An Expert’s Guide to Arches National Park Photography

One advantage to being a local is knowing all about Arches National Park photography during every season and all types of weather and light conditions.

Use our photo tips below and our Arches National Park travel guide to plan a vacation with lots of pictures to share!

Keep reading for Arches National Park photo tips, a list of best photo spots and the camera gear you’ll need to take pictures at Arches!

arches national park photography tips everything you need to know
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CAMERA GEAR FOR ARCHES NATIONAL PARK PHOTOGRAPHY

We have a printed Camera Gear Checklist to help us pack all the equipment we need – that way we don’t forget anything!

We recommend the following camera equipment for taking photos at Arches:

  • Camera: Check out the compact travel cameras we recommend!
  • Tripod: List of lightweight travel tripods we recommend!
  • Camera Bag: Protecting your camera from the sand and dust at Arches is essential. Using a camera backpack is so nice for hiking too.  → We LOVE Lowepro camera backpacks.
  • Neutral density filter: There can be extreme differences in light at Arches around the various rock structures. To compensate for this variance of light you’ll need to use a neutral density filter.  → Check out the Kase magnetic filters we use!
  • Camera cleaning kit: You’ll want a field cleaning kit to remove dust that WILL get on your lens at Arches. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor.  
  • Memory cards: Purchase name brand memory cards since you’re trusting your images to the card!  → We use Lexar and Sandisk!
  • External hard drive: Don’t forget to copy the photos to a portable external hard drive ‘just in case’.  → Check out these awesome portable external hard drives
  • 8. HeadlampFor the best sunrise, sunset or night sky shots at Arches National Park, you’ll be navigating in the dark. Use a flashlight or headlamp to light your way from the parking lot to your spot. Wearing a headlamp allows you to set up your equipment without having to hold a flashlight. Remember to use the red light setting and keep the beam pointed on the ground in front of you to avoid disrupting other photographers in the area taking long exposure shots. → Check out these headlamps with the red light!
  • Photographing the Southwest book: THIS book has amazing information for taking pictures of natural landmarks in southern Utah.

Camera Accessories we use: Amazon and B&H Photo

camera accessories

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL TIPS

Basic Information for Visiting Arches

Arches National Park is a few miles north of Moab, Utah. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, hundreds of stone pinnacles rising into the sky, immense rock fins and large balanced rocks.

There are a variety of things to do at Arches National Park. Many visitors enjoy the scenery of red rock formations and arches from the car. Others enjoy the Arches National Park hiking trails. Those who want a bit of quiet away from the crowds will hike the longer and more primitive trails.

Use our Arches National Park travel guide to plan your trip.

Arches Travel Tip #1 – When to Arrive at Arches

Enjoy the park and hiking trails in the cooler temperatures of morning or late afternoon and evening. The golden light at sunrise and sunset are amazing reflected on the red rocks! Arches National Park is one of Moab’s many stargazing spots.

PLEASE NOTE: Arches will be doing 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.

Visitors can book reservations first-come, first-served on Recreation.gov. The park will release reservations three months in advance in monthly blocks.

If you don’t have a timed entry ticket, plan to get into the park before 6 am or after 5pm. If you’re serious about getting the best photos at Arches, you’ll want to get in the park early for sunrise, or later in the day for sunset anyway so it works out ok if you can’t get a ticket.

Arches Travel Tip #2 – Be Careful Where You Step at Arches

We like to ‘step off the sidewalk’ to find creative compositions when doing Arches National Park photography or Moab photography in general. And while Arches National Park is beautiful, it’s also very fragile.

If you step off the trail or away from the pullout, you may damage delicate habitat. When biological soil crust is damaged, it can take centuries to recover. Avoid the soil crust and only walk on slickrock or dirt as you explore.

Arches Travel Tip #3 – Use Your National Parks Pass

Don’t forget to purchase the US National Parks Pass – it’s a good deal when visiting multiple parks!

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK PHOTOGRAPHY SPOTS

The unique landscape of arches and slickrock formations makes photographing Arches National Park so fun. Here’s a list of the best Arches National Park photo spots.

If you’re serious about taking the best Arches National Park photos…..

