The Ultimate Guide to Arches National Park in Utah
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Over 1 million people visit Arches National Park in Utah every year! Arches is one of Utah’s five national parks and you can expect to be blown away with a ton of spectacular views and features that you won’t see anywhere else. This post is all about how to maximize your visit to Arches, from a Utah local!
In this guide to Arches we’ll cover:
- Getting to Arches National Park
- Basic Information (hours and fees)
- Best Time to Visit
- Top Things to See and Do
- Camping in Arches
- Photography Tips
- What to Pack
- Other Things to do Nearby in Moab
Let’s dive in!
Where is Arches National Park?
Arches National Park is located in southeast Utah, five miles north of Moab, Utah on US 191.
How to Get To Arches National Park
- From Moab, drive 5 miles north on Main Street/US 191. Turn right at the stoplight into the national park.
- From I-70, take exit 182 (Crescent Junction), then drive south for 28 miles on US 191. Turn left at the stoplight into the national park. Signs clearly mark the national park.
Arches National Park Basic Information
Arches National Park is open 24 hours a day, year-round.
Visitor Center Hours:
The Arches Visitor Center is open year-round. The building is open daily except for December 25. Hours vary by season, but it’s typically 9am to 4pm.
The restrooms, drinking water, and outdoor exhibits are available at the Visitors Center 24 hours a day.
Fees & Passes:
**2022 Update: The park is testing out a new timed-entry system. Please check here for the latest details and instructions for securing an entry time.
Best Time to Visit Arches
Honestly, there really isn’t a bad time to visit Arches National Park, but the chart below shows you the average temperatures throughout the year.
I’ve been to Arches National Park in all four seasons and they’re all great!
It’s really just a matter of how much cold or how much heat you’re willing to handle.
The sandstone is very slippery when wet, icy, or snowy, making the winter a bit more challenging and dangerous for hikes.
Not only are the Summer months the hottest, they’re also the most crowded.
If you want to do a lot of hiking, planning a trip to Arches National Park in the Spring or early Fall are some of the best times because the temperatures are cooler and the park isn’t as crowded.
Top Things to See and do in Arches National Park
1) Hiking in Arches National Park
One of the most popular things to do in the park is to go hiking.
Arches National Park has some fantastic day hikes to incredible arches that you can’t see from the road.
My Favorite Day Hikes:
- Delicate Arch
- Landscape Arch
- Double O Arch
- The Fiery Furnace
- The Windows Section
READ MORE >> If you want to go hiking in Arches National Park, this is the resource for you! It includes details about the tops hikes in the park, how to get to the trailheads, hazards to watch out for, possible trip itineraries, and more. It’s a must-read if you want to go on a hike in Arches!
2) Camping in Arches National Park
Devils Garden Campground is the only campground in Arches National Park. It’s about 18 miles into the park from the visitors center. The campground has drinking water, picnic tables, grills, pit toilets, and flush toilets.
Leashed pets are only allowed in campsites and on the road. You cannot take pets on hiking trails.
There are no services inside Arches National Park. The nearest place to get food, gas, and supplies is in Moab, Utah.
During the busy season (March through October), the campground is usually full every night.
You can reserve campsites between March 1 and October 31. Between November and February, campsites are first-come, first-served.
If you’re planning a visit during the busy season, I highly recommend that you make a reservation. You can reserve standard campsites up to 6 months in advance.
How to Make a Campsite Reservation:
The earliest you can make reservations for standard sites is 8 am MST, 6 months in advance.
For example, on January 1st at 8 am MST, campsite availability will be released through July 1st.
You can make standard campsite reservations here on recreation.gov.
You can reserve group sites up to 12 months in advance with the same link above.
- Standard non-electric campsites are $25 per night.
- Group campsites range from $75 to $250 per night depending on the campsite and your group size.
The Arches National Park campground is one of the nicer campgrounds I’ve been to. The campsites are beautiful and in a great location. Definitely worth the $25!
Other Camping Options Nearby:
If you couldn’t get a campsite in the national park, there’s a lot of camping nearby in Moab, Utah.
- List of Moab Commercial Campgrounds
- BLM Campgrounds (first-come, first-serve – great for last-minute trips!)
3) Photography in Arches National Park
Arches is a popular national park for photographers. Let’s talk about when and where to get great photos on your visit!
No matter where you’re taking photos, the best light for photos is in the early morning or in the late afternoon.
Below are some popular photo spots to get you started, but don’t feel confined to these locations and times! There’s so much to see in the park.
|For Photos at Sunrise:||For Photos at Sunset:|
|Three Gossips||Park Avenue|
|Sheep Rock||La Sal Mountains|
|Double Arch||Courthouse Towers|
|Turret Arch||Petrified Dunes|
|Delicate Arch||Delicate Arch|
|Double O Arch||The Windows|
|Landscape Arch||Balanced Rock|
Photographing Delicate Arch:
Delicate Arch is one of the most photographed places in the park. When you hike to the Arch, you can expect to see a lot of people with cameras and tripods.
