Last Updated on January 20, 2024 by Kelly
We completed a 3-week road trip through Utah, and hiking to Delicate Arch was one of the highlights! This natural stone arch is 52 feet high and is completely freestanding. It’s easily the most visited arch in Arches National Park, which is saying a lot because the park has over 2,000 of them! The hike to Delicate Arch is one of the most iconic in the park, yet we weren’t sure if it was wise to do the hike with a toddler. In this post we talk all about our experience hiking Delicate Arch with a toddler.
Can you hike to Delicate Arch with a toddler?
It’s definitely possible to hike to Delicate Arch with a toddler. We completed the hike with our toddler and we saw some other young families on the trail too. However, there are some very steep drop-offs. There have been fatalities on this trail, so it’s important to stay away from steep edges.
We carried our toddler the whole way in a hiking carrier, and we did not let her freely walk around at the top. The trail conditions can vary greatly depending on the weather, so it’s always a good idea to ask a park ranger for advice about current conditions. We don’t think it’s a good idea to hike this trail if the trail is wet, slippery, or icy.
Disclaimer: Safety considerations change daily for this location, so this article can’t tell you whether or not it’s safe for you to hike with your child to this location. This article is for information only purposes and we simply share our experience. We recommend always asking a park ranger for their advice. We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please look up such information directly from each vendor or institution for the most current information.
About the Trail to Delicate Arch
The hike to Delicate Arch is 3 miles roundtrip with 480 feet of elevation gain. It will take approximately 2-3 hours to complete the hike. (With children, you might expect to take a little longer!) It also depends on how much time you take at the top. When we went, there was a very long line to take photos under the arch, and people were waiting quite awhile to take a photo.
The trail starts off with a bridge and then a walk up a wide rock slope. Most of the hikers fanned out here, and plenty of people were sitting on the rocks taking a break. You’ll continue the hike until you come to a narrow rock ledge with a steep drop-off to the left.
Although the trail was wide enough for two people, we preferred to hug the wall. With our toddler on our backs, we waited until no one was coming down the trail so we could stay as close to the rock wall as possible. After this ledge you will see Delicate Arch on the far side of a large amphitheater.
Our Experience Hiking Delicate Arch
We visited Arches National Park over Memorial Day Weekend, so we expected it to be busy. We woke up early to hopefully beat some of the crowds and, importantly, to finish the hike before it got too hot. (With a toddler you don’t want to be stuck in the heat!)
We got to the parking lot at the trailhead a little after 6am. By 6:20am, the parking lot was completely full. (If you don’t visit during a peak weekend, you’ll likely have better luck with parking!) We were grateful to have gotten a spot.
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After we parked, we started getting ready for our hike. We put on lots of suntan lotion, made sure we had our sun hats, and we brought plenty of cold water. (I also managed to drop a smoothie in the car, so we spent about 20 minutes cleaning all of that up. Sharing just to keep it real!)
There are several pit toilets at the trailhead, and we recommend you use them before the hike. There are no other options for a restroom once you start the hike, and there the trail is completely exposed so there’s no privacy.
One of my favorite parts of the hike was walking across the large stone slabs. Somehow we were lucky to get this photo below without other people in it! (But in all honesty, there were tons of people on this hike!)
We were feeling pretty comfortable with the hike until the final portion. There is a narrow ledge with a steep drop-off. Even though we were carrying our toddler, it still made us a bit nervous.
After we rounded that corner, we got our first view of Delicate Arch. It is truly a miracle of nature to see it freestanding at the edge of the rock bowl. There’s nothing around like it.
There was a long line to take photos directly under the arch. Our guess was that it was maybe a 30-45 minute wait. The line was long and moving pretty slowly. The rock bowl didn’t have the most secure footing, and there were tons of people that could bump into us, so we were feeling pretty uncomfortable with our toddler. (We didn’t want anyone to bump into us and cause us to lose our footing.) We snapped a quick family photo and then headed back down.
A lot of people gave us praise the whole way. We were proud to have hiked to Delicate Arch with a toddler!
Wolfe Ranch and Petroglyph Trail
On our way back, we decided to hike the short loop by the parking lot. The name of the trail is the Wolfe Ranch and Petroglyph Trail, and it’s only .5 miles long. It only adds about 10 minute to your total hike time. We highly recommend that you add this loop on your way in or out of Delicate Arch! You’re able to see petroglyphs (rock carvings) that were carved sometime between A.D. 1650 and 1850. The petroglyphs were carved by the Ute Indian Tribe.
