The Delicate Arch trail is one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in Arches National Park. It’s an extremely popular trail and we met many other families making the trek to Delicate Arch with kids. Having hiked to the arch with our two kids we wanted to share our experience and tips for hiking the Delicate Arch trail with kids.
Hiking the Delicate Arch trail with kids
We hiked to Delicate Arch with our two young kids and it was one of the highlights of our time in Arches National Park with kids. We met lots of families with kids of all ages, both walking and in baby carriers or hiking backpacks, on the trail.
A symbol of Utah, the 52 foot tall Delicate Arch is the largest free standing arch in Arches National Park. Instantly recognizable from its appearance on Utah licence places, the Delicate Arch trail is one of the most popular in the park.
Delicate Arch Trail
The Delicate Arch trail is 3 miles in total out and back with almost 500 foot elevation gain along the way.
Hike Difficulty: the hike is rated as difficult by the National Parks Service.
Hiking Delicate Arch with kids tip: we found the hike moderately challenging, mostly due to the ice along the route. The actual route and trail are very manageable but weather conditions add to its difficulty.
The early part of the trail is well defined, mostly flat and relatively easy.
The Delicate Arch trail passes by Wolfe Ranch, a modest one room cabin where John Wesley Wolfe settled in the late 1800’s.
It is followed by a moderately steep but very manageable climb over sandstone slip rock.
Hiking Delicate Arch with kids tip: the slip rock section can be difficult to navigate in rain or ice as the surface of the rock is slippery.
The trail then flattens out and passes through large rocks and trees. This part of the trail is marked by cairns and the occasional sign.
The final section, a narrow path which meanders around the rocks, is the most challenging part of the hike with kids due to the sheer drop off on one side. It only lasts for a few hundred yards and, after turning around the bend, the magnificent Delicate Arch appears.
Delicate Arch is clearly visible from the end of the path but standing under the arch will require a short walk along the top rim of what resembles a sloping amphitheater of rock. We loved the view and the photos from the tiered rocks at the end of the path so, although many do, don’t feel like you have to continue over along the rim.
Hiking Delicate Arch with kids tip: make sure to stop by the petroglyph wall at the beginning or end of your hike to Delicate Arch. The drawings are believed to have been carved in the wall some time between 1650 and 1850. The petroglyph wall is a 10 minute detour from the Delicate Arch trail and follows a really short loop from Wolfe Ranch.
Safety on the Delicate Arch Trail with kids
Delicate Arch is a great trail, even with kids, but we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take care and maintain concentration, especially on the final path and at the viewpoint.
Don’t step backward or forward without checking your footing and carry, hold hands or keep kids next to you.
Delicate Arch is a well maintained and manageable trail but we feel it’s our responsibility in writing this article to point out the risks as well as the positives. Like many of the hikes and viewpoints across the National Parks, injury or death is a very real possibility so please be cautious.
Hiking Delicate Arch with kids: we’re strong believers in turning around at any point we don’t feel comfortable on a trail, even if it’s the final bend! Safety always comes first.
Best time to hike the Delicate Arch trail
Sunset is the most popular time to visit Delicate Arch for a few reasons:
- The arch is in the shade earlier in the day. Sunlight only illuminates the arch later in afternoon.
- Evening temperatures are a little more manageable in summer. A sunset hike avoids the midday sun and high temperatures on a trail where there is little cover.
- Delicate Arch is often at its most beautiful at when pinks and purples illuminate the sky.
Don’t linger too long after sunset or you will end up hiking down to the parking lot in the dark. Make sure to bring a head torch in case you need it to help with the walk back down.
Hiking Delicate Arch with kids: the Delicate Arch parking lot can fill up at popular times – there were plenty of spaces when we visited on a November afternoon but summer sunsets can attract hundreds of hikers. There is additional parking at the Delicate Arch viewpoint lots which will add two miles to your hike.
Summer and Winter hikes to Delicate Arch with kids
Summer: The Delicate Arch trail is very exposed with limited opportunities to find shade. Start the hike either early or late in summer to avoid the peak temperatures in the middle of the day and bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat to protect from the sun.
Winter: The Delicate Arch trail can be icy in the winter and there are warning signs indicating the increased difficulty of the trail at these times. It is essential to wear shoes with a strong grip or pick up some Yaktrax for your sneakers. Layer up and keep kids well wrapped up from the cold. Remember to add some extra layers for kids in carriers as they’re not running around and can get very cold.
Hiking Delicate Arch with kids tip: we visited Arches National Park in late November and experienced the trail with ice and snow. The cooler temperatures make for a pleasant hike but the icy paths make the final part of the trail much more challenging.
Hiking Delicate Arch with kids: the essentials
- Water: the Delicate Arch trail is a three mile round trip with limited shade so bring lots of water in the summer. We hiked in late November when temperatures were just above freezing and we drank a small bottle of water each.
- Hiking backpack for toddlers: our two year old can manage to walk about one mile in total so a hiking backpack was essential for this three mile round trip. As well as the distance, a backpack is great for the more challenging parts of the trail when we weren’t comfortable with him walking solo. We use a Osprey Poco AG Plus and find it invaluable for hikes.
- Baby carrier for infants: we use a soft carrier for our 8 month old as she likes to hang out up front and it offers more support for younger babies who might nap on the longer trails. We use an Ergo Baby 360 and switch to facing in when it’s windy or cold.
- Summer accessories: sunscreen and a hat to protect from the sun
- Winter accessories: layers of clothing, a warm hat and a good jacket. Good hiking shoes/boots or Yaktrax on sneakers for grip.
- Snacks for kids: the hike takes a couple of hours return so make sure to pack some snacks for hungry kids
Hiking Delicate Arch with kids tip: there are rest rooms and trash cans in the parking lot for Delicate Arch trail.
The Delicate Arch Viewpoints
If you decide to skip the hike to Delicate Arch it is still possible to see the arch. There are two viewpoints, Lower Delicate Arch viewpoint and Higher Delicate Arch viewpoint, both of which offer a glimpse of Delicate Arch in the distance and require a much shorter walk.
The viewpoints are accessed by driving past the parking lot for the Delicate Arch trail and continuing along the road until you see the signs. The two viewpoints share a parking lot.
The Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint is a 100 yard walk from the car park while the Upper viewpoint is 0.5 mile walk with stairs.
Alternative hikes with kids in Arches National Park
Arches National Park was one of our favorite parks to visit as many of the trails were easily manageable with kids . If you decide to skip the Delicate Arch hike, the below hikes are great alternatives with kids:
- Devil’s Garden: a relatively flat 1 mile hike leads to the incredible Landscape Arch, the biggest arch in any of the US Parks and the fifth biggest in the world. The beautiful Pine Tree Arch is a short and mostly flat hike off the Landscape Arch trail and the detour also offers views of Tunnel Arch
- Windows and Double Arch: a beautiful and easy hike with well defined paths and short climbs. There’s lots to see on this trail making it easy to keep kids engaged.
- Sandstone Arch: a short, flat and less exposed hike which is great for kids.
- Skyline Arch: short, flat and easy trail where the arch is visible for most of the trail.