Arches National Park and Canyonlands in One Day

We get asked often if it’s possible to visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands in one day. Good news – it is!

These two Utah National Parks are simply stunning. You’ll be treated to amazing landscapes filled with arches, balanced rocks, and fins at Arches National Park. At Canyonlands Island in the Sky you’ll enjoy panoramic views of canyons and the rivers below the mesa.

Arches and Canyonlands One Day Itinerary

In order to get the most out of visiting Arches and Canyonlands in one day, we recommend the scenic drives at both parks with a quick hike or two.

This guide includes maps of the various points of interest along the two scenic drives in Arches and Island in the Sky with tips for things to see, do and photograph at each stop.

As you’re planning your Utah National Park road trip, this one day itinerary will allow you to check off Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse Point State Park from your bucket list!

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Check out all the gear we recommend: Packing list for Utah National Parks

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A Photo Tour of Arches National Park

Take a visual tour through Arches National Park to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!

Best Time to Visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands

When deciding the best time to visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands, it all depends on things you want to do.

It’s important to know the Canyonlands and Arches National Park weather and what to expect when visiting during the spring, summer, fall and winter. 

The weather and temperatures at Arches and Canyonlands Island in the sky are pretty much the same. We’ll share links to specific seasons and months for one park, but know that information applies to both parks.

Spring Weather at Arches and Canyonlands

Springtime weather and temperatures vary quite a bit from month to month. When visiting Arches National Park in the spring, it’s important to pack for all types of weather because you never know when the weather will change.

It is not unusual to get rain or even snowfall in March. We recommend you watch the weather and pack a winter coat, winter hat, and winter gloves when going to Arches in early spring. A fleece jacket, hat, and gloves should be fine later in the spring.

Spring is a busy time so we recommend you get in the park early to see and photograph sunrise at Arches National Park!

Summer Weather at Arches and Canyonlands

At Canyonlands National Park in the summer the temperatures will be HOT! Since the temperatures are brutal this time of year, plan your outdoor activities for the cooler mornings and evenings!

With the hot summer temperatures, you’ll want to protect yourself from the sun by wearing a sun hat, sunscreen and sunglasses. It’s important to stay hydrated and carry a hydration pack or a refillable water bottle in your backpack.

Enjoy the cooler evenings by stargazing at Arches and Canyonlands in the summer. Both parks are popular locations for milky way photography!

Fall Weather at Arches and Canyonlands

The weather at Arches National Park in the fall starts to cool down making it a great time to explore the park because it will be cooler in the mornings and evenings, and the daytime temperatures aren’t too hot compared to the summer.

With the cooler temperatures at night, you will definitely want to bring a fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves for the nights and early mornings. 

Fall is a nice time to be in the park on a sunny day when the air isn’t stifling! It’s a perfect time to explore the Arches National Park hiking trails! The fall months are still busy so hit the trails in the morning or late afternoon.

Winter Weather at Arches and Canyonlands

We love visiting Canyonlands National Park in the winter! But there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. Visitor services are reduced and you’ll need to be more self-reliant in the winter.  

BUT the cold winter weather may not be for everyone.

During the winter it is especially important to dress in layers. We recommend an insulted winter jacket, fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves if you’ll be doing any outside activities. Here’s the full list of the outdoor winter clothing we use!

We enjoy Canyonlands National Park Photography in the winter – check out these awesome photographer gloves and rechargeable hand warmers we use!

Arches National Park and Canyonlands in One Day: Visit Arches First

It’s amazing to think that Arches National Park has 2,000 natural stone arches within its boundaries. The other stone features include pinnacles, fins, windows and balanced rocks that can all be seen from the scenic drive. 

Arches National Park now has a TIMED ENTRY pilot program April through October, 2022. Timed entry tickets will be required to enter the park from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and will allow visitors to enter the park during a one-hour specified window of availability. After entering, visitors may stay in the park as long as they wish for the remainder of the day. Reservation holders may exit and re-enter the park on the same day with a correctly validated ticket.

You CAN visit Arches without a ticket as long as you enter the park before 6 a.m or after 5 p.m. That’s the best time of day for Arches National Park photography anyway.

For the purpose of this one day guide, plan to enter Arches National Park before 6:00 am if you’ll be visiting during the months of April through October. That way you don’t need to worry about getting an entry ticket for the date you’ll be there!

