If you only have one day for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, can you see them both?
Yes, you absolutely can see them both in a day! We are sharing how!
Arches and Canyonlands are incredible bucket list national parks to visit in the Southwest. We have visited many times over the years. When I was in college in Grand Junction, Colorado, I was part of the Outdoor Program, where we spent years galivanting the area – hiking, whitewater rafting, camping, and road-tripping all through Utah. I even had the opportunity to spend a summer working for the Park Service doing plant and soil surveys at Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park! All this to say, you are in good hands, and I wrote the best Arches and Canyonlands in one day itinerary just for you to have a great trip!
Whenever family and friends would visit us in Grand Junction, we would always take them to Moab for the day to see both national parks. It is no problem to accomplish!
We have written this itinerary so you can get the most out of your time, see as many of the highlights as possible, and avoid the crowds – all in one day.
When you only have one day to spend at Canyonlands and Arches National Parks near Moab, Utah, the top things to see and do are:
You can easily visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in a day!
Let’s kick off how to see them both! You’ll spend most of the day at Arches National Park and then a few hours at Canyonlands.
Start your day exploring Arches National Park. The park is actually open 24 hours a day and if you’d like to beat the crowds or the heat, go early, like before 7:30 am. Also, try to avoid visiting during the weekends or a National Holiday.
With how the itinerary is written, you will be doing the Arches National Park Scenic Drive naturally but adventuring within the deeper parts of the park first (most people start seeing the closest natural attractions to the entrance). This way, you avoid the morning crowds!
If you’d like to hike, we recommend driving straight to the Delicate Arch trailhead. Delicate Arch is the iconic arch you see a lot in magazines and people’s Instagram accounts. If you can get to the trailhead early during the busy season, like around sunrise, it should be easy to find a spot.
Trip tip: Arches National Park has gotten extremely busy during the high season, so if you can visit in the off-season, you might have a more pleasant visit and hike in general.
Hiking to Delicate Arch will take about 2.5 – 3 hours and is 3 miles round trip.
It is so neat to see in person!
After your hike to Delicate Arch, hop back in your car to tour more of the park!
Take the Arches National Park Scenic Drive towards Devils Garden. Once you arrive at the Devils Garden parking area, get out, walk around.
If you’d like another smaller hike, we highly recommend doing the Landscape Arch hike!
The Landscape Arch hike is part of the Devils Garden trailhead.
To hike to the arch and back is 1.9 miles and takes about 1 hour.
Next, get back in your car and drive to the Sand Dune Arch for a quick hike. It takes 20 minutes to walk there and back and is roughly a 0.3-mile hike.
Then, hop back in your vehicle and head to the Garden of Eden! Bask in the red rock views and keep going down this same road to the Windows and Turrent Arches.
Take a 1-mile hike to view the Windows of Arches National Park. Hike to the North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. The walk will take you about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
In the same area, don’t miss the Double Arch hike (photo at the beginning of the article)!
As you can see, we are working our way back towards the visitor center. Pull off and snap some photos of the famous Balanced Rock at Arches National Park. Continue heading back towards the entrance.
On your way out of the park, you’ll see the Petrified Sand Dunes. Feel free to drive right by depending on your timeline or pull off and take photos.
Again, depending on time, stop and view the towering walls of the Park Avenue area in Arches National Park. It won’t take too long to stop, absorb the views, and grab some beautiful photos before heading to the Visitor Center.
Whenever we visit National Parks for the first time, we actually tend to hit the Visitor Centers last. It is because we have already researched what we want to do (unless we needed backcountry permits). So, you can stop in the Visitor Center for a pit stop or skip it and head to Canyonlands National Park.
We are off to spend the rest of the afternoon in the Canyonlands Island in the Sky District. Don’t worry if you are tired; you can just do the scenic drive to the epic lookout points!
This itinerary only focuses on a quick tour of the Island in the Sky.
Drive the Canyonlands Scenic Drive through the Island in the Sky District. It will take you along the high desert mesas. Drive to the end of the scenic road and be greeted by a view so spectacular you will hardly believe it, the Grand View Point!
The scenic drive is 34 miles round trip and will take at least two hours. But that is all you need! That is how you can visit both Arches and Canyonland in one day!
Enjoy the Grand View Point Canyonlands Overlook and epic desert vistas. Look down into the canyon and see if you can spot the river or the famous White Rim 4×4 road and mountain biking trail.
If you still have energy in the day, stop at all the other viewpoints along the Canyonlands Scenic Drive, such as the Buck Canyon and White Rim Overlooks.
Are you getting your National Park passport stamps? If so, be sure to stop at the Canyonlands Visitor Center on the way out.
And there you have it! You can absolutely see Arches and Canyonlands in one day!
Below are tips for visiting Arches and Canyonlands on the same day:
Our mission is not only inspiring happiness through travel and outdoor recreation in the U.S., but recreating responsibly and being stewards of the environment.
The desert is near and dear to our hearts. Please check out our article on how to recreate responsibly in the desert. We talk about the importance of Leave No Trace as well as protecting precious biological soil crust.
Arches National Park to Canyonlands takes about 30 minutes to drive between (as long as there isn’t significant traffic or construction).
We have spent a lot of time in the Moab area since we lived close by for over ten years. The off-season is mid to late October to early March. Visiting Arches during this time of the year may help you avoid the crowds.
Also, if you visit Arches earlier in the day, the better!
As you can see from this Itinerary, you can easily spend more than half the day visiting. It is easy to spend an entire day or two as well if you plan to do ALL of the hikes. But, you can also spend half a day to three-quarters of a day and have a wonderful visit.
It is our personal opinion that the best way to visit is during the off-season. We prefer smaller crowds and cooler weather. Mid-May through the end of September can be pretty hot in the Moab area.
You could quickly spend two or three hours driving the Island in the Sky Scenic Drive, or you could spend days in the Canyonlands backcountry.
This itinerary was written to view the main scenic drive areas along the Island in the Sky District.
If you would like more information on hiking in the Canyonlands backcountry, you might enjoy our other article on hiking to Druid Arch.
We hope you enjoy this itinerary for how to visit Arches and Canyonlands in one day, and it helps you plan a wonderful trip!
Ashlee & Pablo
Below are recommendations for hiking and road trip gear WE LOVE!
Are you road-tripping through Utah? You might also enjoy our other articles to plan your next trip:
When are you planning on visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks?
Drop us a comment if you have questions! We would love to help.