Complete Guide to Arches National Park
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Arches National Park is one of our absolute favorite national parks. We feel if you only visited 3 National Parks ever, Arches should be on the list.
Fortunately, according to data released by nps.gov , in 2017, it was the 16th most visited National Park with 1.5 million visitors. We say fortunately because so far we have noticed the less popular a park is, the better the experience. As a visitor it’s great that Arches doesn’t break the top 10. The same park can leave you with two very different impressions depending on how busy it was at the time of your visit. We’ve visited Arches twice, both times in April, and found the crowds to be very manageable.
Each time we visit a National Park we learn a lot about what there is to see and do, as well as where to camp. Inevitably, we often realize we missed something too. So, in the complete Arches National Park Guide below we have broken down everything you need to know so you can make the most of your visit to Arches National Park. We explain:
1. When to Go
2. Where to Stay
3. Fees at Arches
4. Parking at Arches
5. Preparing Before You Go
6. What to do at the Park if you have 4 hours or less, 1 day, or multiple days
7. Resources for RVers & Campers camping on BLM land
Enjoy your trip to Arches National Park. We hope you enjoy Arches as much as we do!
When to Go
Our Opinion: We have personally gone during the Spring both times and we highly recommend Spring due to the relatively mild temperatures and very manageable crowds in early Spring. The downside to Spring are the high-speed winds that whip through the Southwest this time of year (winds can easily reach 30 mph on windy days). We are hoping to try out visiting in the Fall which just may be the best season to visit.
Peak Season: March-October, Spring and Fall being the seasons with the best weather
Off Season: November-February
Best time of Day to visit: The park recommends arriving before 8 a.m. during the busier months, and as an alternative they recommend you try to arrive later; after 3 p.m.
When is Arches National Park open? They are open 365 days a year, with the visitor center open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Visitor’s Center (but not the park) closes on Christmas Day. Arches is a 24 hour park, which is really neat if you enjoy astrophotography or are interested in stargazing!
Where to Stay
Arches National Park does have a campground at Devil’s Garden with 52 sites. Reservations are highly recommended March-October as the campground is full every day during those months. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. The sites are first come first serve during the months of November through February. The campground does not have hookups, showers, or an RV dump. Campsites cost $25 per night. Arches National Park does not have any other lodging on-site.
The town of Moab has private campgrounds. We personally like staying on nearby BLM land. Our two favorite areas are Dalton Well Road (there is a sand wash at the entrance to Dalton Well Road so if you are two-wheel drive check the forecast for rain; normally you’d be fine but if there is rain, 2-wheel drive vehicles could get stuck) and Willow Springs Trail. We used Campendium to search for sites around Moab, UT.
For a unique glamping experience try Under Canvas Moab.
There are many hotels in Moab as well, though be sure to make reservations in advance. We’re personally fans of Marriott hotels. Moab has a SpringHill Suites and Fairfield Inn and Suites. On the budget end of things, we have had nice experiences at updated Motel 6 properties. There is a Motel 6 only 4 miles from Arches National Park.
Entrance Fee: $25 for a single vehicle, price will be going up to $30 beginning May 2018
Southeast Utah Parks Pass: $50 elaborate a little
America the Beautiful Annual Pass: $80, if you plan on multiple visits to one national park unit (national park, national monument, national historic site, etc.) or you plan on visiting more than 2 parks during the year, this pass is a must. We’ve bought the annual pass two years in a row. It’s also a nice way to support the National Park System.
Fiery Furnace Permit: $6 for adults, ? for children
Fiery Furnace Ranger-Led hike: $16 for adults and half-price for children
There is parking for both cars and RVs. Smaller size RVs have designated spots in the regular car parking lots. There are also special spots for large RVs 35ft and over. Please don’t park your small RVs in bus or large RV spots. We have always gone in April and have never had a problem finding parking at any of the trailheads, pullouts, or viewpoint lots. That being said Arches is a smaller sized national park with limited parking, and there is a lot of traffic congestion during the busier months. The park suggests you try arriving either very early or after 3 p.m. for the best chance to find parking at each stop.
Before You Go
If you’re not an RVer who plans to boondock on BLM land, make your RV park or hotel reservations. If you’re visiting multiple days, and are in good shape then you may want to reserve a spot on the Ranger-Led Fiery Furnace hike. (It’s a must if you are up for a 2.5 mile hike that requires climbing and scrambling) You could instead opt to do the Fiery Furnace on your own by obtaining a permit. Everyone going on the hike must be present at the Visitor’s Center to watch a video and pay for the permit.
Arches National Park does not have any food or restaurants. You must bring your own snacks and/or pack your own lunch. The gift shop at the Visitor’s Center has an extremely limited amount of energy bars for sale (a few Luna bars). Most of the time even when the gift shops do have food it's rather expensive, so it's nice to bring your own food and spend on a nice book or souvenir instead.