→ CHECK OUT our Arches & Canyonlands Itinerary and Photography Guide

1 – Arches Scenic Drive

The scenic drive offers many landscape scenes to photograph at Arches. The full 43-mile scenic drive, including the spur roads, takes 2 to 3 hours. Add more time if you plan to do any serious Moab, Utah photography or hiking.

The scenic drive offers many landscape scenes to photograph at Arches.

The road is paved and offers Arches National Park photo 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.

2 – Park Avenue

This is the first stop as you travel along the scenic drive from the visitor’s center. From the parking area follow the wide, paved trail for about 100 yards to the viewpoint of Park Avenue.

The towering rock wall along the Park Avenue trail at Arches National Park.

It’s an impressive view, but to understand why it’s called Park Avenue, you must follow the trail down and walk between the immense sandstone monoliths on either side. The real Park Avenue in New York City is a wide boulevard with soaring skyscrapers on either side.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH Park Avenue is middle to late afternoon. The valley is in shadow and the sun lights up the east wall.

3 – La Sal Mountain Viewpoint

Definitely stop at this viewpoint where you’ll enjoy a 360-degree view. See the La Sal Mountains to the east and distinctive formations like Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, and The Organ in the Courthouse Towers area. Look to the horizon for a distant view of Balanced Rock and the Windows Section.

Sunrise is the best time to photograph the rock formations near the La Sal Viewpoint.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH at the La Sal Mountain Viewpoint is sunrise. The light from the rising sun washes the rock formations with a warm red glow.  

4 – Courthouse Towers

The Courthouse Towers area has unique rock formations to photograph: Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, and The Organ. We found the best places to take photos are from the La Sal Viewpoint to get a distant photo, or stop at the pullouts along the scenic drive.

Capture the sunrise glow on The Organ at Arches.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH the Courthouse Towers area is at sunrise. The warm light in the morning is the perfect time to capture the red glow on the formations.

5 – Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock is located next to the park’s main road. It is a popular feature in the park. The .3 mile round trip trail is one of the easier Arches National Park hikes that allows you to hike a full loop around this landmark.

Balanced Rock is an iconic Arches photography spot.

The impressive fact about this feature is the balanced, upper portion of the rock is as large as three school buses!

Sunset is a good time to photograph Balanced Rock at Arches National Park.

Sunset is a good time to photograph Balanced Rock at Arches National Park.

PHOTO TIPS:

  • Use the various pullouts along the main road to capture different views of Balanced Rock.
  • Walk the trail and take photos of the balancing rock from different angles.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH Balanced Rock is sunset and evening.

 6 – Photographing Delicate Arch

Iconic Delicate Arch is usually at the top of the list when visiting Arches National Park. The impressive free-standing arch is a famous geologic wonder.

Delicate Arch is the most iconic symbol of Arches National Park.

This arch cannot be viewed from the main road and requires a bit of walking to see if from a distance. Walk 100 yards along a level path at Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint to see the arch one mile away. There is an Upper Viewpoint that takes you a little closer, requires walking ½ mile with some stairs.

Delicate Arch from the viewpoint for those who can't hike the trail to see the arch up close.

The trail to see the arch up close is 3 miles roundtrip and climbs 480 feet in elevation. The hike is mostly uphill and takes 1 to 1 ½ hours if you are reasonably fit.

Delicate Arch is a main attraction at Arches for tourists and photographers who want photos of arches in Utah. Be sure to practice patience and courtesy while you wait your turn to get your picture taken under the arch.

Delicate Arch is one of the best sunset spots in Arches National Park. It’s also the time when most photographers choose to line up along the bowl waiting for the magical moment. There could be hundreds of people in the small area during the summer.

PHOTO TIPS:

  • Arrive at the Delicate Arch bowl at least an hour before sunset to get your spot.
  • Walk around to find a unique composition.
  • Take a headlamp for the hike down after sunset.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH Delicate Arch is sunset and evening.

→ READ MORE: ARCHES NATIONAL PARK HIKING TRAILS

take jaw-dropping photos at Arches & Canyonlands

7 – Fiery Furnace

Narrow canyons and maze-like fins comprise the Fiery Furnace. Explore the area safely on a 3-hour, ranger-led hike (make reservations in advance). Learn the history of the park as you scramble over slickrock boulders, walk through sandy trails, squeeze between rocks and navigate narrow ledges.

