Hiking The Windows in Arches National Park: A Complete Guide ⋆ We Dream of Travel Blog

Hiking The Windows in Arches National Park: A Complete Guide

The Windows Arches National Park blog post cover. Text overlaying an image of Double Arch with a sunstar shining through it.

Few landscapes feel as unique and otherworldly as The Windows Section of Arches National Park. Encompassing just over two square miles, this small but incredibly beautiful area has a high concentration of impressive arches including the North Window, South Window, Turret Arch, and Double Arch.

Two short and easy hikes will deliver you to all four arches, taking in spectacular views of the La Sal Mountains and the Parade of Elephants along the way.

Within the Windows Section you will also discover many other impressive rock features including Garden of Eden, Elephant Butte, and Parade of Elephants.

With over 2000 documented arches in the park, it’s hard to pick a favorite. However, the Windows Arches offer perhaps the biggest reward for the smallest effort and some unique photography opportunities!

Quick Information on Arches National Park

  • Location: Utah, USA
  • Established: April 12, 1929
  • Size: 76,672 acres (119.8 mi2; 310.2 km2)
  • Annual Visitors: 1,238,083 (2020)
  • Visitor Centers: Arches Visitor Center (year-round)
  • Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle; $25 per motorcycle; $15 per individual; $80 Interagency Annual Pass

Map of The Windows Arches National Park

Below you will find a map of the Windows Section of Arches, complete with all of the highlights mentioned in this blog post, as well as walking directions for the trails. Click here or on the image below to open the interactive Google Map in a new tab.

Map of the Windows Arches National Park

Getting to The Windows Section

Windows Road, leading to the Windows section of Arches National Park with La Sal Mountains in the background.
Windows Road, leading to the Windows section of Arches National Park with La Sal Mountains in the background.

Arches National Park is located along the US-191 just five miles north of Moab, Utah. The parking lot for the Windows Arches is 11.5 miles from the visitor center and is well sign-posted.

From the visitor center, you’ll continue along the Arches Scenic Drive for 9.1 miles until you pass Balanced Rock. Turn right onto Windows Road just after the parking lot for Balanced Rock. Continue on this road for 2.5 miles and you will reach the parking lot.

You can park in this lot for both the Windows trailhead and Double Arch trailhead. Accessible parking is available and both trails are mostly wheelchair friendly.

Hiking The Windows Section

The evening sun bursts through Turret Arch.
The evening sun bursts through Turret Arch.

The Windows Section of Arches National Park offers two short, easy hikes through one of the most scenic areas of Arches National Park; The Windows and Double Arch. The trailheads for the two hikes are only 0.1 miles apart so you can park in the same parking lot for both trails and easily do them both in the same visit.

The Windows Hike

The three arches within the Windows section can be visited as a loop trail, with the option to extend the hike by taking a primitive trail back to the parking lot. Including the primitive trail back adds only 0.3 miles to your journey and is well worth doing to take in the arches from all angles!

Only the first 100 yards (91m) of the trail is accessible for wheelchair users. After this, the trail becomes uneven and includes steps, as well as a mild elevation gain.

Hike Details

  • Distance: 0.9-1.2 miles (1.5-1.9km) roundtrip
  • Duration: 30-60 Minutes
  • Elevation gain: 150ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pets: No
  • Location: The Windows Section
  • Facilities: Vault toilet at the parking lot
  • Season: Year-round
  • Time Of Day: Any

The Trail

The Windows Section trail between Turret Arch and the North Window.
Follow the 1.2 mile loop trail to see three arches within the Windows Section of Arches NP.

From the trailhead, you will follow the trail for 0.1 miles (0.2km) where you’ll reach the first fork in the trail. At this point, you can choose to go right towards Turret Arch or left towards North Arch. While the distance will be the same whichever direction you choose, I recommend heading to Turret Arch first. From here, you can take in views of both the North Window and South Window.

From this angle, it is easy to see where "The Spectacles" of Arches get their name from.
From this angle, it is easy to see where “The Spectacles” of Arches get their name from.

The North and South Windows are often referred to as “The Spectacles” and as you look back from Turret Arch, you will understand why!

Turret Arch

Trail leading to Turret Arch in the Windows Section of Arches National Park.
The trail to Turret Arch.

