Arches National Park Utah is an area of great geological importance due to its incredibly unique 10,000-year-old topography. With its out of this world landscape Arches National Park is a must-see for everyone. But it proves especially popular with photographers who travel far and wide to experience everything Arches National Park has to offer.
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Our guide to photographing Arches National Park
Arches national park is one of the most compact and easily navigated of all the US national parks. The park is serviced via one major through road, on a scenic drive.
As you enter the park, you immediately encounter the visitor center. From there the scenic drive meanders through the giant red rock, sandstone structures and arches that make Arches National Park so special. One of the great things about Arches NP is that all major sites are easily accessible and have plenty of room for parking lots for a large RVs.
Whilst the single road is nice and easy it can get a little crowded during the holidays. If you are visiting Arches National Park in August or the summer months you should expect some delays.
There are lots of easy hikes in Arches National Park so if you are visiting in high season then you may find it easier to base your self in one spot for the day and explore on foot. Aside from wasting time in traffic, Utah Arches is best explored on foot as you can find lots of fresh angles to capture some unique images of the park.
Arches National Park is amazing in winter. Lesser crowds, beautiful light and cooler temperatures make it an ideal time to visit the park.
Arches National Park Photo locations
A park with a history that stretches back 10,000 years, there are plenty of photo opportunities. Here are some of our favourites.
The crowning jewel in Arches National Park Utah is a stunning sand dune arch know as Delicate Arch. A huge 52ft golden arch in the park located on a high Plato a little over 1400 metres high that overlooks the entire park. It is complete with the most perfect natural slick rock amphitheatre in the foreground. The natural lines formed by the different rock layers make for the perfect leading lines for your photographs.
This location is perfect to shoot at either sunrise or sunset but is a little more crowded in the afternoon. If you want the place to yourself you will need to be there for the first light or stay late into the blue hour.
Delicate Arch viewpoint is one of the few spots in Arches NP that isn’t quite so simple to get to. Its a 1.5-mile hike up the slick rock and the path is only marked via cairns. It’s not a big problem to find your way there but if you plan on spending sunset their its important to have a good flashlight and make some mental notes of the route.
No sooner have you passed the visitor centre you will be gazing across an impressive viewpoint looking down the valley across a multitude of large and imposing rock formations known as Park Avenue. They are very similar to its more famous big brothers at Monument Valley.
There are a few pull-offs and car parks that provide you with an elevated view of Park Avenue that includes the Courthouse towers and La Sal Mountain. A great location to shoot any time of day but most peaceful in the mornings.
Try using the road as a leading line and if you can include a car or RV for scale then great. If you are shooting late in the day maybe try using a slow shutter speed to capture the light trails of the vehicles coming and going along the scenic drive.
Balanced Rock is an iconic location and an Arches National Park must-see. It is one of the very easy hikes Arches National Park has to to offer. The hiking trail is short and flat and takes you on a loop around the rock.
Photographing Landscape Arch is an absolute must. It confused me why Landscape Arch wasn’t called Delicate Arch as you will understand when you have visited Arches National Park and seen the very thin and brittle looking Landscape Arch. It’s almost a miracle that it’s still holding strong, for now. You used to be able to hike under the arch but falling rock has forced the rangers to close this trail.
Devils Garden trailhead
Red rock fins fill this 7-mile trail along with the largest concentration of natural arches in the world. The photo opportunities through the Devils Garden are endless. The majority of visitors choose to do the short section of the hike that takes in Landscape arch, Tunnel arch and pine tree arch.
For those who still want more, they can continue along the trail to visit Double Arch and Navajo Arch. This later section of the hike is a little more exciting and involves climbing up and over some narrow sections of Slickrock.
The narrow canyons and maze of fins can be visited on a ranger-led tour that will require you to make arrangements in advance. If this isn’t for you or you don’t have the time there is a great viewpoint just s a short walk from the parking lot that overlooks the Fiery Furnace. Shoot in the late afternoon when the rocks glow in the afternoon light.
The Window Arches are a short 1-mile hike but can be seen from some distance. The short hike takes you up to the north and south window arches, also known as the Spectacles. Take a few steps back towards Turret Arch to really appreciate the magnitude of these giant structures. This is also a great photo opportunity either in the afternoon when the soft light illuminates the rocks or at sunrise when the sun can rise through the south window at the right time of year.
You can make a nice shot by using the path or rocks to add some foreground interest or leading lines. Add a person to for a sense of scale.
You can hike up and through the north window of the spectacles to get a great view of Turret Arch. A short scramble up to a viewpoint on your left as you exit the window and you have a perfect view of Turret Arch through the north window. This is best shot at sunrise or early morning when the first light makes the red rock glow.
The trailhead to Double arch starts at the same place as the Windows but instead of heading south, you go north. Double Arch, as well as the Parade of Elephants (a unique rock formation that resembles a heard of Elephants), can be seen from the road so you can’t really go wrong.
Double Arch isn’t an easy location to shoot due to the lighting issues that cast strong shadows throughout the day. Add a person in the foreground to add interest and scale. Due to its easy accessibility to so many Arches it can get busy, so the best time to photograph Double Arch is in the morning when the light is soft and the crowds are still in bed.
I haven’t done it myself but if you could capture the milky way over or through the arches I think this would make a great shot and one I haven’t seen before.
Night Photography at Arches National Park
Arches National Park is ideal for astrophotography. With its numerous interesting subjects, high altitude and Utah’s clean air make it is the perfect location for all those night photography lovers out there.
Arches National Park at sunrise or sunset?
Some spots in Arches National park are better at sunset and some at sunrise, but, in general and depending on the time of year any location in Arches NP will work at either sunset or sunrise.
What to do near Arches National Park?
Located just a short drive from the vibrant town of Moab. Across the highway, you have another incredible national park; Canyonlands NP. Finally, you have the national monument, Corona Arch. The hike is an uphill 3 mile round trip with a few little ladders and scrambles across the slick rock so it’s not for everyone but those that do make it will stand in awe of this gigantic natural arch.
Where to camp in Arches National Park?
The majority of visitors to Arches National Park choose to stay in one of the many RV parks in and around Moab. If you want to stay in the Park then there is the Devils Garden campsite. It’s a little light on amenities but if you stock up in Moab you will have a great experience.
Hope you enjoyed our top locations to photograph in Arches National Park article and if you have any questions about photography or planning your RV trip to Arches National Park then please let us know via email or through our social media channels.
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Jordan Banks is a travel photographer with almost 20 years of experience shooting assignments and campaigns for some of the worlds leading brands and companies.
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