Fiery Furnace is a unique photo spot at Arches.

If that sounds too adventurous or you don’t have time, this Arches National Park viewpoint is a short walk from the parking lot. From the Fiery Furnace overlook you see an area thick with fins, spires and arches.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH the Fiery Furnace is sunset.

8 – Landscape Arch

Hike 1.6 miles along the Devil’s Garden Trail to see Landscape Arch. It is longer than a football field and the thinnest part of the archway is 8 feet thick.

Photographing Landscape Arch is a must when you visit Arches National Park.

As you walk along the trail near the arch, you’ll see different perspectives. There used to be a short trail that went under the arch, but falling rock from the underside has made it too dangerous for visitors to walk beneath the arch.

Walk around to see the different perspectives to photograph Landscape Arch.

Walk around to see the different perspectives to photograph Landscape Arch.

PHOTO TIPS:

  • No shadows on the arch – late spring and early summer in early morning – the rest of the year at mid-morning.
  • Photograph various angles of the arch – straight on, to the left and to the right.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH Landscape Arch is sunrise and early morning.

9 – Devil’s Garden Trail

The Devil’s Garden trail is 7.2 miles round trip, including all spur trails, making it the longest maintained trail and Arches National Park hike. The largest concentration of significant arches in the world is found in the Devil’s Garden area.

Interesting fins can be found along the Devil's Garden trail at Arches National Park.

Most tourists hike an easy 1 mile to the famous Landscape Arch. There are spur trails to see Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch before arriving at Landscape Arch.

Those who want some adventure will continue along the trail that requires climbing up and over long, narrow sections of slickrock, called fins, with steep drop-offs. This section of trail leads to Navajo Arch, Partition Arch and Double O Arch.

Navajo Arch is a terrific photo spot at Arches.

Navajo Arch is a terrific photo spot at Arches.

PHOTO TIPS:

  • Navajo Arch: Capture the front, back and under-arch views.
  • Partition Arch: Capture the front and back sides (there is a steep drop-off on the back side).
  • Double O Arch: Pass through the lower opening of the arch and climb the slickrock on the other side to photograph the arch with sky as the background.
  • Photograph the fins along the trail as these are just as amazing as the arches!

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH the Devil’s Garden area arches is sunrise and early morning.

10 – The Windows

The Windows area and arches can be seen from the parking lot, but to appreciate their magnitude, hike inside and around the arches. The easy, 1 mile round trip Arches National Park hike takes you to the North and South Windows, also known as the Spectacles. Walk along the primitive trail from the South Window to the back side to see a more attractive view of these arches.

The Spectacles in the Windows area at Arches National Park.

Get here early if you want photos of the arches without people. The Windows area is easily accessible and very popular Arches National Park photo spot.

PHOTO TIPS:

  • Find a foreground element for a photo with only the larger North Window.
  • Add context by having a person on the slope of the window, but if you don’t time your visit, you’ll have 50 people in this shot and that’s not ideal.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH the spectacles is early morning – and the North and South Windows is late afternoon.

11 – Turret Arch

With a bit of precarious scrambling, Turret Arch can seen through the North Window at Arches National Park. It’s one of the best sunrise spots in Arches National Park since you can see the light dancing across the rocks.

Turret Arch seen through the North Window at Arches National Park.

PHOTO TIPS:

  • Photograph Turret Arch through the North Window.
  • Capture various perspectives and images as you walk around and climb Turret Arch.
  • Turret Arch provides a wonderful shape to complement milky way photography.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH the Turret Arch is early morning or evening for night or milky way photography.

12 – Double Arch

Double Arch consists of two arches that share the same stone foundation. It was formed by downward water erosion instead of side-to-side water erosion like most of the other arches in the park.

Double Arch is a unique feature to photograph at Arches.

As you hike to Double Arch look to your left to see the Parade of Elephants, a rock formation that resembles a herd of elephants holding each others’ tails. Enjoy the short, leisurely trail.

PHOTO TIPS:

This is a complicated formation that has lighting issues most of the day. Work with the shadows, foreground and scale to capture the arches the best you can.
If it’s crowded and you don’t want people in your shot, focus on the top part of the arches to create a unique perspective.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH the Turret Arch is early morning.