The photo of Delicate Arch at the top of this post was taken by Nick Roush at sunrise. We woke up at 4 am to hike in the dark to get to the arch with enough time for him to capture it!
4) Rock Climbing in Arches National Park
There are plenty of opportunities to climb in Arches National Park.
If you’re planning to climb in the park, you’re encouraged to register by obtaining a free permit.
There are no daily limits on routes, so climbers can get their permits on the day of the climb and registration is free.
2 Ways to Get a Climbing Permit:
- use the on-line reservation system here
- self-register at the kiosk outside the visitor center
Registration is really easy and it only takes a minute. It’s a good idea to do this so that there’s a record of where you’re going and when.
Climbing Routes and Regulations:
For a list of the current climbing routes and climbing regulations in the park, make sure to read the Arches National Park climbing guide here.
5) Stargazing in Arches
One of my favorite parts of visiting Arches National Park and the surrounding area is how incredible the night sky is.
Nearly 100% of the lighting fixtures in Arches are night-sky friendly and in 2019, Arches was certified as an international dark sky park!
Tips for Stargazing:
- For the best experience, make sure you stargaze when there’s a new moon, or at least when the moon is below the horizon. Even a thin crescent moon can impact the visibility of the night sky. Click here to find out what the moon phase will be during your trip.
- Wait about 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. Once adjusted, avoid white lights from flashlights, cell phones, car headlights, and headlamps.
- A red light won’t impact your vision as much, so I recommend bringing a headlamp that’s set to the red light mode.
- Bring a star chart to help you find the constellations and the Milky Way.
If you’re camping in or near Arches, I highly recommend you stay up late enough to experience the night sky.
It’s really spectacular and something you won’t be able to see if you live in a city.
What to Pack: The Basics
Southeast Utah is part of the Colorado Plateau, which is a region that experiences wide temperature fluctuations.
Even though it’s the desert, it’s not going to be hot all the time, and temperatures can change quickly.
DIVE DEEPER >> 7 Tips for Desert Hiking (that you NEED to know)
Below are a few basic things that you definitely want to make sure everyone in your group has before you head into the park.
1) Plenty of water
The only places to get water in the park are at the visitors center and at the campground.
Make sure you fill up and have enough water for the activities that you plan to do and their duration. I like to fill up a big portable water jug to leave in the car. That way I can easily refill my water bottle or water reservoir no matter where I am in the park.
2) Sun Protection
Make sure you have sun protection. It’s easy to get swept away by the scenery and all there is to see and do, but don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun.
Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, SPF chapstick, and possibly a hat.
3) Proper Clothing and Footwear
As I mentioned above, the temperature can fluctuate a lot. Make sure that you have moisture-wicking clothing for hiking and layers in case the temperature changes.
Don’t wear flip flops or sneakers with no traction. The sandstone can be slippery, even when dry, so make sure you have good footwear for hiking.
4) Extra Food and Snacks
There are no facilities in the park. If you want or need food, you’re going to have to drive out to the nearby town of Moab for that.
Make sure you pack enough food for the duration of your time in the park.
RELATED >> 11 Easy Hiking Snack Ideas and Homemade Trail Mix Recipes
5) A Map of the Park
Make sure you have a way to navigate when you’re in the park. Cell service is limited.
Things to Do Nearby in Moab
There’s so much to do nearby Arches National Park. I’ve been going down to Moab for years and I’m still finding new things to do every single time!
Other place to visit and things to do in Moab:
- hike to Corona Arch – a short day hike to an incredible arch
- visit Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky District – beautiful views and fun day hikes
- Dead Horse State Park – see the Colorado river bend through the canyon at Dead Horse Point
- The Whole Enchilada mountain bike trail – it’s long and intense, but such an incredible mountain biking experience
- rock climbing and canyoneering – climb wall street
For even more Moab area resources, check out the Moab Information Center in town for maps, tips from locals, and guidance on how to book tours.
Now You’re Ready to Plan Your Trip to Utah!
I hope this guide to Arches National Park is helpful as you plan your visit!
There’s so much to see and do in Utah, and in my option, Arches National Park is a must-see.
Related Utah Travel Resources:
- 7 Best Hikes in Arches National Park (from a Utah local)
- The Complete Guide to Capitol Reef National Park
- Kolob Canyon Backpacking Guide (Zion National Park)
If you have any questions as you’re planning your trip, please ask me in the comments below. I’d love to help!