5 Reasons to Visit Arches National Park in the Winter

Dave and I visit Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, USA at various times throughout year. Each season has its advantages and disadvantages for things to do, explore and photograph at Arches.

Winter is the off-season at Arches which makes it the perfect time to plan a trip!

There are 5 reasons we prefer to visit Arches National Park in the winter:

  • No lines of traffic or crowds
  • Photos without the wait
  • No scorching heat
  • Spectacular winter photography
  • Stargazing

We share a few more tips in this video. SUBSCRIBE to our channel to receive notifications when we post future videos!

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VISIT ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN THE WINTER

No Lines of Traffic or Crowds

scenic drive during the winter at Arches National Park

If you’ve ever been to Arches during the summer or a holiday weekend, you know it gets crowded. You experience lines of cars to enter the park. The parking lots at the various points of interest are full and you must drive around and around until a space opens up.

In the winter, it’s a completely different experience. Many times you have the parking lot to yourself!

one jeep in the parking lot during the winter at Arches National Park

You can find absolute quiet in the park during the winter. There are trails where you won’t see another person for hours.

You can hear the birds sing, a raven’s wings cut through the air, the wind blowing and your own breathing.

The one downfall to this is there are no ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in the winter.

RELATED: Arches National Park: Things to See, Do & Photograph

 

Photos Without the Wait

Taking photographs of the formations and arches in the park 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.

During the winter, there are areas where you could have hours to photograph in complete solitude. It’s pure bliss! We scored photos of these areas without people this past winter, yay!

Double Arch at Arches National Park in the winter.

Turret Arch during the winter at Arches National Park

The one exception to this is Delicate Arch, especially at sunset.

This is a popular destination for tourists and photographers so you still need patience and courtesy to get your token photo standing under the arch.

Once the magical moment of sunset arrives, everyone cooperates and moves away from the arch so photos may be taken without people in the shot.

Delicate Arch at sunset at Arches National Park in the winter.

RELATED: 12 National Parks to Visit in the Winter

 

No Scorching Heat

Walking around Arches during the summer is best in the morning or late afternoon due to the heat of the day. Most points of interest and hiking trails, like the popular Devil’s Garden Trail, have little or no refuge from the sun.

In the winter you can enjoy a full day in the park without sweating and worrying about heat exhaustion. It’s still important to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.

Balanced rock with the sun hidden behind it at Arches National Park in the winter.

Hiking the many trails at Arches in the winter is so refreshing. The daytime temperature is often a dry and sunny 40 or 50 degrees. Most of the trails are fully exposed to the sun, so with a jacket, the hiking weather is pleasant.

On the flip side, 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.

Take warm winter 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!

man and woman dressed in winter clothing during the winter at Arches National Park

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 at Arches on the NPS website and updated photographs of trail conditions at the Arches visitor center.

READ: Devil’s Garden Trail Guide | 10 Amazing Hiking Trails in Arches




Spectacular Winter Photography

Snow does fall in Arches National Park in the winter, but it rarely stays on the ground for more than 2 or 3 days.

Photographers enjoy the varied landscape: one day there is a contrast of snow on redrock; and the next day the sun melts the snow and blue skies complement the sandstone formations.

The park puts on a show at sunrise and sunset. The colors are vibrant and the light creates a spectacular glow on the red rocks that cannot be missed.

The organ at Arches National Park at Sunrise

PHOTO TIP: A photograph isn’t about an object, it’s about light on an object. The Arches National Park website has a table with features listed indicating whether morning or late afternoon provides the best light for photography.

For example, Turret Arch through the North Window at sunrise is spectacular, but does require a bit of scrambling over boulders.

Turret Arch through the North Window at sunrise at Arches National Park in the winter

Delicate Arch at sunset might be the most famous image to photograph in the park, and it’s difficult to compete for real estate along the edge of the bowl with hundreds of other spectators and photographers.

Delicate Arch at sunset at Arches National Park in the winter.

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

man photographing Delicate Arch during the winter at Arches National Park

WINTER PHOTO TIP:  The colder the air, the better the color. Cold air is clearer and there are often ice crystals in the air that cause light to diffract. You get vibrant, colorful pictures. Sunrise and sunset are the coldest part of the day.

READ: Best Travel Cameras | Best Travel Tripods

Your Photography Journey FREE 5 Day Mini Course


 

Stargazing

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!

Stars through the North Window during the winter at Arches National Park

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.

RELATED: The National Park Pass is a GOOD DEAL! | Buy the pass at REI




WHAT TO PACK FOR ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN THE WINTER

The most important thing you need to know: DRINK WATER!

Arches National Park elevation is 5,653 feet. Humidity is lower at higher altitudes. Sweat evaporates quickly and you may not realize how much water you are losing through exertion.

