Dave and I absolutely love visiting Arches National Park every chance we get. Arches may be a small park in comparison to others, but it’s a US national park bucket-list destination for all the things you can see, do and photograph there!
Arches is a few miles north of the fun outdoor adventure town of Moab, Utah.
The amazing hiking trails in Arches weave through a land of contrasting colors, awe-inspiring sunsets, and exquisite landforms.
The photography at Arches is fantastic! We visit many times and never tire of photographing the natural rock formations that include 2,000 stone archways, giant balanced rocks, and massive pinnacles that immediately draw you in to explore and photograph.
If you plan on visiting Arches, and are in need of information about the park from local experts, then this ultimate Arches National Park Guide is for you.
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WHAT TO PACK FOR ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
To get the most out of visiting this park, you must be prepared with the right clothing and gear.
DOWNLOAD our Arches National Park packing list for summer and winter.
Hiking Shoes – Injuries from improper footwear is a common problem that casual visitors and hikers encounter. To make your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible, avoid smooth-soled shoes and only wear sturdy shoes with ample tread. We always recommend Merrell Moab hiking shoes of course!
Hydration and Food – Due to the high desert and altitude in Southeastern Utah, you should drink at least one gallon of water per day, and always carry water with you during all hiking activities (water is also available at the Arches National Park Visitor Center and at the Devils Garden trailhead and Campground). Accordingly, be sure to eat plenty of healthy snacks and food. We use Camelbak hydration packs or carry Hydroflask bottles in our packs.
Lip Balm and Lotion – Utah’s high elevation and dry air can be hard on your skin. You’ll want to carry lip balm with sunscreen and hydrating lotion to apply as needed when you’re out exploring the trails.
Clothing – Summers in the park mean soaring temperatures, unrelenting sunlight, and low humidity. To keep cool, wear light colored, loose fitting clothing that does not absorb sunlight. Also avoid sun burn by wearing a wide brimmed hat and by generously applying sunscreen to any parts of your body that are exposed to the sun.
During the winter, wearing the right clothing is important to stay dry and warm. Take note that snow and ice can accumulate and make popular trails quite slippery. That’s why trekking poles and traction devices for your shoes are essential. It’s also just as easy to become dehydrated in the cold as it is in the heat. It’s important to carry plenty of water during the winter, and not just during the summer.
National Parks Pass – Before you visit Arches National Park be sure to pack your The America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
Other items we recommend – US national parks packing list
- Darn Tough socks
- Fleece jacket
- Buff headbands
- Hand sanitizer
- Flashlight or headlamp
- First aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Camera gear
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Best time to visit Arches National Park
Seasonally, the best time to visit Arches National Park is during the winter off-season, between November and February.
Not only will you avoid the intense heat, but you can enjoy some spectacular winter scenery, without the crowds and traffic that can make visiting during the high-season a bit daunting.
Arches Hours of Operation
Arches National Park is open 24 hours a day. However, we recommend avoiding the crowds and arriving either before 8 am or after 3 pm.
Plus, hiking will also be a bit easier since the temperatures are much cooler. The light at this time of day is also better for photography anyway.
Entry fees to Arches National Park
Admission to Arches National Park is good for seven days. You can come and go any time with your seven-day pass. You can pay your fee at the entrance station, at the self-pay station outside the visitor center, or online at pay.gov.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIP: However, if you plan on visiting nearby Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky or the Canyonlands Needles District, or any other US National Park during the year, you may want to consider purchasing the US National Park Pass – it will definitely help you save money. (Did you know when you buy the National Parks Pass from REI, they donate 10% to the National Park Foundation?)
Since Arches is part of the Colorado Plateau high desert region; this area will experience enormous temperature variations by as much as 40 degrees in twenty-four hours. That’s why, in terms of Arches National Park weather, the most temperate and popular seasons at the park are in spring, between April and May, and in fall, between September and October.
During the mild spring and fall seasons, daytime temperatures average highs of between 60 to 80 degrees F and lows of between 30 to 50 degrees F. During the scorching summers, temperatures can exceed 100 degrees F, while temperatures during the winter are generally between 30 and 50 degrees F, with lows between 0 and 20 degrees F.
We always carry cold weather clothing ‘just in case’ if we’re visiting Arches any time from September to June.
Pet Regulations at Arches National Park
Pets are allowed within the National Park, but must be leashed at all times. Pets must also never be left unattended and owners are required to pick up after their pets.
