Windows Loop & Double Arch!

The North Window from the trail near the parking area, Arches National Park, Utah
The North Window from the trail near the parking area

If there’s a scene in Arches National Park that’s totally classic (other than Delicate Arch!) it’s the view of the North and South Windows.  At sunrise, you’ll often find photographers lining up to get iconic shots of both or either of the Windows and/or Turret Arch.  Right across the parking lot is the short path to Double Arch.  Even if you’re not a photographer, the short trails are incredibly scenic.  So all of that to say that the Windows are a must-stop hike if you love photography or just want to see the arches for yourself!

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 1.3+0.5 miles Trail Type: Loop and Out + Back Elevation Gain: 205ft. +197ft. Pets: No Fees: $30/vehicle

Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Double Arch

The trail isn’t terribly long, so it’s a favorite with tourists and tour bus occupants alike.  However, on an afternoon in mid-November, I didn’t find it to be all that crowded.  (COVID might have helped with that – it’s the first time I’ve visited where I haven’t seen tour busses – but the time of year also meant fewer tourists.)  I didn’t even have to wait for a parking space, which has not always been the case in other seasons.

Looking back toward the North Window and the parking area from the Double Arch Trail... if you blow up the photo, you can see at least three tour buses.  Arches National Park, Utah
Looking back toward the North Window and the parking area from the Double Arch Trail… if you blow up the photo, you can see at least three tour buses

I decided to hike the Windows Loop backward, starting on the Primitive Loop, walking behind the North and South Windows, and then looping back around to the front of the arches.  I did not go over to Turret Arch on this trip (I’ve done that more than a few times before), nor did I go to Double Arch.  But on a previous trip, I did Double Arch and got some great photos, so I’ll include trail info for that hike at the bottom of this post.

Views from near the South Window toward rock formations and the La Sal Mountains, Arches National Park, Utah
Views from near the South Window toward rock formations and the La Sal Mountains

The Primitive Loop begins to the left (north) of the main trailhead.  It’s a very obvious trail even if it isn’t terribly well-marked.  As you hike up the sandy path, look over to the right to see Seagull Arch – the fin with Seagull Arch is keeping you from seeing the North Window from this vantage point.

North side of Seagull Arch, Windows Primitive Loop, Arches National Park, Utah
North side of Seagull Arch

Keep hiking as the path turns south and scrambles up some rocks between two sandstone towers.  Look to the east and you’ll see the La Sal Mountains and the cliffs beyond the Colorado River.  It’s spectacular, though I’d guess the views were even better because it was afternoon.

Looking back through the gap on the Primitive Windows Trail to rock formations, Arches National Park, Utah
Looking back through the gap on the trail to rock formations

The trail then winds its way behind a sandstone wall and, eventually, behind the North and South Windows.  It was totally the wrong time of day for this part of the hike, as the sun was directly behind the Windows.  Oh well.

The back of the South and North Windows - why you should try to photograph them in the afternoon!  Arches National Park, Utah
The back of the South and North Windows – why you should try to photograph them in the afternoon!

The path quickly takes you around in what amounts to a U-turn to the front of the South Window.  This is the end of the Primitive Loop and so you’re on to the main trail from now on.

The South Window in the afternoon, Arches National Park, Utah
The South Window in the afternoon

The views of the South Window are excellent.  It’s hard to get a sense of scale, but I did my best with the photos.

The South Window with the trail sign for scale, Arches National Park, Utah
The South Window with the trail sign for scale

Continuing on the trail back toward the parking area, you can get some good views of Turret Arch.  Afternoon is totally the wrong time of day to be looking at it from this angle, but I took a few pictures anyway.

Turret Arch from the Windows Trail in the afternoon, Arches National Park, Utah
Turret Arch from the Windows Trail in the afternoon

At the trail junction, turn toward North Window (you can also do a spur over to Turret Arch if you want to).  The path rises up to the Window.

Hiking up to the North Window, Arches National Park, Utah
Hiking up to the North Window

I scrambled all of the way through and then scrambled up some rocks to frame Turret Arch through the North Window.  The sun was in the wrong place for the classic shot, but hey, we made it work!

Silhouette of Turret Arch through the North Window, Arches National Park, Utah
Silhouette of Turret Arch through the North Window

Scramble back down and head back for the parking lot (or Turret Arch, if you want to, on the way).  There are quite a few steps; be sure to look over to the right to see the south side of Seagull Arch.

Seagull Arch from the south - the North Window is to the right.  Arches National Park, Utah
Seagull Arch from the south – the North Window is to the right

Once back in the parking lot, take the trail that crosses the median between the two levels of the parking area.  Cross the lower portion of the parking loop and locate the trailhead for Double Arch (it’s not hard to spot).  Take the well-established path as it heads for the cove where the arches are.  I hiked Double Arch early in the morning in May some years ago, and as you can see, it’s somewhat shadowed in the early morning.