13 – Sand Dune Arch

On a hot summer day, this is one stop in the park that usually has an area to provide shade, cool sand and fun for kids. The easy hike takes you to a sandy area with many places to explore, play and hide. Do not climb on top of the arch as that’s against park policy.

Photograph the sand foreground at Sand Dune Arch.

PHOTO TIP: The sandstone fins in the area are worthy of photographs too, not just the arch. You can capture wonderful landscape photos at Sand Dune Arch.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH Sand Dune Arch is early morning or late afternoon when the sun isn’t directly lighting the arch between the fins.

14 – Broken Arch

The Broken Arch trail is accessed from the same trailhead as Sand Dune Arch. You can see it way off in the distance. The trail is fairly level most of the way, then has a few sloping sections as you get closer to the arch.

Remember to photograph BOTH sides of Broken Arch.

PHOTO TIP: Be sure to take photos from the other side of Broken Arch if you can. There is a moderately steep slickrock section to get through the arch. 

The back side of Broken Arch offers a wonderful view.

The back side of Broken Arch offers a wonderful view.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH Broken Arch is early morning, evening and sunset.

15 – Skyline Arch

Skyline Arch sits high atop rocks in the Devils Garden area and it’s visible from many areas of the park.

Skyline Arch is easily accessed at Arches National Park.

PHOTO TIP: You can take a photo of this arch from the pullout, but we recommend you hike along the short and easy trail to get closer to the arch.

BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH Skyline Arch is late afternoon.

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

On a clear night, linger in the park after dark and look up to see the sky bursting with stars to see why this park is one of the top Moab night photography spots.

Endless starry skies at Arches National Park.

Arches is recognized as an International Dark Sky Park. The park’s accessibility, remote location, altitude and weather are why they say “Half the Park is After Dark”.

Photographers from around the world come to Arches to photograph the Milky Way. Arches National Park is home to some of the best Moab stargazing spots and is the perfect place to try some Moab night photography.

Night photography capturing the milky way at Arches can't be beat!

Night photography capturing the milky way at Arches can’t be beat! Some top Moab night photography spots and vantage points for stargazing at Arches National Park:

  • Balanced Rock
  • The Windows
  • Garden of Eden Viewpoint
  • Panorama Point

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

Visiting Arches National Park:

Where to Stay Near Arches:

There are no hotels in Arches 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 near Arches:

  • 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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20 Comments

  1. Hi Jamie,

    My wife and I will be visiting Arches in a few weeks. We have two nights and two mornings there. I’d like to do Corona Arch on one night. Where would you recommend for the one extra night and two mornings? I’m primarily interested in Milky Way and landscape shots. Thanks for sharing your insight here.

    Sincerely,
    Andrew Rice

    1. Sunset/Night: Arches Windows area and Balanced Rock – so many elements for sunset and milky way – and you can do both locations for milky way the same night.
      Sunrise: Mesa Arch, but you’ll need to get there way early! Other good sunrise locations: Arches La Sal Overlook you catch the sun coming over the horizon, and the golden light reflected on all the stone formations there. Arches Windows area is also nice for sunrise to get the golden light on the arches there. Canyonlands Grand View Point is awesome to catch the sunrise sunbursts. And Dead Horse Point is a nice sunrise location as well. Have so much fun! You might want to check out our Arches/Canyonlands photography guide: https://photojeepers.com/arches-canyonlands-itinerary-photography-guide/

    1. Thank you Viviane. Arches is filled with photo opportunities if you take the time to stop and really ‘see’ the park and the creative inspiration.

      1. I was to Utah in 2017. I wish i could live in such a beautiful state. I plan to visit in 2018 any suggestions. I seen Capital Reef, Arches n.p, Zion and suggestions. I was hooked on Moab and busting to go back.

        Grateful of any suggestions.

        Thank you,
        Emer

  2. Looks like you got the perfect shot under the arch of the two of you together! That photo really shows how massive these structures actually are – just amazing! Also very inspired by your beautiful starry night photos 🙂

    1. Inge – nice photo at Turrett Arch with the Milky Way! It is amazing that every time we are in the park after dark, we end up making friends with fellow photographers. So fun!

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