Additionally, pets are welcome on all park roads, parking areas, picnic areas, and in the Devils Garden campground. However, pets are not allowed at overlooks, on or off hiking trails, and in the visitor center.
Arches National Park Services
Be prepared for limited services when visiting Arches National Park. There are no medical facilities, wifi services, gas stations, dump sites, cell phone towers, or dining options on the park.
However, water is available year round at the visitor center, Devils Garden campground, and seasonally, at the Devils Garden trailhead.
Remember though, the city of Moab is just a few miles down the road from the visitor center and has an assortment of facilities that you can enjoy.
Additionally, you are permitted to camp at the Devils Garden Campground and picnic at Devils Garden, Delicate Arch Viewpoint, Arches Visitor Center, and across the road from Balanced Rock.
Arches National Park Map
You can find a printable map, trail guide, and other trip planning information in the Arches National Park Newspaper.
Parking at Arches National Park
Some of the most popular parking lots in the park include The Windows, Delicate Arch, and Devils’ Garden, all of which fill up between 9 am and 4 pm. If you plan to visit these areas, we suggest getting there early morning or late afternoon.
When parking lots are full, remember that you can only park in designated areas and are not permitted to drive off road. If no spots are available, do not wait around and block traffic. Instead, move on and try to find a parking spot elsewhere.
Busiest Dates at Arches National Park
Between March and October, the park’s many roads, hiking trails, and parking lots are all typically filled to capacity, with holidays like Easter week/Jeep safari and spring break (late March or April), Memorial Day, Labor Day, and fall break (usually mid-October) being exceptionally busy.
We recommend you visit during the off-season, in the winter, to avoid traffic jams and large crowds.
We took this video in April leaving the park around 11:00 am. When we say enter the park early, this is why!
GETTING TO ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
From Grand Junction, Colorado, take I-70 west and follow the highway until Thompson Springs. Take exit 182 and follow US-191 south towards Moab. Continue along US-191 until you see Arches National Park Entrance Road on your left. The whole journey should take an hour and 40 minutes and cover 109 miles.
From Salt Lake City, Utah, take I-15 south until exit 257 B-A for US-6 East. Continue on US-6 East and merge onto I-70 East. Take exit 182 onto US-191 south towards Moab. Turn left onto the Arches Entrance Road. The entire journey should take three and a half hours and cover 230 miles.
TOP THINGS TO DO AT ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
With so many exciting things to see and do, it’s a good idea to start your visit at the Arches National Park visitor center (open everyday except Christmas). Tell the on-duty ranger what activities you are interested in doing at Arches. The rangers can give you tips for the best hiking routes and how to stay safe in the high altitude desert environment.
While you’re at the visitor center, fill up your water bottle and learn about the distinct geology, history and flora and fauna that inhabit this amazing park.
There is a saying at Arches National Park: Don’t Bust the Crust! It’s Alive!
Help protect the cryptobiotic soil crust in the park since plants and animals depend on it. While exploring Arches National Park and other desert environments, stay on established trails, or walk in dry washes or on bare rock.
Arches National Park Points of Interest
Once you’ve explored the visitor center, drive up the switchback road into Arches. We’re listing the points of interest in order as you drive along the scenic park road.
Moab Fault – wonderful view of US 191 carving its way through the canyon below.
Park Avenue – walk 100 yards to the viewpoint, or hike the trail to understand how this area got the name Park Avenue, where immense sandstone walls tower on both sides as you walk along the path.
La Sal Mountain Viewpoint – magnificent distant views of the La Sal Mountains, Courthouse Towers, Balanced Rock and The Windows area.
Courthouse Towers Viewpoint – massive monoliths like The Organ, Tower of Babel, Three Gossips and Sheep Rock.
Petrified Dunes Viewpoint – expanse area of ancient sand dunes covered by layers of sediment that have cemented into Navajo sandstone.
Balanced Rock – explore one of the most iconic landmarks in the entire park, Balanced Rock. Standing at 128 feet tall, this amazing geological formation is a great place for a short hike where you can savor views of The Windows Section and the La Sal Mountains. This is also a great place to end your day and catch the sunset since the rock becomes saturated with beautiful red-orange colors.
Garden of Eden – open trail to explore the sandstone features. It’s a popular location for climbers to tackle the towering rocks here.
The Windows Section – visit this area first thing in the morning or you may not get a parking spot. No trip to Arches National Park would be complete without exploring The Windows Section that includes the Spectacles, Turret Arch and Double Arch.