If you’re interested in photographing sunrise at Arches National Park, plan to arrive in the park at least 30 minutes before sunrise. We detail below the sunrise locations we recommend!

Arches National Park Scenic Drive Map

Use this Google map of the Arches scenic drive points of interest to navigate through the park.

arches scenic drive map

Arches National Park Scenic Drive Points of Interest

Here’s our Arches National Park travel guide to navigate the road through the park to see the best points of interest!

The full 43-mile Arches scenic drive, including the spur roads, takes 2 to 3 hours. The road is paved and offers Arches National Park photography spots from the pullouts along the road or in the parking lots. Some of the arches and landmarks can be reached by a short walk from the parking lot.

CHECK OUT our Arches & Canyonlands Itinerary and Photography Guide if you’re serious about taking the best photos at Arches!

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La Sal Viewpoint Sunrise

At this viewpoint you’ll enjoy a 360-degree view of the La Sal Mountains to the east and the formations like Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, and The Organ in the Courthouse Towers area. You’ll also see a distant view of Balanced Rock and the Windows Section along the horizon.

At this location you will see the sun crossing the horizon, but this Arches sunrise spot is a favorite because of the orange/red glow reflected onto the various formations.

→ READ MORE: Sunrise Photography Tips

The Organ at sunrise in Arches National Park Photo Jeepers 800

Courthouse Towers

Continue down the Arches National Park scenic drive to get closer to The Organ, Three Gossips and Sheep structures. 

Stop at any of the pullouts on the right before you get to the Courthouse parking lot. This will give you the best view of The Organ. The golden light at sunrise is stunning!

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park near sunrise Photo Jeepers 800

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock is the next stop found on the right. There are other pullouts between Courthouse Towers and Balanced Rock that provide photographic opportunities, like Petrified Dunes Viewpoint.

Walking along the .3 mile round trip trail around this landmark is a good way to stretch your legs and doesn’t take too much time.

Fun fact: the upper portion of the rock that is balancing is as large as three school buses!

The Spectacles at Arches by Photo Jeepers

The Windows and Turret Arch

The Windows Section of Arches National Park is a popular area.

You can see the windows from the parking lot, but if you have the time, we recommend the easy 2 mile round trip hike that takes you to the North and South Windows, also known as the Spectacles. 

Turret Arch at sunrise Photo Jeepers

Continue along the trail in the Windows area to access Turret Arch.

Double Arch photo at Arches National Park Photo Jeepers 800

Double Arch

Double Arch is across the parking lot from the Windows. You’ll see two arches that share the same stone foundation formed by downward water erosion instead of side-to-side water erosion like most of the other arches in the park.

To really see this arch, you’ll need to walk the short easy trail – this one is worth it!

From here head back out to the main road and turn right.

Panorama Point

This viewpoint is at the top of a hill so you get a panoramic view of the park! You can see the La Sal mountains, Fiery Furnace and Devil’s Garden.

Delicate Arch viewpoint at Arches National Park

Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint

Continue along the main road then turn right to access Delicate Arch. This iconic arch is a must-see when visiting Arches National Park! Unfortunately, it can’t be viewed from the main road.

It’s worth the short hike of 100 yards along a level path to see the arch one mile away from the Lower Delicate Viewpoint.

If you’re up for a half mile hike with some stairs to climb, there is an Upper Viewpoint that takes you a little closer.

Delicate-Arch-at-sunset-Photo-Jeepers-800

The Delicate Arch hike lets you see this are up close, but you’ll need to hike 3 miles roundtrip on a trail that climbs 480 feet in elevation. The hike is mostly uphill and takes 1 to 1 ½ hours if you are reasonably fit.

Unfortunately, this hike won’t fit into this itinerary to see Arches and Canyonlands in a single day.

Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park

Fiery Furnace

Go back to the main road and turn right. You’ll pass Salt Valley Overlook then come to the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. It’s a short walk from the parking lot to see the fins and spires.

Sand Dune Arch photo spot at Arches by Photo Jeepers

Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch

The next point of interest along the scenic drive is a popular stop if you’re visiting Arches National Park with kids!

Sand Dune Arch is one stop that’s usually shaded and cool. The easy hike takes you through a narrow slot between fins to a sandy area with many places for the kids to explore and play in the sand.

