When we finally arrived in Moab, Utah for our camping week in Arches and Canyonlands National Park, we were pretty exhausted. While we don’t typically mind a longer road trip, this was by far the longest distance we’d ever attempted in one week (3,600 miles in 9 days). It meant that we were eager to get out of the car and on to the trail. Our first stop in Arches was to hike the Park Avenue Trail. Shortly after finishing that trail (and just before sunset) we ventured to our next destination in the park, the Windows Area.
The Windows gets its name from two of the larger accessible arches in the park, the North Window and the South Window. On a short hike from the parking area, it’s possible to view those two arches, along with Turret Arch, and Double Arch.
All of the trails here are wide-open, easy to follow, and accessible for hikers of all skill level. That also means that almost everyone entering the park makes a stop here and the trails are typically quite full.
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We found the late afternoon/early evening a much better time to hike and view the Windows area. While the trails were still heavily trafficked, we could easily find parking at the trailhead. There’s less heat. And as one of the top spots to catch sunset in the park, the evening glow on the arches was outstanding.
Here’s our hiking report:
About the Windows Area
From the Windows parking area, there are two different hiking options that lead out to different formations. Depart on the Windows Primitive Loop to view the North Window, The South Window and Turret Arch. Then return for an out-and-back hike to Double Arch.
Distance and Difficulty
All of the trails in the Windows Area are hard-packed with little or no elevation gain. The out-and-back trails are considered wheelchair accessible with assistance.
Windows Primitive Loop: 1 mile loop hike
Windows Out-and-Back Only: 0.7 miles round trip
Double Arch Out-and-Back: 0.5 mile round trip
To locate the Windows parking area, enter the main park road and travel 9.2 miles. Just after the Balanced Rock parking area, turn right to the Garden of Eden and Windows Section Parking Area.
What You'll See at the Windows Area
At the start and end of the Windows and Double Arch trails, you’ll have a chance to experience the natural vegetation that grows throughout Arches National Park and why it’s critical to stay on the trails during your visit to the park. The soil in Arches National Park has a crusty layer of cyanobacteria that helps preserve water and prevent erosion in the harsh desert environment. Stepping on the cyanobacteria can destroy hundreds of years of crust formation.
As you continue on the trail, you’ll easily see why the North and South Window are among the most visited in all of Arches National Park. The arches are large, allow close viewing, and give visitors a clear picture of how the sandstone formations continue to be shaped and changed by the water and wind.
By traveling on the primitive loop trail, you’re also able to see the Windows from behind, known as “The Spectacles.” As the loop trail continues around, you’ll hike near Turret Arch, named for the large sandstone monolith that stands beside the existing arch.
Finally, the Double Arch trail grants visitors a bottom-up view of the two arches that extend from the one base point. It’s a fun hike and one of our favorite spots of the day.
When to Hike to The Windows
There’s really not a time of day to hike to the Windows Area where you can expect a lot of solitude. The parking lots fill quickly in the morning and will be busy until after sunset. Given the traffic, we recommend visiting the Windows area just before sunset. The evening glow on the rocks is pretty stunning as well.