When you’re on a Utah road trip, visiting Arches National Park is a must. Why? The landscape is unique! Here’s everything you need to know about the park.
What is Arches National Park and where is it located?
The landscape in the US state of Utah is impressive to see and there are no less than five national parks. Arches National Park is one of them. This park is located in the very east of the state, near the border with Colorado.
What makes Arches National Park so special? Nowhere else in the world you’ll find so many natural bridges (arches) in one area. There are more than 2000 in the park! The smallest arches have an opening less than a meter (3 feet) wide, but the longest bridge is almost 90 meters (295 feet) long, this is the Landscape Arch.
In addition to the stone arches and bridges, Arches National also shows many special rock formations, such as balancing stones.
There are 63 National Parks in the United States. Check out the full list.
Visiting Arches National Park: practical tips
How much does it cost? What is the best time to visit Arches National Park? And how much time do you need to visit the park?
Arches National Park opening hours
Arches National Park is open all year round, 24 hours a day. It can get very busy in the park, especially between the months of March and October. So the advice is to arrive as early as possible (before 8 am) or at the end of the afternoon.
How much does it cost?
The entrance fee is $ 30 per car (up to 15 occupants – must be non-commercial) and your admission ticket is valid for seven days. Are you planning on visiting more National Parks during a USA road trip? Then it might be cheaper to purchase an America the Beautiful pass. This pass costs $ 80 and is valid for one year in all of the US National Parks.
Check the official website for the most recent prices.
The best time to visit Arches National Park
You can visit Arches National Park all year round. The busiest period is from March to October. In winter it is very quiet and there’s a big chance that the landscape is covered in snow. In the summer months (July and August) it can get very hot, 35+ degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) is very normal and there is hardly any shade. A good time to visit the park would be spring or autumn when the temperatures are best.
How much time do you need?
If you only want to see the highlights, then a full day is enough. Do you also want to go on several (long) hikes? Then I would spend at least two days in Arches National Park.
New in 2022: Timed Entry Pilot
On December 10, 2021, the National Park Service announced that it will begin piloting a reservation system for Arches National Park in April 2022. Visitor numbers have grown so rapidly in recent years that it has resulted in overcrowded parking lots and too many people getting together in the most popular spots. This is not good for nature and does not give the visitor a good experience when they’re visiting Arches National Park.
That’s why they are implementing a Timed Entry reservation system. If you want to visit Arches National Park between April 3, 2022, and October 3, 2022, you need a reservation. You can request this three months in advance (if you want to go in April, you need to apply in January) via the official website and it is a “first-come, first-served”. The earlier you give it a try, the greater the chance of a ticket.
Are you not able to make a reservation far in advance? There is also always a limited number of tickets available the day before you want to visit the park.
You will receive a ticket with a time and from that time you can stay in the park as long as you want.
The pilot will run from April to October 2022, after which an evaluation will follow.
What to do in Arches National Park?
What to do in Arches National Park and what are the most beautiful sights?
The Delicate Arch is perhaps the most famous stone arch in the world. In the state of Utah, it is even the main image on the license plate (in the US, every state has an image on the license plate). It is the largest free-standing arch in the park and no less than sixteen meters (52 feet) high.
You can’t see the Delicate Arch from the road, you have to go on a hike. You can get a closer look by hiking the Delicate Arch Trail (4.8 kilometers or 3 miles with a steep climb) or by walking to one of the viewpoints (only 100 to 800 meters).
One of the most beautiful areas in Arches National Park is Devils Garden. This place is at the very end of the road and is best known for the Landscape Arch. This is the longest stone arch in the world.
In addition, there are many more beautiful things to see in Devils Garden, such as special rock formations and many stone arches (pay attention, there are more than you think).
One of the first places you see when you enter the park is Courthouse Towers. This is an area with impressive red rocks in special formations. From here you also have a beautiful view of the La Sal Mountains, a mountain range with peaks of more than 3,800 meters (12.000 feet)!
In the center of the park, you’ll find one of the most special rock formations: Balanced Rock. One rock is balancing on top of another rock and it looks like it could fall off at any moment. It is not a small one: the entire formation is 39 meters (128 feet) high.
Explore the beautiful trails
Arches National Park is a great place for hiking, there are many, many trails. I can highly recommend hiking a couple of those trails. It has some of the best day hikes in the United States. There are many really short hikes (only for a couple of minutes), but there are also really great longer trails, that are perfect for a full day of hiking. These are some of the best hikes in Arches National Park:
- Balanced Rock: this trail is only 500 meters (0.3 miles) long, and circles around the famous rock formation.