The main trail will take you to the base of Turret Arch which is the smallest of the three arches. It takes its name from its castle-like formation which includes a tower. To us, it looks more like a hand giving the “ok” gesture, but I guess OK arch doesn’t have quite the same regality to it.

Looking back through Turret Arch towards the North Window in Arches National Park
Looking back through Turret Arch towards the North Window.

Turret Arch is technically a double arch, with a very small window to the side of the main arch. The larger, main arch is 35 ft (10.7m) wide and 65 ft (19.8m) high and you can climb through it to admire it from both sides.

Turret Arch offers incredible views out over the Parade of Elephants and beyond.
Turret Arch offers incredible views out over the Parade of Elephants and beyond.

As you enter Turret Arch, continue up to the right and you will be offered spectacular views. To the north you will see Elephant Butte (the highest point in Arches National Park) and to the southwest lie the La Sal Mountains.

Views of La Sal Mountains and rock formations from Turret Arch

Once you’ve explored Turret Arch, head back to the trail and follow the signs towards North Window.

North Window

A rainbow fills the North Window at Arches National Park.
A rainbow fills the North Window.

The walk from Turret Arch to the base of the North Window is only 0.1 miles (0.2km). Once you reach the base of the North Window, you have the option to walk up into the window. From within the arch you have fantastic views back towards Turret Arch or through the arch northeast towards Dry Mesa and Dome Plateau.

A hidden view of Turret Arch through the North Window in Arches National Park.

For those who are physically able, it is well worth scrambling down the other side of the arch and back up the rock face opposite. This unknown vantage point provides an incredible photo opportunity. From this point, you can frame Turret Arch within the North Window. This is a fantastic spot for sunset or night sky photography.

Sunset is a particularly good time to visit the North Window. At this time, the inside of the arch glows a warm orange and, if you’re lucky, the sky will be filled with vibrantly colored clouds. You will also have a great view over the primitive trail and the rock formations that it follows (see the image below in the “Primitive Trail” section).

At the right time of year, the Milky Way will also align perfectly within the arch making for a truly special photo from Arches National Park.

The Milky Way aligns perfectly with Turret Arch and the North Window.
The Milky Way aligns perfectly with Turret Arch and the North Window.

The North Window was my favorite of the three arches, and the most popular. You can expect it to be crowded at almost any time… there were even still a few people sat along the base of the arch when we first arrived to photograph the Milky Way at 10:30pm. As Arches is an International Dark Sky Park, it is a beautiful place to see the stars, even without a camera! We were even lucky enough to capture a lightning storm off in the distance.

A lightning storm behind Turret Arch as viewed from behind the North Window.
A lightning storm behind Turret Arch as viewed from behind the North Window.

South Window

A rainbow fills the sky through the South Window in Arches.

The South Window will be the last of the three arches that you’ll visit on the Windows Loop Hike. As you leave the North Window, take the trail to the left and follow signs towards the South Window. This trail will deliver you to the base of the arch where you can look up through the South Window.

Unlike the other two arches, the South Window is not easy to climb up into (I’m sure some very agile people could manage it… but I’m certainly not one of them!). Accordingly, you’ll likely only have views of the sky through the arch. We were extremely lucky on our visit and a storm blew in, bringing with it a spectacular double rainbow which lined up perfectly with the South Window.

Primitive Trail

The primitive trail as seen from near the North Window.
The primitive trail as seen from near the North Window.

After stopping by the South Window, you have the option to return via either North Window or Turret Arch (both of which are 0.4 miles (0.6km) back to the trailhead), or to take the primitive trail back. Returning to the trailhead via the primitive trail is 0.6 miles (1km) and takes you around the opposite side of The Windows.

As it doesn’t add much in terms of distance or time, I would highly recommend taking the primitive trail to take in a different perspective of the Windows Section. Additionally, this trail is much less crowded and provides a moment of tranquility.

If you do decide to follow the Primitive Loop Trail, please help to protect the area by ensuring you stay on the trail. It is well-trodden and easy to follow. As with much of this part of US Southwest, the soil in the desert is extremely fragile. Known as a cryptobiotic crust, the top layer of the soil is comprised of a variety of cyanobacteria, green algae, fungi, lichens, mosses, and other tiny organisms which help to retain moisture, create nutrients and maintain the integrity of the ground. One footstep can cause years of damage, making the area vulnerable to erosion and other environmental issues.

