Behind the Arches National Park visitor center, cragged sandstone rises like a castle’s curtain wall between towers and turrets. The 40-mile scenic drive climbs high onto the plateau and crosses a vast and glorious landscape of panoramic views with distant snowcapped mountains. At sunset, you’ll swear photographers coined “magic hour” here as the red rock becomes saturated with the radiance of the sun. At sunrise, rays of light break over dramatic horizons. A new day in Arches begins. Let’s get hiking.
Arches National Park Weather
Southeastern Utah can exceed 100 F in the summer and the high country will rapidly parch your thirst. You can beat the heat by visiting the park in the morning and evenings. You’ll typically encounter excellent conditions in both the spring and fall, often deep into November, though nights are significantly cooler. "Monsoon" season thunderstorms in the late afternoon can result in dangerous flash floods.
Arches National Park is only 3.5 hours from Salt Lake City (or just over 1.5 hours from Grand Junction, Colorado). A Mighty 5® itinerary can begin in Arches the same day as a morning flight into Salt Lake International Airport. Road guides and hiking brochures are available at the visitor center and the park entrance, located 5 miles north of Moab via U.S. Route 191. Arches is open year-round, as is the campground.
Gateways to Arches
In Moab, find great local cuisine, coffee, brews and abundant accommodations or seek out nearby resort destinations like Red Cliffs Lodge or Sorrel River Ranch and Spa. Pack your tent for the public lands that surround Moab. Pack your bike (or rent locally) for world-renowned trails of all types. Pack your sense of wonder for dinosaur prehistory and starry skies. Developed campsites in Arches are frequently reserved early during the busy season. Permits can be obtained for backcountry camping within the park or on BLM land in the Canyonlands environs. In comparison to the rest of Utah's national parks, Arches has less backcountry camping access. Still, with free permits and a little topographical know-how, visitors can safely escape from the beaten path.
Build an Itinerary
In Arches, hiking, camping, road cycling, even rock climbing (on unnamed formations) can fill your itinerary. Every arch is a window into time and space that frames 300 million years of patient erosion. Arches also contains fields of spires, pinnacles and balanced formations that seem to defy the laws of physics. The National Park Service has options for quick, half-day drives through the parks with brief stops at overlooks, but Arches National Park’s must-see hikes can fill several days of exploration.
All told, road biking, climbing, hiking and camping abound within the boundaries of Arches National Park. You could make your own top ten hikes list just from Arches trails. While climbing on named arches and natural bridges in the park is prohibited, there are plenty of incredible features and routes for sandstone climbers.
Fill up your water bottles at the visitor center. To start the journey, the La Sal Mountains viewpoint creates contrast between Arches geology and the distant peaks. The short hikes at Park Avenue, Balanced Rock and the Windows Section quickly bring you up to speed on the park’s diverse formations and high concentration of arches. Even if you’ve seen pictures of Delicate Arch, you have not truly seen it. Like the more than 2,000 arches that give Arches National Park its name, Delicate Arch begs a closer look. As with all hikes at Arches, this one begins with anticipation and ends with a sense of fulfillment.
Arches National Park covers 76,359 acres (119 square miles or 308 square kilometers) with good paved and unpaved road access to much of the park.
Arches was expanded from its national monument status (1929) and established as a national park in 1971, just a month prior to Capitol Reef National Park, another of Utah's Mighty 5® national parks. The park now welcomes about a million visitors a year, with peak visitation occurring in the late spring and fall. Over the last thousand years, several indigenous people occupied areas near or within the boundaries of what is now Arches National Park, including Ute people when settlers of European descent first explored the park in the mid-19th century.
Arches National Park | Moab Utah
PO Box 907
Moab, Utah 84532