- The Windows: looking for a couple of great short hikes? Make sure to check out the Windows Section in Arches National Park. You can check out a loop trail of 1.5-1.9 kilometers (0.9-1.2 miles) or the double arch hike of 0.8 kilometers (0.5 miles).
- Delicate Arch: I mentioned this one before, and this is probably the most popular hike in Arches National Park. The hike is only 4.8 kilometers (3 miles), but quite tough due to the height difference.
- Double O Arch: this is my favorite hike in Arches! The trail goes through the beautiful Devils Garden, you’ll see the Landscape Arch and it is a fun trail with lots of climbing until you reach the Double O Arch. The views are beautiful and you can see very far in some places. The walk is 6.6 kilometers (4.1 miles) long and is considered “difficult”.
Please note there is virtually no shade in Arches National Park and it can get quite hot in the summer months. Do not go on long hikes during the hottest moments of the day, but plan your hike during the cooler moments and bring plenty of water.
Check this page for an overview of the hiking trails in Arches National Park.
Discover as many arches as possible
More than 2000 arches have been counted in Arches National Park. During your visit, you will never see them all, but keep an eye out. There is always an arch visible somewhere. It’s so much fun when you discover a new one that’s not on your map!
Learn more about the park in the visitor center
In fact, in every national park in the US, you should first make a stop at the visitor center. Here you will learn how the park originated (there’s usually an interesting documentary about it) and you can ask the rangers about the most beautiful hiking trails and the best places to visit. This is also the place to get some cool souvenirs.
Please note: unlike the park, the visitor center is not always open. Usually, it is open between 8 am and 5 pm. The visitor center will be closed on December 25. Check the website for the current opening hours.
Would you like to visit Arches National Park and spend the night in the park or nearby?
Camping in the park
Do you want to sleep in the park? Then there’s only one place: the Devils Garden Campground. You can only stay here if you have a tent on an RV. For stays between March and November, you can reserve a spot six months in advance via this website. Do this on time, because the campsite is not that big, very popular and therefore often fully booked. In the other months, it’s first-come, first-served.
Is the Devils Garden Campground fully booked and do you still want to camp? Then it’s best to look at one of the campgrounds near Moab.
Where to stay in Moab
Moab is the town closest to Arches National Park. There are a lot of fun things to do in Moab. It is a really nice and cozy town, full of restaurants and cafes (eating at The Brewery is highly recommended!). There are also many things to do in Moab with kids, like visiting the Moab Giants Dinosaur Museum.
Although you can find a lot of hotels and motels here, you often have to book them in advance as it can get very busy (especially in the summer months). You can easily find great hotels via Booking.com. These are a few great places to stay:
- Rustic Inn: basic and affordable motel with spacious rooms in a good location.
- Red Cliffs Lodge: here you feel like you are in a western movie.
- Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection By Hilton: a nice luxury hotel fully equipped.
Would you rather stay somewhere special and have a fully equipped kitchen? Then it is always wise to also take a look at VRBO.
Traveling to Utah
After reading this article, are you looking forward to a trip to the Southwest of America or are you already orienting yourself completely? Great idea!
If you arrange your trip yourself, you will at least need a plane ticket and transportation. Arches are located quite far from most international airports, so visiting the park as a part of a larger road trip is recommended. Airports that you can easily fly to from Europe are Salt Lake City, Denver, and Las Vegas. The cheapest airline tickets can usually be found via Skyscanner.
In addition, you naturally need a car or an RV. It’s a matter of looking and comparing often to find the best deal.
For Europeans, it’s smart to reserve ahead through a European website. In that case, you’ll know that all necessary insurances are included.
A few good organizations to rent a car or an RV are:
- AutoEurope: a great website to reserve a car when you’re traveling to the US from Europe. I usually find the best deals here.
- Rentalcars.com: good deals on rental cars for Americans and Canadians.
- RVshare: one of the best websites to rent an RV.
Read more about Arches National Park and traveling in Southwest USA
Do you want to have more fun or learn more about this beautiful region in the US? Then I can recommend these travel guides:
On this website, you can also find a lot of other tips for a trip to the United States of America. If you are looking specifically for information about the Southwest, these are useful articles to read:
- 17 Fun things to do in Canyonlands National Park & practical tips
- 35 Best Books on National Parks + other gift ideas (2022)
- West Coast USA road trip: a spectacular itinerary
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This article was published in March 2021. Last update (with information about the new Timed Entry Pilot): December 2021.
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