Arches National Park is an incredible place to visit in the southeastern Utah desert. Walk through the beautiful sandstone arches formed by 300 million years of weathering and erosion.
Take a hike that winds through valleys and climbs through fins formed in the soft sandstone. The park encompasses 2,000 arches, as well as pinnacles, balanced rocks and other unique features that make up this breathtaking landscape.
As you enter the park, you wind up a steep canyon wall. This initial climb offers a unique perspective on how the park was formed. As you reach the top, take the time to stop at the pullout and look across the valley.
You'll notice the colors and rock layers change. This is because a fault runs through the park, allowing certain rock layers to be pushed up and exposed to different weathering. This fault helped make Arches National Park possible over 300 million years ago.
Visiting this beautiful park is a great way to get away from busy life. The best time to visit Arches National Park is in the spring and fall, as the weather is most pleasant in the desert at that time. Temperatures are warm enough to wear shorts during the day, but the temperatures cool off significantly at night.
Arches National Park is best known for Delicate Arch. You probably recognize Delicate Arch from the Utah welcome signs or printed on license plates. Perched on the edge of a sandstone cliff, Delicate Arch stands alone out in the open.
It is impressive that this arch is able to stand tall while everything else around it has eroded. Delicate Arch can be seen from the parking lot viewpoint or a short hike to a higher viewpoint. To get to the arch's base is a three-mile round trip hike.
Image Source: Dreamstime/Gerald Marella
Another great attraction in Arches National Park is Devil's Garden. From here, you can take a short hike to Landscape Arch or go the rest of the way out to Double O Arch. On busy days you can find fewer people in this area of the park than in Wolfe Ranch, where Delicate Arch is located.
If your time is limited in the park, taking the scenic drive around the park is a good option. The 18-mile-long road has numerous pullouts to stop at and enjoy the unique sandstone landscape. You can see many other sandstone arches, pillars, and fins created by wind and water eroding the soft rock along this drive.
Besides hiking and driving in the park, there are many other things to do in Arches National Park. Perhaps better done during the off-season due to cooler weather and less busy roads, you can bike the 18 miles of the park road.
If you're interested in canyoneering or rock climbing in the park, look into permits and ways to explore the park this way. A few backcountry campsites are located in the park, so you can obtain permits and explore the park.
Arches National Park has one entrance along U.S. Highway 191 about five miles north of Moab, UT. The visitor center is located at this entrance. The visitor center is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day, December 25. Hours differ between the busy summer months and slower winter. In the summer, the visitor center opens from 8 am- 6 pm, and in the winter, it is open 9 am- 5 pm.
Stop by the visitor center for more information on trails and what to do in the park. Arches National Park does not offer public transportation around the park. The best way to explore the park is through a personal vehicle or bicycle. If you need to rent a vehicle to visit Arches National Park, keep this in mind.
Arches National Park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. That being said, most people visit the park between 8 am and 3 pm. If you’re looking to avoid crowds and traffic, it is best to arrive at the park before or after the busiest hours.
If you come during those times, be sure to bring your patience as you may be stuck in traffic lines or waiting for a parking spot at some of the popular attractions. Consider going to the park early or late to watch the sunrise or sunset over the National Park.
Most people visit Arches National Park in their private vehicles. Fees for a personal vehicle seating 15 people or less are $30. This covers everyone in the vehicle. For motorcyclists, the fee is $25 per bike. If you plan to walk or bicycle into the park, the fee is $15 per person.
Like most national parks, Arches' busy season is over the summer, but the busy season extends into the early spring and late fall due to the desert climate. You can expect the park to be busy between March 1 to October 31.
The best time to visit is either in the spring or fall. In the spring, while many other national parks are drying out after the winter snow, Arches is coming into full bloom as the days get longer, and snowmelt allows the wildflowers to bloom.
Temperatures have not reached their peak as they do during the height of summer, but days are still warmer in the desert than in most other places in the country.
The fall is another great time to visit as hot summer days get shorter and temperatures drop. You can still have warm sunny days, but nights are getting much cooler. While most places are cooling off and pants and long sleeves are becoming necessary on many days, you can still enjoy shorts and t-shirts in the desert.
Though camping space is limited in the park, there is no shortage of accommodations outside of Arches National Park. Moab and the surrounding area have tons of campgrounds as well as hotels and condos. In the past few years, the Moab area has grown and improved the campgrounds and built many new hotels thanks to increases in tourism.
Image Source: Dreamstime/Helena Bilkova | Camping is one of the most amazing things to do in Arches
If you're looking to camp inside the park, Devil's Garden Campground has one campground option. During the busy season between March 1 to October 31, you can expect this campground to be packed every night.
Reservations can be made up to six months in advance by either calling the campground or visiting www.recreation.gov. Typically, all campsites are full months in advance, so if you’re planning a last-minute trip during the busy season, you'll have to find a site outside the park.
If you're visiting outside of the busy season, November 1 through February 28 campsites are all first come, first serve.
Campsites outside the park can either be reserved in advance or on a first come, first serve basis. Check with the individual campground beforehand to figure out whether you need a reservation or not.
Outside of the park, there are many more camping options. In and around the town of Moab, there are many RV parks and campgrounds. Depending on the amenities you are looking for, campgrounds and RV parks range from full running water hookups, flush toilets, showers and even pools to simple pit toilets.
Campgrounds and RV parks closer to town may require reservations and are typically more expensive. Campgrounds farther from town on the Bureau of Land Management land are first come, first serve and cash only or free in some cases.
If you are camping at one of the more primitive campgrounds, follow all campground rules to preserve the desert landscape. Food and human waste do not break down in the desert as they do in other areas you may have camped. The dry, sandy climate slows down the process of decomposition. Be considerate of how you dispose of waste.
Depending on what you're looking for, there are many options to stay in Moab. Choose from big-name hotels such as Holiday Inn, SpringHill Suites, Super 8, Hyatt, etc or go with someplace locally owned. Below are a few locally owned hotels and accommodations in the Moab and Arches area.
If you’re looking for high-end accommodations with more than just a two-queen bed hotel room, check out the Moab Springs Ranch. The ranch is located just north of the Moab downtown area along U.S. Highway 191 and only a short drive away from the Arches National Park Entrance, making it easily accessible from everywhere. Choose between a luxury bungalow or a multi-bedroom townhome. Be sure to use all accommodations, including a heated pool, direct trail access, shady hammocks and a campfire circle. The Moab Springs Ranch has everything you need for a luxury stay in the desert.
The Aarchway Inn is the perfect accommodation for those looking to blend adventure with luxury. Also located just north of downtown Moab, the Aarchway Inn is only two miles from the Arches National Park entrance. Enjoy the outdoor pool, hot tub, playground and river walkway, all within view of the red rock walls characteristic of the area. Though branded as a luxury stay, the basic queen bedrooms are reasonably priced.
Whether you choose to camp or stay in a cabin, the Moab Valley RV Resort and Campground is a great place to stay. Conveniently located where U.S. Highway 191 crosses the Colorado River, the resort is not far from downtown Moab or Arches National Park. While staying here, enjoy the mini-golf course, outdoor pool and resort convenience store. Take advantage of being along the Colorado River by pedaling or walking the bike trail that runs along the river.
Tucked away at the base of the La Sale Mountains is the historic Pack Creek Ranch. Here you can escape and un-plug to truly enjoy your stay. Enjoy a stay in a rustic-elegant cabin spread out on 15 acres. Get away from the summer heat of downtown Moab for moderate temperatures around the ranch. Though farther away from town and Arches National Park than most places, A stay at the Pack Creek Ranch is sure to exceed all expectations to get away and escape in the summer.
If you can’t decide between camping or booking a hotel, try glamping at Under Canvas Moab. Each platform tent includes a bed, chairs, a private bathroom and a personal fire pit. Staying under canvas provides some of the best views to wake up to and fantastic stargazing each night. When you book a stay, at least one adventure activity is included. Under Canvas Moab is conveniently located north of the Arches National Park entrance on US Highway 191.
While Arches National Park is home to some incredible landscape features, the surrounding area of Moab and public land is fantastic too. Some activities may be challenging to do in the park, but there is also plenty to explore on public land outside the park.
Below are some of the best things to do in and around Arches National Park.
One of the best-known natural features of the American Southwest is Delicate Arch. It's depicted on the Utah welcome sign as you drive into the state and one of the recent license plate designs. A trip to Arches National Park is not complete without a stop to see the Delicate Arch.
Image Source: Dreamstime/Zhiwei Zhou
Heading towards the Wolfe Ranch area of the park, you can drive all the way to the end of the road to the viewpoint. From here, it is a short walk to the lower viewpoint or a hike the half-mile up to the upper viewpoint. If you have more time and the ability, hike out to the base of Delicate Arch. This three-mile round trip hike starts at the Wolfe Ranch parking area.
From the Devil's Garden area, hike out the 4.5-mile round trip trail to Double O Arch. The first half-mile of this trail is easy walking and takes you to the Landscape Arch. From there, if you're feeling more adventurous, the trail becomes more difficult. In some areas, you may need to scramble up the sandstone to continue on the trail.
Image Source: Dreamstime/Jaahnlieb | Double O Arch is one of the best Arches attractions
The farther out you hike, the less-trafficked the trail. From Double O Arch, you can either choose to head back the way you came or continue along the trail to Private Arch and loop around back to the parking area. If you decide to go this way, make sure you have a map and pay attention to where the trail goes. This way is far less traveled than the other half of the trail loop, and route finding can be difficult in some areas.
Mountain biking is an extremely popular sport in the desert. Bicycles are only allowed on paved and unpaved roads in the park itself. However, there are miles of incredible mountain biking trails outside the park. On your way to Arches National Park from I-70, stop at the Klondike Bluffs trailhead and explore all that desert biking has to offer.
Although you are not in the national park itself, you can see some of the park landscape and natural features from this trail network. As you get closer to the town of Moab, check out the Navajo Rocks trail system off of UT-313. These trails offer incredible views of prominent rock features of the red sandstone desert. Of course, you can always explore Arches National Park on a bicycle as long as you stay on the designated roads and off of trails.
One of the favorite things to do in Arches National Park is rock climbing. Rock climbing is an ever-growing sport, especially in the desert. The rough sandstone of the desert creates a unique climbing experience. Climbing is permitted in Arches National Park. If you wish to climb in the park, be sure to obtain a permit and register before heading out there.
Image Source: Dreamstime/Robert Crum
It is essential to stay safe and follow all park rules and regulations so that climbing can remain open and accessible to everyone. Outside of the park, there are even more climbing options. "High On Moab" is a guidebook specific to the climbs around the Moab area, including in Arches National Park.
The book has detailed pictures of routes and crags and is often more helpful than climbing apps for finding routes. Be sure to support your local guide shop and pick up a copy if you plan on climbing in Arches National Park or the Moab area.
Another sport with growing popularity is canyoneering. Arches National Park is an exciting place to explore via canyoneering as there are a variety of canyons and varying levels of difficulty to explore. Check out a new area of Arches National Park you may not have been able to access if not for canyoneering gear and expertise.
Image Source: Dreamstime/David Crane
Check out the Arches National Park website to obtain permits and find canyoneering routes in the park. If you are new to canyoneering, consider signing up for a guided experience outside the park. Though there are no guided trips available inside the park, several guide shops are located in Moab, and even more, canyons to explore in the surrounding area. As with all extreme sports, please be sure to follow all safety guidelines and regulations and be able to self-rescue at any time.
Although you must be certified to base jump, it is an exciting sport to watch. Base jumping is not allowed in Arches National Park, but the surrounding area of Moab is one of the few places you are allowed to base jump from natural features. Every year over the week of Thanksgiving, Moab is home to a high lining and base jumping gathering.
As you head into the canyons, you can see people base jumping from the top of the canyon walls. Although this sport is not for the faint of heart, it is exciting to watch. Typically, there will be 5-10 base jumpers in a group, and you can watch them all jumped one after the other. A popular spot to watch is down Kane Creek Boulevard as you get deeper into the steep canyon.
If you're looking for the next step in adventure but are unsure how to take it, consider signing up for a ranger-led Fiery Furnace hike. Fiery Furnace is an area of Arches National Park that has restricted access limited by permits. Rangers will guide you through the Fiery Furnace, where you will be required to walk or climb on irregular and broken sandstone, along narrow ledges, over drop-offs and loose sand.
Image Source: Dreamstime/Glenn Nagel
You may be required to squeeze through rock or job across a gap in some places. These hikes are great for those looking to get into canyoneering but aren't sure where to start. Rangers will help you with the necessary skills to get through the canyon. If you do sign up for a Fiery Furnace hike, keep in mind that you cannot turn back once you start due to the maze-like nature of the hike.
Rafting is one of the most adventurous things to do around Arches National Park. Just south of Arches National Park is the Colorado River. Along this stretch of river are many different float trips you can take. If you're new to rafting, check out a guided float trip with an outfitter in Moab.
Image Source: Dreamstime/Yobro10 | Rafting down the Colorado River is among the best activities in Arches National Park
Depending on your preferences, you can choose from a part-day float trip up to a multi-day float trip. Guides will make sure you get down the river safely. No experience is required and this can be an excellent experience for the entire family. If you plan to float the river yourself, check out and obtain any required permits depending on where you plan to put and take out your raft.
Of course, if you only have a limited time in the area, there’s always the good ol’ auto tour. This is the best way to experience Moab for first-timers. A quick drive through the park provides views of a number of arches and unique landscape features.
If heading back to I-70 east, consider driving River Road (UT-128) out of Moab. The road takes you along the Colorado River through a canyon of deep red sandstone walls. Although the drive is slower than taking US-191 back to the interstate, the change of pace and scenery can make for a much more enjoyable drive.