Arches National Park Logistics
Geography and geology
In Arches National Park, the fabulous geological oddities known as arches are thought to result from the movement of unstable strata deep beneath the earth’s crust, then subsequent erosion by wind and water along with the weakening effect of freezing and thawing cycles on delicate sandstone formations. Beneath the earth’s surface here lies a thick salt bed, the residue of a vast sea that covered the land hundreds of millions of years ago.
Geologic deposits as much as a mile deep built up over this thick bed of salt, and the sea gradually disappeared. The unstable salt layers buckled and shifted beneath the weight of the hardened upper layers, creating faults and domes on the surface. As the surface was eroded by wind and water, delicate fins, spires, and balanced rocks — and, of course, arches—of harder stone were exposed and sculpted. These formations were further acted upon by wind, water, and extremes of temperature, leaving us this incredible geological treasure. (That’s the reasonable theory, but if your kids think these arch formations were left by gigantic prehistoric space invaders playing in a big terrestrial sandbox, they just might be right.)
GPS coordinates of park entrances
The entrance to Arches National Park is located at the intersection of U.S. 191 and Arches Scenic Drive. GPS: 38.616575, -109.616289
There are no lodges in Arches National Park. Nearby Moab has numerous lodging options. For more information visit www.discovermoab.com.
Nearest groceries and supplies
The visitor center sells light snack food and also has potable water. All other supplies can be purchased in nearby Moab.
Climate and weather
The Arches National Park weather varies greatly with the seasons. Spring brings warm days, cool nights, and strong winds. Occasional rain storms commonly occur in spring. Daytime highs average 60 to 80 degrees F and lows average 30 to 50 degrees F during the spring and fall.
Summer begins in May as daily high temperatures climb toward 100 degrees. Expect hot days in summer, with highs sometimes reaching 110 degrees. The park’s high elevation (between 4,000 and 5,700 feet), however, keeps temperatures cooler than in Moab or along the Colorado River. Summer mornings can be cool and delightful at Arches.
Expect afternoon thunderstorms in August and September, sometimes with torrential rain that floods dry washes and cascades off cliffs. Autumn offers brilliant days with clear skies and warm temperatures. October is the wettest month with an inch of rain. Winter can be bitterly cold and snowy; almost 11 inches of snow falls in the average winter. But the weather can also be dry and warm, with daily highs in the 50s or even 60s. Still, Arches National Park weather can be a bit unpredictable so it’s a good idea to check the forecast right before you depart and bring clothing suitable for a variety of weather conditions if you plan to do a lot of hiking.
When to visit
Arches National Park is open 24 hours a day year round. The visitor center is open every day except Christmas. Hours vary so check the park’s website for current information.
Fees and Permits
7-day entrance passes to Arches National Park cost $30 for vehicles, $25 per person for motorcyclists and $15 per person for bicyclists, and pedestrians.
Permits are required to access the Fiery Furnace hike without a ranger. The cost is $6 for adults (13 and older), $3 for children (5 through 12), $3 for Interagency Senior Pass holders, and $3 for Interagency Access Pass holders. Children under 5 years of age are not permitted on this hike. Costs vary for ranger-led tours; schedule well in advance of your visit.
A permit is required for backpacking in Arches and it must be obtained in person at the visitor center. Visit the park’s website for more information.