Living up to its name, Arches National Park boasts over 2,000 natural stone arches, along with other remarkable formations such as soaring pinnacles, rock fins, and enormous balanced rocks. Located near Moab, this park is relatively easy to get to compared to other national parks. As a result, it’s also more crowded, so it’s wise to plan your trip in advance. This destination offers an opportunity to marvel at incredible natural formations and experience stunning sunsets and star-filled night skies.
How to Get to Arches National Park
If you’re planning to fly into the area and rent a car, the closest large airport is in Salt Lake City, which is 236 miles away. However, Grand Junction, Colorado, has a regional airport. If you can arrange to fly into Grand Junction and rent a car, it’s only 110 miles away. If you’re traveling by car in the Four Corners Region, Arches National Park is about 163 miles from Durango, Colorado.
The Best Time to Visit
Most visitors — more than 1.5 million per year! — plan to arrive in Arches National Park during the spring or fall primarily due to the pleasant weather during these two seasons. The summer temperatures can reach the 90s, making outdoor activities less enjoyable, and winters can be quite chilly.
Things to Know
Whichever route you take, once you arrive at the national park you can expect to pay an entry fee for your vehicle. Check the prices ahead of time as they are subject to change.
As you might imagine, with the number of people who visit this park annually, having a reservation has become a requirement. Between April and October, the park allows 2,700 vehicles to enter the park from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. at allotted time slots each day. This plan eases congestion and makes the experience more enjoyable for visitors. However, once you are in the park, you can stay as long as you like.
Even though your dog is most likely part of your family, your pooch will not be allowed on any hiking trails. You can take them on leashed walks in parking lots or roads. Here’s more information from the park about pets and where they are allowed as well as safety tips.
Bring (and use) sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water, and snacks. There are no restaurants in the park but restrooms are available in the visitor center and there are vault toilets throughout the park.
The Famous Arches and Other Formations
The formation of the arches in Arches National Park began millions of years ago with the deposition of sandstone layers. Over time, the earth’s surface uplifted, and the sandstone layers cracked due to the immense pressure. Erosion played a crucial role, as water, ice, wind, and temperature changes gradually wore away the softer rock layers, leaving the harder rock intact. This process sculpted the stunning arches and other unique rock formations that we see today. Here are a few of the most famous formations.
This iconic formation is the symbol of Utah and is considered one of the most famous geologic features in the world. It’s difficult to see this arch from the main road, but you can walk short distances from two vantage points to get a good look, or hike three miles to experience this natural wonder up close. If you hike there, you’ll pass the Wolfe Ranch cabin and a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs.
Another famous formation is Balanced Rock, which is not actually balanced at all. It appears that one rock is on top of a pedestal, but erosion has simply worn away the rock to create the structure that you see. This feature can be seen from the road, but you might want to hike the short distance from the parking area to see it up close. It’s a popular place for photography and star gazing. A nearby picnic area has some amenities and great views.
In this popular area of Arches National Park, you’ll find spires, arches, and narrow rock walls called fins which form when rainwater erodes parallel fractures in the rocks. Fins will, over long periods of time, erode and form arches. The area also promises spectacular views, hiking, and the park’s only campground, available by reservation from March through October. Note that the campground has no showers or RV hook-ups and if you want a spot, reserve it early. If you’re brave enough to camp in the winter months, you don’t need a reservation.
Nearby Lodging and Dining
The Devil’s Garden Campground is the only accommodation available in Arches National Park, but nearby Moab has accommodations from budget-friendly to upscale. After a day in the park with picnics and snacks, you might enjoy a meal out in Moab as well. The city has plenty of culinary options to suit any diner.
Enjoy your visit to Arches National Park!