The Windows section is one of the most concentrated areas of arches in the entire park. In a short amount of time and effort, you can stroll past Double Arch, The North and South Windows and Turret Arch. Elephant Butte, the Parade of Elephants and the Garden of Eden are all visible in the distance. The trail is short and sweet, but lets you get up close and personal with some of the most iconic arches in the park. It is a perfect hike for families, those interested in photography and those with a limited amount of time.
Getting to the The Windows Trailhead
The trailhead is 9 miles from the entrance of the park. You will drive by Balanced Rock on the righthand side of the road, and there is a road right after the Balanced Rock formation. Follow signs here for The Windows and turn right on the road. Stay on this road for approximately 3 miles and you will find yourself in the parking lot for the trailheads. Many parking lots fill in the busy season, so it is best to do popular hikes early in the morning or later in the evening. The National Park Service has a website to track how full the parking lots are, you can access that page here.
History of the The Windows
The North Window, a 90 foot wide and 48 feet high opening, and the South Window, a 115 foot wide and 54 foot high opening, are called “the spectacles” because they look like a pair of glasses from afar. Frank Bethwith, the leader of Arches National Monument Scientific Expedition in 1933 said, “These arches are of thrilling beauty. Caused by the cutting action of wind-blown sand, one marvels at the intricacies of nature.” Everyone that experiences these arches up close and personal get a chance to marvel.
3 Best Day Hikes through The Windows
These short, but sweet trails are great for seeing a lot of arches in a short amount of time. They are all easy trails that all levels of ability and interest can do. And they are sure to give you great photographic opportunities.
Below are the primary options for day hiking The Windows:
|Double Arch||0.5 mi||20 ft||Easy||Out and Back|
|North and South Windows||1 mi||50 ft||Easy||Out and Back, or Loop|
|Turret Arch||1.5 mi||50 ft||Easy||Loop|
1. Double Arch
Double Arch is in the same area as The Windows, but on a different trail. The trailhead for Double Arch is on the north side of the parking lots, and there are plenty of signs to follow. This trail is only 0.5 miles with seemingly no grade. It is a short and sweet hike up to Double Arch, where, you probably guessed it, two arches span above you and are connected on the side. Double Arch is the tallest and second longest arch in the park. A scene in the 1989 movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed under Double Arch.
2. North and South Windows
Referred to as “the spectacles” because they resemble a pair of glasses, the North and South Windows are carved out of the same sandstone fin. The trailhead for The Windows and Turret Arch is on the southwest side of the parking lot. The trail is wheelchair accessible for the first .3 miles, and then becomes a gravel path with a slight grade and steps. It makes its way up to the North Window, and from here you are able to get a fantastic framed view of Turret Arch in the distance. Next, you will get to South Window, and you can stand inside the opening to truly experience the grandiosity of the sandstone and arch. When you are ready to head back to the trailhead, you can either turn around and hike out the way you came, or, just beyond the South Window is a primitive trail that takes you on the backside of the formations and loops back to the parking lot.
3. Turret Arch
Turret Arch is perfectly named, as there is a towering spire to the side of a giant sandstone fin. And although the opening of the arch itself isn’t the tallest or widest compared to others in the park, the formation as a whole has a very castle-like look to it, making it one of the most impressive and photographic arches. Turret Arch is just past the North and South Windows on the same trail. You will be able to see Turret Arch the entire hike, so just continue on the trail towards it. The trail contains a slight grade and some sections of steps, but is very family-friendly. After visiting Turret Arch, you will finish the loop trail back to the parking lot.
Maximize Your Visit to Arches National Park on Hiking Tour
Guided tours and multi-day packages allow visitors the opportunity to make the most of their time in Arches National Park and to do it hassle-free. Guided tours include gear (backpack, trekking poles, crampons in winter), meals, accommodations on multi-day tours, local transportation, and a professional Utah hiking guide. Through their knowledge, stories, and personal passion, guides can bring a place to life in a way that’s much more difficult to do on your own. Read more about Arches and Canyonlands Hiking Tours.
When to Hike and Seasonal Considerations
It gets very hot in Arches National Park in the summertime. Remember to bring plenty of water and salty snacks before heading out on any hike. It can also be snowy and icy in the winter and early spring, so you may want to consider buying or renting crampons. You can look at the weather for Arches here, and look at NPS’ alerts and conditions here.
Day Hike Permits
Day hike permits are not required in The Windows section of Arches National Park. They are only required in the Fiery Furnace area. To learn more about how to obtain day hike permits for Fiery Furnace, click here.
Backpacking is only permitted in a select few locations in the park. For more information on Arches’ permit system, click here.
Suggested Packing List
Day Hike Packing List
- 3-6 liters of water (more in summer)
- Salty, calorie-rich snacks
- trekking poles
- crampons (in winter)
- wide-brimmed hat
- sunscreen, sunglasses
- non-cotton t-shirt
- long sleeve sun protection shirt (womens/ mens)
- rain jacket
- warm non-cotton layer (womens/ mens)
- 1st-aid kit
Please Respect Our National Parks – Leave No Trace
We strongly recommend abiding by all Leave No Trace ethics guidelines and practices so that our national parks and public lands are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations and for the people and animals who call these places home. Simple things like packing out your trash, obeying national park rules, and respecting the peace and quiet of our national park trails is a great start. If you’re going on a backpacking trip, you can read about more about the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.