This trail will also take you to a log cabin called Wolfe Ranch. The cabin was built by a settler named John Wesley Wolfe in 1898.
Tips for Hiking to Delicate Arch
The hike to Delicate Arch is heavily trafficked, yet there are injuries every year. (There have even been some fatalities.) The following tips are important to keep in mind to optimize safety:
- Bring enough water. The National Park Service recommends that you bring at least two liters of water per person for this hike. Between the strenuous exercise and the potential heat, you can easily get dehydrated. Be sure to bring lots of water. We were surprised by how many hikers we saw that were completely unprepared and weren’t carrying anything but a camera!
- Avoid hiking in midday. If you plan on visiting Delicate Arch on a hot day, plan to start early in the day or complete the hike later in the day. There’s no shade on the hike, and it would be very difficult to complete the hike with excessive heat.
- Be mindful of your footing. The rock slabs can be uneven, and you don’t want to twist an ankle or get an injury.
- Protect your toddler/baby from the sun. Our daughter wore this sunhat (with a neck flap), and the hiking carrier we used has a shade cover as well.
- Bring a headlamp. If you plan to watch the sunrise or the sunset at Delicate Arch, you’ll definitely need a headlamp to light the way. (The National Park Service warns hikers that the light from a cell phone is not enough.)
- Always hike with the 10 Essentials. Anytime you are out in the wilderness, you’ll want to bring the 10 Essentials with you. These include things like a first aid kit and sun protection.
- Make sure your cell phone is fully charged so you can take lots of photos. We like to carry a power bank with us so our cell phone never runs out of battery. (Especially if we are using it for navigation!)
- Visit during the off season for less crowds. April, May, September, and October are typically good times to visit Delicate Arch.
- Plan to carry your little one the whole way. If you are hiking with a baby or a young toddler, we recommend that you carry them the whole way. There are some steep drop-offs, and even the rock bowl at the top is fairly steep.
- It will take you longer than you think. When you hike with a toddler or a baby, you’ll be hiking much more slowly. You’ll stop more often too. Give yourself lots of time to complete your hike.
How to Get to Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is located in Arches National Park. We recommend that you stay in Moab, Utah, which is only a 10-minute drive from the park entrance.
Once you enter the park, follow Arches Scenic Drive up and into the park. You’ll take a right on Delicate Arch Road, and then a left into the Delicate Arch parking lot.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Delicate Arch
If I can’t do the hike, is there another way to see Delicate Arch?
If you do not want to complete the 3 mile hike to see Delicate Arch up close, you can still see it from a distance. You have two options: Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint or Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. Neither of them take you directly to the arch, but both will give you a view of it. The Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. You’ll be able to see Delicate Arch far into the distance. For a slightly better view, you can hike up to the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. (This trail is not wheelchair accessible.) It’s about a .5 mile climb to the upper viewpoint, where you will have a more clear view of the arch.
Kid-Friendly Hikes in Arches National Park
The trail to Balanced Rock doesn’t really count much as a “hike”, but it’s definitely an easy sight to see with little ones! You can see Balanced Rock clearly from the parking lot, and there’s also a very short .3 mile loop around the rock. (Perfect for little toddlers to stretch their legs and feel accomplished!)
This loop trail is only .5 miles long, so it’s perfect for families with young children. This trail is also located very near to The Windows, Parade of Elephants, and Elephant Butte. It’s easy to knock out several short trails here without a lot of drive time. (A bonus for families with little kids!)
Park Avenue Viewpoint
This trail is 2.0 miles roundtrip and will take you to a “boulevard” of rock towers. You can choose how much of this hike you want to do, and then just head back the way you came.
Looking for a fun idea to do with your family? Check out a 4×4 Tour!
Summary: Hiking to Delicate Arch with a Toddler
We hope you enjoyed this post on hiking to Delicate Arch with a toddler! Please follow leave no trace principles any time you are out enjoying nature. We recommend that you always consult with a park ranger any time you plan on hiking with young children. A park ranger will be able to advise you of current trail conditions and share their recommendations regarding safety.