It’s also important to know there are NO SERVICES in the park. The visitor center at the entrance has a bookstore, restrooms and drinking water. Once you’re inside the park, the only other place to get water is Devil’s Garden.

Download our Winter Packing List for Arches National Park

RELATED: Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Adventure

Cold Weather Gear List

 

WHERE TO STAY NEAR ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN THE WINTER

Lodging in nearby Moab, Utah during the winter is readily available and affordable.

We like to rent places using Airbnb (here’s a $40 coupon) or Hotels.com that have a kitchen so we can cook our meals. This saves us quite a bit of money compared to eating out, and it’s much healthier! If we can’t find somewhere to stay with a kitchen, we find places that have at least a microwave and fridge. It’s amazing the yummy meals you can prepare in a microwave!

Here’s a list of our recommendations for where to stay near Arches National Park:

BUDGET

MID RANGE

CONDOS (places with kitchens!)

LUXURY

AIRBNB $40 COUPON

 

HOW TO GET TO ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

 

OTHER THINGS TO DO NEAR ARCHES IN THE WINTER

 

PIN FOR LATER

Winter is the off-season at Arches National Park which makes it a perfect time to plan a trip. Once you visit Arches National Park in the Winter, you will never again visit during the summer, and maybe avoid spring and fall as well. Check out our top 5 reasons you need to visit in the winter. You'll definitely want to save this to your travel board.   Arches National Park Winter Travel Guide: Things to Do, What to Pack, Photo Tips

Resources for outdoor adventure we recommend and use:

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20 comments

I am ALL about traveling during low season! The US parks really are so beautiful 🙂 Great post!

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We’ve become big fans of traveling during low season.

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I want to visit Moab, but I just don’t know about doing in the winter! I’m such a punk, lol. I went to the Grand Canyon last year during Valentine’s Day and while it was reasonable during the day, when the sun began to set, it was a completely different story and I was not prepared. It’s always fun to go somewhere during low season so you don’t have to deal with too many lines.

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Yes, it does get cold once the sun goes down. But I enjoy hiking when it’s cold versus 100 degree heat!

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Amazing photos!!! And the star gazing! <3
XX Nikaia | http://www.wheresnika.com

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The stars are seriously out of this world. It’s hard to describe. When we do go to Arches in the summer it’s to see the Milky Way – spectacular!

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The more of your photos I saw the more I wanted to visit! Easily one of the most stunning natural sights I have come across!
But why would anybody in their right mind go there in the summer? The heat would kill me. ?

Jacky

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You can survive the summer heat by getting up early, or enjoying activities along the Colorado River (rafting, paddleboarding, etc.) I much prefer the winter or spring/fall!

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For my birthday in November I wanted to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time and see it at sunrise for these exact reasons! I hate crowds because then tend to spoil the beauty of a place. Selfie sticks and Ipads everywhere haha I hate it! I love going places off season so I can get the full experience without pushing and shoving others to get a decent picture or really feel the essence of a place! I am DYING to go to Arches hopefully sometime this year!

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Off season travel is amazing for sure! I hope you can visit Arches, it’s truly spectacular!

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Beautiful place, there is so much sunlight even in the winter!! You could never get that over here in the UK

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Yes, this area has wonderful sunlight during the day and gorgeous, star-filled skies at night.

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Ugh quite jealous. Still on my bucketlist waiting.. need to take myself there already!

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I sometimes find myself taking the beauty for granted because I see it so often, but then when I hear visitors from other states or countries comment on the spectacular landscape, I feel lucky I can experience the scenery as often as I do. I hope you can plan a trip to visit…it’s breathtaking!

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Always wanted to road trip across the states, Utah being my #1 destination! Just waiting on the days :’)

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Utah is unique because Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Zion are all close to each other where you can see 5 parks with amazing and varied scenery without long driving distances between each of them. As you plan your road trip, remember the summer gets HOT and it’s the busy season. I would recommend visiting these times: #1 winter #2 spring #3 fall and avoid summer!!

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I had no idea this place existed, thanks for sharing! I’ll have to reconsider my disinterest in the US.

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The US has amazing National Parks that should be on everyone’s bucket list: Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Zion are all close to each other in Utah so you can see a TON of amazing and varied scenery without long driving distances between the parks. We meet visitors from Europe every time we visit these parks and they are all astounded at the landscape. Add it to your destination list!

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I visited Arches in the summer, and your post is convincing me to go back in the winter! And I remember people getting CRAZY if you interfered with their photos of Delicate Arch at sunset so it would be nice to avoid that!

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It is definitely MUCH more enjoyable when there aren’t hundreds of people crammed along the bowl. We avoid hiking to Delicate during the busy times, just not worth it.

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