Hike Arches National Park in the winter, and it just may feel like you're trespassing. The park is open year-round, but the world hasn't seemed to take notice (yet, anyway). Moab’s locals know there’s no good reason for this lull, but they’re not complaining, either. On a sunny day, they'll be tearing off layers in favor of a T-shirt to better soak up that winter sun.
Here, five of the best winter hikes in Arches National Park, adventures sure to be even more unforgettable because you're likely to have them all to yourself.
1. Double Arch
You’ve already seen this arch; you just didn’t think it could be real. The Double Arch provides a backdrop to Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade. It also happens to be one of the park's easiest hikes, less than 1 mile round trip, along a sandy smooth trail with minimal elevation gain. You can get there in flip-flops. Start with this one and you’ll have plenty of time and energy to venture onwards from there.
2. Double O Arch
Not to be confused with Jones' stomping grounds, Double O Arch provides a rare opportunity to stand atop one arch and beneath another. But getting there isn't easy. Scrambling across these arches requires climbing shoes at the least. Plus, you'll have to keep an eye on the weather and possible snowfall, as climbing on wet sandstone is not recommended. Sandstone absorbs water, and is delicate and dangerous when wet.
3. Landscape Arch
You might want to visit this one as soon as possible this winter: It could crumble at any moment. Bridging 290 feet, and only 6 feet at its narrowest point, Landscape Arch is an absolutely ridiculous natural structure. Twice in the last decade, the formation has shed school-bus-sized chunks of rock. Due to entirely reasonable concerns over public safety, the park service has closed the trail that used to travel beneath this arch. The hike out to Landscape Arch is pretty straightforward: only 1.5 miles of flat, well-worn trail. It's a good choice to tour with family, or friends looking for a less intense day.
4. Sand Dunes Arch
Sand Dunes Arch is always an epic sight, but it’s the journey there that makes it especially unforgettable. While this hike is just half a mile in distance, considering it ordinary would be an understatement. Be prepared to traverse a mini-ocean of red sand that is softer and smoother than anything you’ll find on the beach, east or west coast.
5. Delicate Arch
There's a reason why the Delicate Arch adorns the license plates of Utahans: When it comes to scenery, this most classic of arches is hard to top. But savvy adventurers can improve on the way 99 percent of visitors see it by going in non-summer months.
Setting out for this arch in the summer means three long hours of scalding, shadeless hiking. Due to potentially serious dehydration, the completion rate for this hike is probably close to 50 percent for most groups. Come winter, however, and shade is the last thing you’ll be looking for. Instead, focus on the spectacular landscapes, otherworldly formations, and the fact that you just might have one of the most epic spots in the country all to yourself.