Double Arch Hike

A sunstar through one of the windows  at Double Arch
A view of the arches from within Double Arch.

At a mighty 112ft (34m) high and 144ft (44m) long, Double Arch is the tallest and the second-longest arch in Arches NP. This magnificent arch is visible from the parking area, but you should absolutely walk the short path for a closer look! This 0.3-mile (0.5km) hard-packed gravel trail is wheelchair accessible, although assistance may be required.

Hike Details:

  • Distance: 0.5 miles (0.8km) roundtrip
  • Duration: 15-30 Minutes
  • Elevation gain: 95ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pets: No
  • Location: Double Arch Trailhead
  • Facilities: Vault toilet at the parking lot
  • Season: Year-round
  • Time Of Day: Any

The Trail

Both arches at Double Arch are visible from the entrance.
Witness the two arches at Double Arch from the entrance.

The trail to Double Arch is an easy 0.3 mile (0.5km) walk with almost no elevation gain and will lead you directly to the base of the arch. As you make your way to Double Arch, you will pass by some interesting rock formations, including the Parade of Elephants, Mule Deer, and Raven Arch.

Double Arch is perhaps one of the most impressive arches in the park… although admittedly we’ve not seen even close to the 2000 arches throughout the park! It is comprised of two separate arches joined at a common pillar at a 90-degree angle.

Looking back at a double rainbow arches over the Windows Section of Arches National Park from Double Arch.
Looking back at a double rainbow over the Windows Section of Arches National Park from Double Arch.

As you arrive at the entrance to Double Arch, look up and take in the enormity of this mighty arch. The trail will take you beneath the bigger of the two arches first. From here you can make your way up the rock amphitheater behind the first arch. Once through the arch, admire the view back cross the Windows Section, as well as up towards the smaller 86ft (26m) high and 67ft (20m) wide arch.

A girl standing within the smaller arch of Double Arch
Feeling tiny within the “small” arch at Double Arch!

In addition to being visually unique, these arches were also formed differently to most of the other arches in the park. Double Arch is a pothole arch, meaning it was created through water erosion from above, whereas most arches in the park were formed by wind and water erosion from the sides.

Double Arch is a beautiful formation to visit at any time of day, but is particularly enchanting at night when the stars feel the openings. It is, however, a popular place for night sky photography due to its easy access… So be prepared to share the space!

The Milky Way rises behind Double Arch in the windows section of Arches National Park.
The Milky Way rises behind Double Arch.

Bonus Stop in the Windows Section: The Garden of Eden

View over the Garden of Eden in Windows Arches National Park
Don’t miss the Garden of Eden before you leave the Windows.

If you didn’t visit the Garden of Eden on your way into the Windows Section of Arches National Park, be sure to do so before you leave. As you are heading out of Windows Road, you will find the Garden of Eden Viewpoint signposted on your right.

A rainbow between otherworldly rock formations in the Garden of Eden, Arches National Park.
Rainbow between otherworldly rock formations in the Garden of Eden.

There are no designated trails here, but rather an area of open hiking. With large monoliths and obscure geological formations protruding from the earth, you’d be forgiven for feeling like you’ve stepped onto another planet.

Take time to meander through the various rock formations, including Owl Rock, Serpentine Arch and Ham Rock. You may even spot climbers on some of the hoodoos! Just ensure you keep off the fragile cryptobiotic crust.

Other Utah Guides

Before you go, you may want to see some of the other guides to Utah locations we have created that will likely already be on your itinerary. As you likely discovered in this guide, we do our best to cover not just the popular sights, but the hidden gems as well.

Final thoughts on Windows Arches National Park

Sunset at a twisted tree in Arches.

Boasting the highest concentration of arches within Arches National Park, it’s hard not to be impressed by The Windows Section. Add to this the ease of access and it’s no wonder it’s such a popular part of the park.

We truly hope you found this guide to The Windows Section helpful in planning your trip to Arches NP.

We’d love to hear from you… If you discover anything is incorrect or out of date, help us improve this resource by letting us know in the comments below. Similarly, we always like reading nice things so let us know if you found this helpful!

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**All photos contained in this photography-based travel blog are copyright of Adam Marland & Sophie Clapton. 
They are not to be used for any purpose without the expressed, written consent of their owners.**