What It’s Like Visiting Arches National Park in the Winter

Are you looking for a fun winter vacation idea? Visit Arches National Park in the winter!

We visit at various times throughout year and created this Arches National Park travel guide to help you plan your vacation during the winter months.

Visiting Arches National Park in the winter

November through February is the off-season at Arches National Park which makes it the perfect time to plan a trip!

Keep reading for information about what to pack, where to stay and things to do when visiting Arches in the winter.

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Arches National Park Packing List

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A Photo Tour of Arches National Park

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Visiting Arches National Park in the Winter

If you’ve ever been to Arches National Park during the busy season, you know it gets crowded.

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.

Is Winter a Good Time to Visit Arches National Park?

We LOVE visiting Arches National Park in the winter without the crowds! But the weather can be unpredictable with snow and cold temperatures so it’s not for everyone.

Check out our guide for finding the best time to visit Arches National Park. Each season and month of the year will have different activities and services available.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect each month during the winter at Arches:

Arches Weather in the Winter

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

  • December: Highs 45 | Lows 23 degrees F
  • January: Highs 44 | Lows 22 degrees F
  • February: Highs 52 | Lows 35 degrees F

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.

We recommend layers: winter coatfleece jacketwinter hat and gloves. Remember that this area of Utah is a dry environment, don’t forget lip balm and lotion!

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!

Do the Roads Close at Arches in the Winter?

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 or call 1-866-511-UTAH (8824).

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.

Things to Do at Arches National Park in the Winter

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

Arches Visitor Center in November

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.

Reflected-light-at-Sunrise-at-Arches-National-Park-Photo-Jeepers-800

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.

Download the Arches National Park map to navigate along the scenic road to each point of interest.

Hiking in the Winter at Arches

Arches National Park hiking trails in the winter are awesome if you don’t mind wearing layers. Remember it’s important to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun: pack water bottles, wear sunscreen and a sunhat!

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!

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.

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.

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 pictures at Arches 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.

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.

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

take jaw-dropping photos at Arches & Canyonlands

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.

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

Visiting Arches National Park:

Where to Stay Near Arches National Park:

There are no hotels in Arches so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. There are all types of lodging in and near Moab from budget-friendly hotels to higher-prices resorts. You’ll also find vacation rentals, a hostel, campgrounds and RV parks.

Here are a few of our favorite places to stay near Arches:

  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Arches.
  • Purple Sage – our all-time favorite place to stay in Moab – walking distance to shopping, full kitchen, and only 8 units so you don’t feel lost in a large hotel. 
  • Red Cliffs Lodge – rooms up to 6 people – located 17 miles from Moab, this lodge is known for its beautiful location, winery and activities like horseback riding, fishing and more!
  • Vacation Rentals – we really like rentals with a kitchen, washer and dryer and amenities like a swimming pool and hot tub.

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24 Comments

  1. Is it worth fighting the heat and crowds at the Grand Canyon to enjoy river rafting? I assume that is not an option in the fall or spring? Thanks!

    1. We haven’t done river rafting in the Grand Canyon so we can’t help you with that. Sorry. We always recommend spring and fall as alternatives to the hot summers for the SW. Spring may be a bit iffy with weather, but fall should be a good time. HTH!

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

  3. 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

    1. 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!

  4. 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!

    1. 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!

    1. 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!!

    1. 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!

  5. 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!

    1. 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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