Double Arch from afar, Arches National Park, Utah
Double Arch from afar

As you get closer, you can start to get a perspective on the sheer immensity of the arches.  The trail is sandy but totally hikable as it crosses the desert and a few small washes.

Hiking toward Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Hiking toward Double Arch

Most people stop underneath the first arch (it’s really impressive!)  Several of us scrambled up on the rocks (be careful – I scraped my shins proper when I slipped on these rocks on my first visit in 1997) and even up into the second arch.

People up in the second part of Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
People up in the second arch

From up here, there are some nice views out into the Cove of Caves (behind the arch) and also back to the North Window (better from the trail) and the La Sal Mountains.

Lookout out through the second part of Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Lookout out through the second part of Double Arch

Overall, the entire Windows Loop is 1.3 miles and the trail to Double Arch is a total of 0.5 miles.  Both are fairly easy hiking with only a little scrambling on the Primitive section of the Windows Loop.  So if you have a chance, check them out – you won’t be disappointed!

Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Double Arch

Total Trail Length: 1.3 miles for the Windows Loop, 0.5 miles for Double Arch

Elevation Gain: 205ft. (5,174ft. to 5,272ft.) for the Windows Loop, 192ft. (5,120ft. to 5,252ft.) for Double Arch

Facilities: Primitive restrooms; there may also be water

Fees: $30/vehicle, valid 7 days.  America the Beautiful passes also accepted.

Turret Arch from the North Window, Arches National Park, Utah
Turret Arch from the North Window

Trail Notes: Be sure to arrive early or in an off-time of the year to get a parking space (a pilot program has been introduced to help reduce crowds; we shall see how that goes).  Most of the views are best in the morning (at least for the classic shots), but afternoon is nice, too, especially for the front sides of the Windows.

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

Trail sign with rock formations in the background, Windows Trail, Arches National Park, Utah
Trail sign with rock formations in the background

GPS Coordinates for the Windows Loop

Arches Primitive Loop TH: 38.6875000°, -109.5364667° (N38° 41.250′ W109° 32.188′ / 38°41’15.0000″, -109°32’11.2800″) (5,131ft.) (0.0)

South Window: 38.6848667°, -109.5324333° (N38° 41.092′ W109° 31.946′ / 38°41’05.5200″, -109°31’56.7600″) (5,181ft.) (0.7)

South Window Overlook: 38.6843833°, -109.5326667° (N38° 41.063′ W109° 31.960′ / 38°41’03.7800″, -109°31’57.6000″) (5,205ft.) (0.8)

North Window: 38.6857000°, -109.5328167° (N38° 41.142′ W109° 31.969′ / 38°41’08.5200″, -109°31’58.1400″) (5,238ft.) (1.0)

Trail Junction: 38.6860167°, -109.5350833° (N38° 41.161′ W109° 32.105′ / 38°41’09.6600″, -109°32’06.3000″) (5,154ft.) (1.2)

End: 38.6871167°, -109.5366667° (N38° 41.227′ W109° 32.200′ / 38°41’13.6200″, -109°32’12.0000″) (5,133ft.) (1.3)

Standing almost beneath Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Standing almost beneath Double Arch

GPS Coordinates for Double Arch

Double Arch Trailhead: 38.6883000, -109.5383667 (38°41.29800′, -109°32.30200′ / 38°41’17.8800″, -109°32’18.1201″)

Double Arch: 38.691496, -109.540188 (38°41.48976′, -109°32.41128′ / 38°41’29.3856″, -109°32’24.6768″)

Looking back at the Windows and parking area from Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Looking back at the Windows and parking area from Double Arch

The gpx file for the Windows Loop and for Double Arch can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Windows Loop:

Download GPX File size: Invalid download ID. Downloaded 2 times

Double Arch:

Download GPX File size: 4.5 KB Downloaded 2 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Trail sign with North Window in the background, Arches National Park, Utah
Trail sign with North Window in the background

Getting to The Windows and Double Arch

From the visitor center, continue into the park for 9.1 miles.  Turn right, following signs for Windows.  Park at the end of the road about 2 miles later.  Note that the parking area can be very full; I recommend hiking here in the early morning or evening or, preferably, from November-March.

Visual trail maps for the Windows Loop and the Double Arch Trail with an elevation profile for the Windows Loop, Arches National Park, Utah
Visual trail maps for the Windows Loop and the Double Arch Trail with an elevation profile for the Windows Loop

Zoom map out to browse nearby hikes & places of interest

This Week’s Featured Product!

This may well be one of the most comprehensive books about hiking in Arches National Park.  With close to 25 trails, the book covers just about everything you’ll need to know to go hiking in Arches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *