Arches Travel Tips
Arches National Park Logistics
Location: Arches National Park is located in southeast Utah, about 25 miles south of I-70 and 5 miles north of Moab on U.S. 191. The park is about 235 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and about 360 miles southwest of Denver, Colorado.
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
Overnight options: 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.
Expert Journal: Hiking with Children
• Experience the trail through their eyes
• Choose trails that encourage participation
• Climb with care. It's easier going up than down.
• Use educational games to keep kids engaged and alert
• Older children can carry own daypacks
Even families with small children can enjoy hiking the trails of Arches National Park — there’s no need to see everything from the car! Get the kids out, away from their iPods and other devices, and help them to appreciate the geologic wonders of the park.
Kids are naturally drawn to the unusual and visually stimulating rock formations in the park — cool! It looks like a monster! — and that’s great. But remember, climbing on the rocks can be very dangerous. It’s always easier to climb up than to climb back down, and every year kids (and adults) get caught in steep predicaments that they need assistance to escape from. And it goes without saying that a fall in such an environment is something to be avoided at all costs.
That said, hiking with children is all about seeing and experiencing nature through their eyes. Kids like to explore and have fun. They like to stop and point out bugs and plants, look under rocks, jump in puddles, and throw sticks. If you’re taking a toddler or young child on a hike, start with a trail that you’re familiar with or that you know is very short and easy. Trails that have interesting things for kids, like piles of leaves to play in or a small stream to wade through during the summer, will make the hike much more enjoyable for them and will keep them from getting bored.
You can keep your child from getting “bored” if you have a strategy before starting on the trail. Using games is not only an effective way to keep a child’s attention, it’s also a great way to teach him or her about nature. Quiz children on the names of plants and animals. Play the Alphabet Game, where you try to spot or think of park-related things that start with A, then with B, etc. This can keep kids occupied and skipping along the trail for long periods of time.
If your children are old enough, let them carry their own daypacks filled with treats and a favorite (small) toy. So that you are sure to go at their pace and not yours, let them lead the way. Playing follow the leader works particularly well when you have a group of children. Have each child take a turn at being the leader. Or take the lead yourself and get a little bit ahead where you can “hide” a small, wrapped candy treat on the trail (in plain sight, of course). The anticipation of finding a piece of candy can really propel kids up the trail. Naturally you need to make sure that you pack out all your candy wrappers—another great opportunity to teach your kids a lesson about taking care of our environment and leaving our national parks pristine so that others may enjoy them.