Annual Pass

Opening Hours:

  • National Park: Open 24/7
  • Visitor Center: 7:30 am to 6:00 pm - hours vary seasonally (Visitor Center Open Daily, Year-round)

There are many breathtaking natural arches to be discovered all around the world, although nowhere in the world has the massive concentration of arches of Arches National Park. Those who can't go as far as Utah can still see impressive natural arches in Kentucky at the Natural Bridge Park.

Related: Visit Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Home To The World’s Largest Travertine Arch Bridge

Hiking To The Delicate Arch On The Delicate Arch Trail

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Red rock arch against yellow and blue sky
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Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah 

Unlike the teetering giant, Balanced Rock, in the park, Delicate Arch is difficult to see from the road. To see it, visitors need to park and hike to it. To reach Delicate Arch, park at the parking lot at Wolfe Ranch (or at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint a mile away if the other car park is full).

It should be noted that Delicate Arch is one of the most popular attractions in the national park and even though the parking lot is large, it fills up quickly on most days.

Balanced Rock in the winter at Arches National Park
Balanced Rock, one of the most iconic features in the Arches National Park

The hike to Delicate Arch is a 3-mile round trip and includes an elevation change of 480 feet. There is a narrow ledge for the last couple of hundred yards before getting to the arch. Along the way, keep an eye out for the Wolfe Ranch cabin and a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs.

  • Trail Length (Return): 3 miles or 4.8 kilometers (5 miles or 8 kilometers from Delicate Arch Viewpoint Parking Lot)
  • Elevation change: 480 feet or 146 meters

The hike includes a significant uphill climb with a steep slickrock slope, there is no shade, and it gets hot in the summer.

The trail can be a little difficult (especially in the summer heat or winter ice) so alternatively, visitors can go to the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint and see it a mile away or walk to the Upper Viewpoint and enjoy less obstructed views.

The best time (and also the busiest time) to see the arch is at sunset. Note that it is forbidden to climb the Delicate Arch. For more information about visiting the Delicate Arch, refer to the National Park Service.