Broken Arch at Arches National Park by Photo Jeepers

Take note that it’s against park policy to climb on the arch. The 1.7 mile Broken Arch loop trail is accessed from the same trailhead as Sand Dune Arch and can be seen off in the distance. For this itinerary, you won’t have time to do this hike.

skyline arch at sunset Photo Jeepers 800

Skyline Arch

Skyline Arch is the next point of interest along the scenic drive. It sits high atop rocks in the Devil’s Garden area and can be seen from the road.

You can take a photo from the pullout, but the short and easy trail gets you closer to the arch.

Landscape Arch at Arches National Park by Photo Jeepers

Devil’s Garden

The scenic drive ends at Devil’s Garden where you can see massive fins. There is a nice picnic area to take a break surrounded by amazing landscape.

Exploring the Devil’s Garden trail takes you to a number of arches. At 7.2 miles round trip, including all spur trails, it’s the longest maintained trail at Arches National Park. 

There’s also the option to hike 1 mile to the famous Landscape Arch then turn around and head back. This arch is longer than a football field and the thinnest part of the archway is 8 feet thick.

Unfortunately, there’s no time to explore the Devil’s Garden area for this one day itinerary to see Arches and Canyonlands.

That’s the end of the scenic drive at Arches National Park. Return the way you came back to the Visitor Center and entrance to the park.

Park Avenue at Arches National Park by Photo Jeepers

Park Avenue

As you head back out of the park, you’ll make one last stop at Park Avenue near the entrance. From the parking area follow the wide, paved trail for about 100 yards to the viewpoint.

Arches National Park Itineraries

And grab the Arches National Park travel bundle with printable 1, 2 and 3-day itineraries to print and use to plan your vacation!

Arches National Park Travel Bundle

FREE DOWNLOAD: Arches National Park Travel Bundle

A Photo Tour of Canyonlands National Park

Take a visual tour through Canyonlands National Park (and Dead Horse Point) to see the stunning landscape in the parks!

How to Get to Island in the Sky From Arches National Park

To reach Canyonlands Island in the Sky from Arches, turn right out of the park onto US 191. A little over 6 miles you’ll turn left onto UT 313. Continue on this road for about 22 miles to reach the park entrance.

The drive takes about 40 minutes to get from Arches to Canyonlands Island in the Sky.

Arches National Park and Canyonlands in One Day: Next Stop is Island in the Sky

Did you know Canyonlands is subdivided along the Green and Colorado Rivers into four unique districts, that are known as The Needles, Island in the Sky, The Maze and The Rivers. 

Here’s our Canyonlands National Park guide to navigate the road through the park to see the best points of interest!

For this itinerary, we’ll focus on the best overlooks and viewpoints along the Island in the Sky scenic drive to enjoy the vast and spectacular landscape at this park!

After this one day in Arches and Canyonlands… if you’ll be traveling from Moab to the southeast, check out our article explaining Canyonlands Island in the Sky vs Needles. You may want to plan a quick stop to visit that district of the park!

Canyonlands Island in the Sky Scenic Drive Map

Use this Google map of the Canyonlands Island in the Sky scenic drive points of interest to navigate around the park.

Canyonlands Scenic Drive map

Canyonlands Island in the Sky Scenic Drive Points of Interest

The Canyonlands Island in the Sky mesa sits atop sandstone cliffs over 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. Every overlook along this drive offers a different view of the spectacular landscape. 

Check out this Canyonlands National Park Photography guide for taking pictures at Island in the Sky.

Here’s a list of the points of interest we recommend along the Grand View Point road and scenic drive at Island in the Sky.

Visitor Center Viewpoint 

The very first staggering view is found at the Canyonlands Island in the Sky Visitor Center.

As the view expands right in front of you, you will find yourself in awe and pure bliss of admiration. You can also see the Shafer Trail Road here.  

Schafer Trail at Canyonlands Island in the Sky

Shafer Canyon Viewpoint

Shafer Canyon Viewpoint gives you a breathtaking view of the crazy switchbacks on Shafer Trail Road. 

You won’t have time to drive this road during this one day itinerary, but If you’re not afraid of heights, we recommend driving the Shafer Trail road if you plan a return trip. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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Mesa Arch Trail

You can’t view Mesa Arch from the scenic drive. It does require you hike about 1 mile there and back. If you’re a fast hiker, you might have time to do this trail.

Mesa Arch is one of the most popular photo spots at Canyonlands Island in the Sky, especially at sunrise.

Green River Overlook at Canyonlands Island in the Sky

Green River Overlook

The Green River Overlook is located at the end of the paved road past the Willows Campground. 

