Are you looking for a fun winter vacation idea in the US where you can enjoy the outdoors and some solitude away from the crowds?
Visit Arches National Park in the winter!
November through February is the off-season at Arches which makes it the perfect time to plan a trip!
Use this guide to help you plan an amazing trip full of outdoor winter adventures at Arches National Park:
- Where to Stay in Arches During the Winter
- What to Pack When Visiting Arches in the Winter
- 5 Reasons to Visit Arches in the Winter
- FAQs for Planning a Winter Trip to Arches
- Other Things to Do Near Arches in the Winter
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Where to Stay Near Arches:
There are no hotels in Arches so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. You’ll find restaurants and places to shop which adds to the appeal to find accommodations in 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
READ OUR FULL GUIDE: Places to stay near Arches National Park in Moab
• Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Arches.
• 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!
• Condos south of town – we really like the King size bed in the master, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).
Camping in Arches in the Winter
Between November and February, there are 25 sites at Devils Garden Campground, first-come, first-served. There are restrooms and drinking water at the campground.
WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO ARCHES IN THE WINTER
Plan and pack for your day in Arches knowing there are NO SERVICES in the park.
1. 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. 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. → Get refillable water bottles or a hydration pack!
2. Healthy snacks: Since there are no services in the park, it’s important to pack the food and snacks you’ll need while exploring Arches. → Here’s a good list of healthy snacks!
3. Hiking boots: We are usually fine wearing our Merrell or Oboz hiking shoes or boots at Arches during the winter, but make sure they are waterproof! → Check out Merrell Moab hiking shoes | → Check out Oboz waterproof hiking shoes
4. Wool socks: We LOVE Darn Tough socks. They are worth every penny. Your feet will thank you! → Check out the socks we love!
5. Wicking and quick-drying base layers: It’s all about the layers when visiting Arches in the winter. Be sure to have the base layer something that wicks away moisture. → Check out base layer options
6. Fleece jacket: If you enjoy outdoor adventure, then you know how awesome a good fleece jacket is. Over the years we’ve come to find the best fleece jackets are made by Columbia, North Face and Patagonia. → Columbia fleece | North Face fleece | Patagonia fleece
7. Insulated jacket: Winter temperatures get cold at Arches in the morning and evening. You will want a good insulated jacket! → Check out the jackets we wear!
8. Insulated headwear: Keeping your head warm is so important in the winter. We have ditched the hats and use fleece Buffs since they can be worn as a hat, headband or neck gaiter. → Check out the fleece Buffs we use!
11. Rechargeable hand warmers: These hand warmers keep your hands toasty, they are our new favorite winter gear find! → Rechargeable hand warmers
→ CHECK OUT Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Adventure
→ CHECK OUT Winter Packing List for Arches National Park
5 REASONS TO VISIT ARCHES IN THE WINTER
1. No Lines of Traffic or Crowds
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!
NOTE: There are no ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in the winter at Arches.
2. Iconic 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, you can get the iconic photos without waiting!
The one exception to this is Delicate Arch, especially at sunset.
This is a popular destination for tourists and photographers so you may 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.
3. No Scorching Heat for Outdoor Hiking
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.
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!
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.
→ CHECK OUT Devil’s Garden Trail Guide
→ CHECK OUT 10 Amazing Hiking Trails in Arches
4. 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.
Winter photography at Arches can vary: 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.
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.
As we’ve mentioned, 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 relaxing and enjoyable.
→ CHECK OUT Arches National Park Photography Tips
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.
FAQ’S FOR VISITING ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN THE WINTER
Is Arches National Park Open in the Winter?
You bet! The park is open 24/7. Visit the NPS site to get the updated winter hours.
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.
What Winter Activities Can Yo Do at Arches National Park?
- There are no ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in winter.
- You can watch the park orientation film at Arches Visitor Center, which is open seven days a week (closed December 25). Check the website for operating hours.
- Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge (Junior Ranger booklet). Get more details at the visitor center.
What is the Weather Like at Arches in the Winter?
Winters are cold, with highs averaging 30 to 50 F (-1 to 10 C), and lows averaging 0 to 20 F (-17 to -6 C).
What is the Best Time to Visit Arches National Park?
ALWAYS remember to check the forecast and road conditions because conditions change from day to day, and don’t follow a set pattern.
From our experience, this is what you can expect when visiting during these months:
Arches in December – The Visitor’s Center is closed December 25, but the park is open 24/7. The weather and temperatures in December are more moderate than the other winter months. Yes, December is the snowiest month at Arches, but it’s not as cold as January, so even if it snows, you don’t usually get that bitter cold along with it. December has become our favorite month to visit Arches.
Keep in mind that the week between Christmas and New Year’s will be busy! We don’t find the lots completely full where you must circle around trying to find a spot, but it’s busy so you don’t get the quiet in the park like you do before and after this holiday time.
Arches in January – January is usually the coldest month of the year at Arches National Park. The cold means anything wet stays wet or icy, which aren’t idea for hiking. You may need traction devices along some trails when hiking at Arches in the winter, and especially in January.
Arches in February – The weather in February can be unpredictable. One day it will be snowing and cold, and the next day you might feel spring has arrived. Be prepared for winter conditions because even if you have a spring-like day, it can change quickly, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared.
RESOURCES TO PLAN A TRIP TO ARCHES
More Places to Visit Near Arches
Winter Vacation Ideas
- List of Winter Vacation Ideas
- List of US National Parks in the Winter
- Visiting US National Parks in December
- Visiting US National Parks in January
- Visiting US National Parks in February
- National Park Packing Lists for Winter
- Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel