38.7331° N, 109.5925° W
THIS ULTIMATE ARCHES NATIONAL PARK ADVENTURE GUIDE INCLUDES EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE STUNNING DESERT PARK, INCLUDING THE BEST TIME TO VISIT, CAMPING AND THE TOP ADVENTURES.
Tucked away in the far eastern side of the beautiful state of Utah - a state known for its red rock deserts and numerous national parks (there are 5 to be exact) sits the famous Arches National Park.
Arches National Park is home to stunning vistas, incredible red rock structures - including 2000 documented arches (the highest concentration in the world), and beautiful striped canyons. While the park does, in our opinion, fall more into the category of a driving park instead of a hiking park (there are very few long distance trails available), there is still a whole lot of adventure to be had within its borders.
In this in-depth adventure travel guide to Arches National Park you will find everything you need to know about the park; including, the top adventures, camping information, the best time to visit and how to spend 1, 2 and 3 days exploring the park.
So with that, let's get adventuring!
HISTORY OF ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Humans have occupied the Arches National Park region since the last ice age (roughly 10,000 years ago). Slightly more recently, the Fremont people and Ancestral Puebloans lived in the area until about 700 years ago (the Ancestral Puebloans are the people who created the structures in nearby Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado).
While Spanish missionaries encountered Ute and Paiute tribes in the region in 1775, the first European-Americans to attempt settlement in the Arches area was the Mormon Elk Mountain Mission in 1855. Though they would soon abandon the area.
The Arches area was first brought to the attention of the National Park Service by Frank A. Wadleigh, a passenger traffic manager employed by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Wadleigh was invited to explore the area in 1923 by Alexander Ringhoffer, a Hungarian-born prospector living in the Salt Valley. Wadleigh was so impressed by the desert landscape that he suggested to then Park Service director Stephen T. Mather that the area be made into a national monument.
Designation of the area as a national monument was supported by the Park Service IN 1926, but was resisted by members of President Calvin Coolidge's cabinet. Eventually, in 1929 the new president Herbert Hoover signed a presidential proclamation creating Arches National Monument - though at the time it consisted of two relatively small and disconnected sections.
The name "Arches" was suggested by Frank Pinkely - then superintendent of the Park Service's southwestern national monuments. He came up with the name after visiting the park's Windows section in 1925. Almost 9 years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a proclamation that enlarged Arches to protect even more scenic features and to also permit the development of facilities (roads, bathrooms, etc.) to promote tourism in the area.
In early 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation that enlarged the monument even more, though two years later President Richard Nixon would significantly reduce the total area enclosed. But, Nixon would finally be the president to make it a national park and instead of a monument. Today, Arches National Park is one of the most visited sites in all of Utah and one of the most well-known national parks in the USA.
THE ULTIMATE ADVENTURE GUIDE TO ARCHES
\\ Arches National Park | Fast Facts
In 1929 it became a National Monument and in 1971 it became a National Park.
76,679 acres / about 119 square miles
NUMBER OF VISITORS
In 2020, the park saw 1.2 million people visit.
COST TO ENTER
$30 for a car, $25 for a motorcycle and $15 for a person or bicycle; all valid for 7 days.
➳ If you are planning to visit multiple national parks in a year, then we highly recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. This annual pass gets you into ALL national parks and national monuments, as well as free entry to other protected areas run by the national park service (there are over 2,000 in total). The annual pass costs $80. It can be purchased in person at many of the national parks (including Arches) or online here.
HOURS OF OPERATION
The park itself is open 24 hours a day, but the visitor center is only open from 8 AM to 5 PM (7 days a week). The outdoor drinking water and bathrooms are always open.
Hiking, canyoneering and sightseeing
1 day if not planning to do any big hikes or canyons, 2 days if adding on a big adventure.
\\ The Best Time to Visit Arches National Park
The best time to visit Arches National Park is during the shoulder seasons, specifically during the months of April and May and also in September and October. This is when the weather is the nicest - think mid-60s (18° C) and lots of sunshine. But, this is also when the park is at its busiest.
During the winter season - between the months of December and February - you can expect cooler temperatures (especially at night) and even snow. While it can be quite chilly during this time of year, you are also much less likely to have to deal with crowds.
Finally, during the summer months - between June and August - the temperatures are pretty hot (mid-90s on average) and it can actually be quite miserable during the middle of the day. We do not recommend visiting during this time if you are looking to head out on any longer adventures.
💬 INSIDER TIP: we were told by a park ranger that one of the best-kept secrets of the park was that during the months of February and November the weather in Arches National Park is still very nice and there are practically no visitors. This is also one of the best times to get a permit for hiking in the Fiery Furnace area.
TIMED ENTRY PERMITS
Starting in 2022, the months between April 3 and October 3, all visitors to the national park will need to get a timed entry permit. This new permitting system is to help reduce overcrowding and congestion in the park during peak visiting times.
Starting on April 3rd, all visitors will need to bring three things with them to the national park: their timed entry ticket, a photo ID and a park pass or park entrance fee (it costs $30 to enter). You can purchase your timed entry permit here. The park does open up the permits a few months in advance so we recommend hopping on early to make sure you can get your timed entry permit for the days you are planning to visit.
\\ How to Get to Arches National Park
Arches National Park is located on the far eastern side of the state of Utah. The closest major town to the national park is Moab, which has all of the necessary services you will need; including, gas stations, hotels and motels, restaurants and cafes.
The closest major cities to Arches National Park are Salt Lake City, Utah which is 3.5 hours away; Denver, Colorado which is 5.5 hours away and Las Vegas, Nevada, which is 6.5 hours away. The main highway to the national park is Highway 191, which eventually meets up with the much busier Interstate 70 at Crescent Junction.