The views you’ll see atop the 6,000 foot elevated plateau are incredible! The landscape here features the water-carved canyons created by the Green River.

You’ll find a short paved trail to the overlook which makes this spot wheelchair accessible.

This overlook is the best spot at Island in the Sky to watch and photograph the sunset.

upheaval dome at Canyonlands Island in the Sky

Whale Rock and Upheaval Dome

From a distance, you will enjoy a view of a rock formation that resembles a whale, thus, the name Whale Rock. 

There is a trail to the rock where you can climb to the top, but there’s no time for this hike for this itinerary.

Beyond Whale Rock is Upheaval Dome, but it’s a moderate hike that takes about an hour so there’s probably no time to explore this trail on this day trip.

Buck Canyon Overlook at Island in the Sky

Buck Canyon Overlook

The Buck Canyon Overlook offers panoramic views of the Colorado River Basin with its numerous canyons and the White Rim in the foreground. In the distance, you can also enjoy an expansive view of the La Sal Mountains. 

This point of interest is wheelchair accessible. Be sure to take in the 360 degree views in front of and behind you at this spot!

sunrise at Grand View Point Canyonlands

Grand View Point 

The Grand View Point sits at the southernmost edge of the Island in the Sky. From here, you can see the dramatic views of the White Rim Road below and the LaSal Mountains, Needles Canyonlands, Abajo Mountains and the Maze in the distance.

From the parking lot there’s a paved 100-yard trail to the first viewpoint. This trail is accessible to wheelchairs.

There’s another trail beyond the first viewpoint. It’s another 1 mile to the second viewpoint. This portion of the trail is not paved, has some rock stairs, uneven surfaces and cliff edges so be sure to watch children carefully! You might not have time to do this hike.

Grand View Point is a popular Canyonlands National Park photography spot at Island in the Sky. It’s terrific for taking sunrise and milky way photos.

Return back to the park entrance to leave.

We’ll end the day viewing sunset at Dead Horse Point! Drive north along UT 313 toward Moab for about 4 miles. Turn right on UT 313 to reach Dead Horse Point State Park.

Dead Horse Point State Park at Sunset

Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point is a must-stop destination on our list of Utah State Parks, especially if you’re already at Island in the Sky.

The stunning views of the bend in the Colorado River, dramatic vertical cliffs and canyons you’ll see at Dead Horse Point State Park cannot be seen from Canyonlands Island in the Sky.

There is a day-use park fee to visit Dead Horse Point. The US National Park pass is not valid here since this is a Utah State Park. But we feel the additional fee to visit this park is well worth it to view this iconic scene!

The best time to photograph Dead Horse Point is at sunset when the landscape gets that red glow.

We have found it best to find a spot along the trail below and to the right of the platform to capture the Dead Horse Point sunset. There may be quite a few people there to watch the sunset, but there is plenty of room along the canyon rim for everyone to have a great view!

People watching the sunset at Dead Horse Point

PHOTO TIP: Be open to other Dead Horse Point photo opportunities like the red glow on the rocks, the people watching on the rocks, or using elements in the landscape to highlight the scene.

Dead Horse Point State Park is now one of the best areas to go stargazing in all of Moab, especially since the park’s high plateau location and distant mountain ranges help shield the area from any urban sources of ambient light.

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If you’ll be staying the night in the Moab area, we encourage you to take time for stargazing at Arches, Canyonlands or Dead Horse Point!

Canyonlands National Park Itineraries

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

Planning an Arches National Park Vacation:

Plan Your Canyonlands Vacation

Where to Stay Near Arches National Park and Canyonlands:

There are no hotels in Arches or Canyonlands so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. There are all types of lodging in and near Moab from budget-friendly hotels to higher-prices resorts. You’ll also find vacation rentals, a hostel, campgrounds and RV parks.

Here are a few of our favorite places to stay in Moab near Arches and Canyonlands:

  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Arches.
  • Purple Sage – our all-time favorite place to stay in Moab – walking distance to shopping, full kitchen, and only 8 units so you don’t feel lost in a large hotel. 
  • Red Cliffs Lodge – rooms up to 6 people – located 17 miles from Moab, this lodge is known for its beautiful location, winery and activities like horseback riding, fishing and more!
  • Vacation Rentals – we really like rentals with a kitchen, washer and dryer and amenities like a swimming pool and hot tub.

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