Arches National Park Winter Activities

There are quite a few Arches National Park winter activities to enjoy during the off-season like like scenic drives, hiking, and photography. Arches National Park in the winter is one of our favorite times to visit because there are fewer visitors and the rates to stay are lower than any other time of the year.

It’s important to note the weather, services available, and what to expect when visiting in the winter. The weather in December, January, and February can be unpredictable with snow and cold temperatures so it’s not for everyone.

Arches National Park winter activities

Use this Arches National Park travel guide to help you plan your winter trip: weather, activities, what to pack, where to stay, and more!

We live close enough to the park to visit various times throughout year so we have lots of Arches National Park vacation ideas to share! The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years, and specifically for the winter months.

The biggest tip we can give for visiting Arches in the winter is to plan for the cold temperatures and unpredictable weather that could include snow! Use our Arches National Park Packing List to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in the winter. Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

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A Photo Tour of Arches National Park

Take a visual tour through Arches National Park to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!

What To Expect at Arches in the Winter

If you’ve ever been to Arches National Park during the busy season, you know it gets crowded. Arches is one of the 5 Utah National Parks that’s a popular destination during the peak seasons of spring and fall.

In the winter, it’s a completely different experience. Many times you have the parking lot to yourself! During the winter months you can enjoy a full day in the park without sweating and worrying about heat exhaustion like you do in the summer.

Empty parking lot at Arches in the winter

Arches National Park Winter Weather

Winter at Arches National is cold with possible rain or snow storms. Here are the temperatures you can expect during the winter months:

You won’t experience large snow storms at Arches, but even small amounts of snow or ice can make local trails and roads impassable. You can see current Arches National Park weather conditions on the NPS website.

Dress in layers and pack winter clothing when visiting Arches in the winter:

winter hiking gear

Does it Snow at Arches National Park?

Usually Arches National Park doesn’t see large amounts of snow. But it’s common to get a dusting of snow, or even a few inches of snow, when storms roll through the area. The snow is a terrific contrast with the red rocks to create wonderful scenes to photograph!

The park road might be closed after a snowfall for several hours for plowing. For road conditions getting to Arches, check the Utah Road Weather Forecast.

Park roads, parking lots, and pullouts can still be icy, especially in shaded areas. Check at the visitor center for the latest information on road conditions.

Arches National Park Winter Activities

Check out this list of fun outdoor things to do at Arches National Park during December, January, and February.

Arches Visitor Center in the Winter

When visiting Arches National Park you should make the visitor center your first stop! It is open every day in the winter. Take time to talk to the park ranger and tell him things that are of interest to you and get tips and ideas on other things to do. 

NOTE: There are no ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in the winter at Arches.

Arches National Park in the winter
Balanced Rock with snow

Arches Scenic Drive in the Winter

The Arches National Park scenic drive is a must-do activity. It includes two spur roads and takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete. You’ll add more time if you plan to stop and take photos or hike any of the trails along the route.

The 43 mile road is paved with pullouts and parking lots perfect for any Arches National Park photography you want to do. Some of the arches and landmarks can be seen from the parking lot, or by a short walk.

Keep in mind the pullouts and parking lots could be snowy and icy, especially in shaded areas.

Arches is cold in the winter

Hiking in the Winter at Arches

Arches National Park winter hikes are awesome if you don’t mind wearing layers. Remember it’s important to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun, even in the winter.

You may encounter ice, snow and mud in shady areas of the park. It gets darker earlier at Arches National Park in the winter, which may limit the time you spend hiking and sightseeing.

Arches National Park is located at 5,653 feet above sea level so it does get cold in the winter, even if the sun is out.

Pack winter hiking gear, wear warm clothing and dress in layers so you’ll actually want to get out of the car when you get to the trailhead. Hiking boots should be warm and waterproof. No one wants soggy feet!

Most hiking trails at Arches National Park remain open year-round. After a snowfall, popular trails like Delicate Arch and Devil’s Garden quickly become slippery from packed snow and ice and may require traction devices and trekking poles. Drifting snow can cover trail markers, making even “easy” trails harder to follow.

You can see current weather conditions on the Arches NPS website and updated photographs of trail conditions at the Arches visitor center.

Turret Arch with snow
Turret Arch with snow

Winter Photography at Arches National Park

Snow does fall in Arches National Park in the winter, but it rarely stays on the ground for more than 2 or 3 days. If you’re lucky to have snow when you visit, you’ll capture the most amazing photos of white snow against the red rock landscape!

Arches National Park photography in the winter can vary: one day there is a contrast of snow on red rock; and the next day the sun melts the snow and blue skies complement the sandstone formations.

Taking Arches National Park winter photos requires patience for the majority of the year. You wait at each arch while everyone takes their turn to snap a selfie or photograph.

The most popular areas where people can scramble around the arches, like the Windows Section and Turret Arch, you may never get a photo without people in the shot.

Sunset photography at Delicate Arch in the winter

Delicate Arch might be the most famous image to photograph at sunset at Arches National Park. It’s difficult to compete for real estate along the edge of the bowl with hundreds of other spectators and photographers.

During the winter the numbers are drastically reduced, making the experience a little more relaxing and enjoyable.

You will definitely want photographer gloves and rechargeable hand warmers for those sunrise and sunset photography outings. Don’t forget a headlamp for navigating the dark before sunrise and after sunset!

CHECK OUT our 3 Day Arches & Canyonlands Itinerary and Photography Guide!

Arches scenic drive with light trails in the winter
Light trails at Arches National Park in the winter

Winter Stargazing at Arches

Arches National Park is internationally recognized as one of the best places for stargazing because of its remote location, accessibility, altitude and clear skies.

The slogan “Half the Park is After Dark” encourages visiting at night to simply Look up!

On a clear night, the sky is literally filled with stars. Areas off the main park road with few obstructions of the sky are best. The farther north you drive, away from the lights of Moab, the darker the sky will be.

Try stargazing at these areas:

  • Balanced Rock Picnic Area
  • The Windows
  • Garden of Eden Viewpoint
  • Panorama Point

The one downfall to visiting Arches in the winter is the Milky Way will not be visible. It’s best viewed from March to October.

Once you visit Arches National Park in the Winter, you may never again visit during the summer, and may even avoid spring and fall as well.

Arches National Park Tours in the Winter

In the winter you can enjoy a few Arches National Park tours to learn more about the area and its history. Guided tours include hiking, scenic drive, rock climbing, off road driving, and photography to name a few.

Tours could be limited during the winter off-season so always check in advance to know what’s available for the time you’ll be visiting the park!

RV camping at Arches National Park
RV at Arches National Park

Winter Camping at Arches National Park

There is only one small campground for Arches National Park winter camping: The Devil’s Garden Campground.

In the winter between November 1 and February 28, all camping sites at Arches are first-come, first served. (Arches camping reservations are required from March 1 to October 31.)

Here’s a list of RV parks near Arches National Park open in the winter if you’re looking for a campground with more amenities than Devil’s Garden Campground in the park.

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps

Things To Do Near Arches National Park in the Winter

You’ll find a ton of other places to visit in Utah that are near Arches National Park to add to your itinerary:

Arches National Park Itineraries

We’ve created some done-for-you itineraries for visiting Arches depending on the time you have to spend at the park. Click the graphic below to get a free travel bundle that includes printable daily itineraries. Or click the links below to see detailed itineraries of the best things to do at Arches!

Arches National Park Travel Bundle

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