Panorama Point – good view of lower Salt Valley.
Cache Valley Overlook – wonderful view of Cache Valley.
Lower and Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoints – see one of the most recognizable geologic formations in the world. Delicate Arch has an opening that is 46 feet high and 32 feet wide. To view this amazing place from a distance of a mile, you can drive to Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint or hike the trail to the Upper Viewpoint, which is less obstructed.
Salt Valley Overlook – enjoy the grand vista of the lower Salt Valley.
Fiery Furnace Viewpoint – view this labyrinth of stone fins from above at the overlook or join a ranger guided tour to explore the trails within.
Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch – hike the short and easy trail through a narrow opening between fins with deep sand to reach Sand Dune Arch. Broken Arch is farther down the trail across the open, sandy grassland.
Tower Arch – drive this dirt road to Tower Arch ONLY if you have a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle. Check with a ranger at the visitor center for road conditions.
Skyline Arch – take the time to walk the trail to see this arch up close, and not just from the road.
Devils Garden – find an incredible diversity of arches, spires and narrow rock walls as you walk along the Devil’s Garden trail. One of the most beautiful formations here is Landscape Arch. It is the longest arch in North America and is an impressive, 306 feet long.
Ranger-led Programs at Arches
Rangers lead group programs are offered everyday, throughout the park, during Spring, Summer, and Fall. Programs offered include short interactive programs (5 – 15 minutes), evening programs at the Devils Garden Campground amphitheater (45 – 60 minutes), Fiery Furnace hikes (physically strenuous), and other special events.
Stargazing at Arches National Park
If you wait for a nice, clear evening, you can see stars from almost anywhere in the park. Be sure to maximize your experience by allowing your eyes time to adjust (usually takes about 30 minutes), avoiding the moon, bringing a star chart, and using a headlamp with red light to reduce harm to your night vision.
Also, areas away from the main road and with fewer obstructions make for ideal stargazing locations and include Balanced Rock Picnic Area, The Windows Section, Garden of Eden Viewpoint, and Panorama Point.
We enjoy taking photos of the stars, moon and milky way at Arches National Park. The rock formations are unique subjects in the photo to complement the night sky.
HIKING TRAILS AT ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Arches National Park is full of amazing trails that are perfect for hikers of every level.
From expert hikers to casual hikers to families with children, there are some fantastic Arches National Park hikes that you can take to enjoy the park’s beautiful landscape.
Easy Hiking Trails and Viewpoints at Arches:
Moderate Hiking Trails at Arches:
Difficult Hiking Trails at Arches:
However, when visiting Arches National Park during the heat of the summer, avoid hiking during the middle of the day and save strenuous activities for early mornings or late evenings when temperatures are at their coolest.
The rocks at Arches National Park are a great place for rock climbers to explore. However, most routes in the park do require a significant level of rock climbing experience and are only suitable for advanced climbers. To ensure climber safety, guests are asked to register for a free climbing permit and to adhere to park rock climbing regulations.
If you ever find yourself lost, remain in one spot with your companions and wait for rescue. If you continually wander around, rescue can be difficult, especially since you cannot rely on your cellphone since the park has no cellular service.
PHOTOGRAPH ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Arches National Park is filled with stunning photography spots where you can play with the colors and light of the natural landscape and create truly unforgettable, once in a lifetime images.
The key to taking fantastic photos in Arches National Park is knowing which geological formations are best photographed during which light conditions and at what time of day.
La Sal Mountain Viewpoint is the perfect Arches National Park photography location at sunrise to capture the red glow on the rock formations.
Natural rock formations that are best photographed at sunrise, or early in the morning include:
- The Moab Fault
- The Three Gossips
- Sheep Rock
- The Great Wall
- Turret Arch
- The Spectacles
- Double Arch
- Cache Valley
- Wolfe Ranch
- Landscape Arch
- Double O Arch
The areas and formations best photographed in the late afternoon and evening are:
- Park Avenue
- The Courthouse Towers
- Petrified Dunes
- Balanced Rock
- Garden of Eden
- North and South Windows
- Delicate Arch
- Fiery Furnace (permit required)
- Skyline Arch
- The fins in Devils Garden
- Tower Arch
WHERE TO STAY NEAR ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
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
• 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)
RESOURCES TO PLAN A TRIP TO ARCHES
MORE UTAH PLACES TO VISIT NEAR ARCHES