Our Favorite Energy Bars that don’t Melt:
Back to Nature Trail Mix: many varieties, most without chocolate (The Nantucket Blend is our favorite! We didn't link to it as we think it's too expensive on Amazon)
We travel in our RV so we have our fridge with us which is fully stocked with sandwich supplies, protein snack trays, and refrigerated energy bars (Wella Bar and Perfect Bar). If you're not visiting the park in an RV, we highly recommend packing a cooler in your car and having these items on hand as well, especially if you’re planning on spending a half day or more in Arches National Park. Above all be sure to bring plenty of water. They do have fresh water spigots at the Visitor’s Center at the entrance.
Arches National Park has very little shade so be sure to pack your sunblock, hat, and sunglasses. We would highly recommend wearing hiking boots if you plan on doing the Fiery Furnace hike, the Delicate Arch hike, or the Primitive trail at Devil’s Garden.
Our favorite gear on our last visit:
Head Lamp: be sure to take a head lamp if you’re going to watch the sunset at Arches or do any stargazing at Arches
At the Park
As you climb up from the Visitor’s Center to the park in your vehicle you will get a sense of the grandeur of Arches. It is a magnificent place. Ideally you would have a few days to explore, but that is not always the case.
If you are pressed for time (4 hours or less)
If you prefer to see Delicate Arch from the viewpoint and more of the whole park...
Drive the whole park and stop where you can as time and traffic allow. You can see a great deal from your car while at Arches.
The must-see stops would be Balanced Rock, The Windows, Double Arch, and the viewpoint for Delicate Arch.
If you prefer to see Delicate Arch up close and less of the park...
Head straight for the Delicate Arch trailhead which is about a 13 mile drive from the entrance.
Hike up steep slick rock to see Delicate Arch hike, then drive back out and stop at any of the viewpoints on the way out if time allows.
Note: It should not be midday during late Spring or Summer, and you must have at least 3 hours. There is no shade along the hike to Delicate Arch.
If you have 1 day
Walk the easy trail at Balanced Rock.
Head to the Delicate Arch Trail and hike up the steep slickrock to see Delicate Arch up close. Give yourself about 3 hours; the hike is steep and is 3 miles roundtrip. There is no shade along the hike to Delicate Arch.
Drive to Devil’s Garden and hike 1.6 miles (roundtrip) to Landscape Arch (the longest in North America).
Drive over to The Windows and see the North and South Windows and Turret arch. Take the primitive trail behind the Windows back to the parking lot. Cross the parking lot over to the Double Arch trail.
If you feel you have the energy for it, leave the Delicate Arch hike for last, in order to watch the sunset at Delicate Arch. It’s a strenuous hike so don’t leave it for last, unless you’re sure you can do it at the end of the day, you don’t want to miss it.
Note: Delicate Arch should not be done in the middle of the day.
If you have multiple days
If you have multiple days that’s exciting! You will have enough time to do some of the longer hikes. You can also visit the park at nighttime for some stargazing as Arches is a 24 hour park. If you’re looking to do fiery furnace, make your first stop the Visitor’s Center.
Day 1: Drive through Arches and stop at Balanced Rock, the Windows, Double Arch, at the end of the day hike Delicate Arch and watch the sunset
Day 2: Explore Devil’s Garden, hike one of the long hikes there
Day 3: Hike the Fiery Furnace, visit any arches with short hikes you may have missed like Sand Dune Arch and Skyline Arch, return to the park after dinner to stargaze.
Note: You will want to rearrange depending on when you are able to get a spot for the Fiery Furnace hike.
Note that if you would like to do the Fiery Furnace hike on a ranger-led tour you may wish to reserve a spot ahead of time. In early Spring, when we went to the Visitor’s Center the next ranger-led Fiery Furnace hike was in 5 days. The next spot available for a self-led hike of the Fiery Furnace with a permit was in 2 days. If you would like a permit, make a stop to the Visitor’s Center the first thing you do. You will need everyone going on the hike present and you will need about 15 min (aside from any waiting for the next available ranger) to watch a 9 minute video and fill out your form and pay.
Devil’s Garden Hikes
Another popular hike is the Primitive Trail at Devil’s Garden. We haven’t gotten a chance to do this hike yet. At 7.2 miles it is the longest hike at Arches. The park warns that you should skip this one if the rocks are wet or icy, or if you’re afraid of heights.
Double O Arch
This hike is 4.2 miles roundtrip and, according to the park, you need to set aside about 3 hours for it. The park warns that it includes ledges with steep drop-offs and is considered challenging. You can continue for another half mile to reach Dark Angel.
Resources for RVers & Campers camping on BLM Land
Moab Recreation & Aquatic Center (our favorite!) | $5.00
Archview Campground & Resort | $10.00
Moab Rim Camp Park | $5.00
Dowd Flats | $3.00 + $0.25 per 5 min
Lazy Lizard Hostel | $3.00
Moab KOA | $8.00
Jon and I really love Arches National Park and we hope you enjoy your trip there. Let us know in the comments, if you have any questions. Join us on YouTube and watch for our video on our last trip to Arches National Park.