Arches National Park lies in eastern Utah in the United States. This park is home to over two thousand natural arches! The park is situated in a beautiful high desert landscape. A trip to Arches National Park can be done in one day. Some visitors may choose to stay around longer as the park offers plenty of hiking and exploration opportunities.
Getting to Arches National Park
Like so many places in this vast country, Arches National Park is quite remote. You won’t be able to get there using public transport. Even if you did, the only way to conveniently get around the park is by car. Most visitors therefore choose to come by car, so I won’t talk about tour operators in this post. The town nearest to the park is Moab. Getting to the park from Moab is easy; head north on Highway 191 for a bit and then turn right onto Arches Entrance Rd.
The nearest city of decent size, Grand Junction, is about a two hour drive from the park. My number one piece of advice for this drive is to put the regular highways aside and take Scenic Byway 128 on your way to Arches. It’ll take you a bit longer, but that is mostly because this stretch of highway is absolutely, stunningly beautiful! You’ll be pulling over all the time to enjoy the views, so better leave early if you’ve only got one day to see the park.
Grand Junction has an Amtrak Station – the California Zephyr stops once per day during the daytime. Rental cars are available a plenty in Grand Junction, so doing part of your trip by train certainly is a realistic option if you’re not from the area. (I did it!)
When to go
Arches National Park has become very busy in recent years and the park’s parking facilities have not kept up with this increase in visitors. Therefore, try to arrive outside the busy season, but keep the weather in mind: temperatures can drop significantly in winter. Your best bet is probably to arrive in the “shoulder season”: March-May and September-October, approximately speaking.
Park entrance fees
Cars pay $30 for a seven-day access pass, regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle. A motorcyclist pays $25 whereas bicyclists and hikers only pay $15. You can pay upon arrival or purchase your pass in advance through pay.gov. Check the NPS website for any changes.
Most notable arches
As mentioned before, there are so many arches in this park that you’ll never see the majority of them. Most tourists visit only a handful, which is a shame; these ancient sculptures are truly amazing! My top picks are listed below, but definitely try to explore more if you’ve got time.
The most famous of them all and the symbol of the state of Utah. It stands almost 60 feet tall! Delicate Arch is located some 30 minutes from the park’s entrance station (driving) and you won’t be able to get very close by car. To get up close, you’ll have to walk approximately 3 miles (5 km). It’s a pretty trail with stunning views all around so I highly recommend doing this. Lighting conditions are especially good around sunset, so try to plan your day such that this is your last stop. Note: the place gets crowded during sunset!
There are two other viewpoints to view Delicate Arch from a distance. Almost no walking is required to get to these viewpoints. Bear in mind that the road leading to these viewpoints will be closed if it floods (unpredictable).
Double Arch consists of a pair of arches that are absolutely massive in size. Pictures won’t do much justice to their scale — you’ll have to see them for yourself. The height of the large opening on the front is 104 feet (32 m)! An easy half-mile (0.8 km) hike from the parking lot takes you right up to the arch. There are no fences or rails to prevent you from exploring the arch. You can climb all the way up to the second opening.
Devil’s Garden: Landscape Arch and Double O Arch
At the very end of the park road you’ll find a parking lot from where a trail leads to several impressive arches. The first one is Landscape Arch; it is the longest spanning arch on the North American continent. Several large chunks came off in the 1990’s, after which the area underneath the arch was closed off.
The trail continues past Landscape Arch, but this part is quite difficult and only suitable for prepared hikers. The trail is not signed well. The surface is rough and steep, and sometimes you’ll be walking close to drop-offs. On the way, you can stop at Partition and Navajo Arch, but don’t bother too much about them if you’re short on time. At the end of the trail, Double O Arch will be waiting for you. These two arches are stacked on top of each other. This place is absolutely stunning during sunset!! Not only because of the beautiful arch and relative quietness, but also because of the impressive vastness of the desert that lies beyond the park’s perimeter.
“The Windows” is one area in the park with a particularly high concentration of arches. The most obvious ones in this area are called North and South Window. You can reach these arches from the same parking lot as Double Arch; they actually are very close together.
I consider Arches National Park’s geological features to be some of the most interesting in the world. The weather in the park is generally good and the area surrounding the park is equally beautiful. The park makes for a great day- or multi-day trip! Have you been? Post a comment below.