A stop at Arches National Park is a must on a visit to or road trip through Utah. The home of the iconic Delicate Arch, this Red Rock Wonderland contains not just 2,000 arches and rock formations but amazing living organisms and plant life despite being in the desert.
During my road trip, I spent a day and half exploring Arches and Moab. It was enough time to see the highlights of Arches, but given the range of outdoor adventure options (e.g., canyoneering, ATV trails, 4-Wheeling, etc.) in Moab, the Disney world of outdoor activities, I’d recommend planning to spend a few days here. As you’re planning your trip also keep in mind that Canyonlands National Park is within driving distance and definitely worth a visit.
After weeks on the road and hiking different trails, I welcomed the short and manageable trails of Arches. My longest hike (3.5 miles) was to Delicate Arch which had a gradual climb in the beginning but level for the majority of the hike. My hikes to the rest of the arches were all less than a mile long and I was able to drive to many other iconic rock formations.
Although the trails are short, it’s still really important to be well hydrated. Temperatures can easily soar to above 100, so remember take plenty of water on any hikes. Arches recommends carrying at least a liter of water for every three miles. In case you forget, there will be park rangers stationed at trailheads to provide a friendly reminder of this!
– Delicate Arch
– Double Arch
– Landscape Arch
– Turret & Windows Arches
Flying into Salt Lake City and driving the 230 miles to Moab is the most economical travel option. However, there are two smaller airport options too: Grand Junction Regional Airport (100 miles) and Canyonlands Regional Airport (11 miles).
The Arches National Park entrance is only 5 miles north of Moab. Traffic into the park can get very heavy during peak season (March – October), so definitely bring some patience. I visited in September and managed to avoid the congestion by heading to the park early in morning and later in the afternoon. This also help me beat the hottest parts of the day during my hikes. To help plan your visit to the park, Arches provides a traffic cam and parking lot status, which I found extremely helpful.
As with other National Parks, there is an entrance fee to Arches National Park. A seven day pass for cars/other vehicles is $30 and $25 for motorcycles. Visitors can also walk or bike into the park for $15/per person. There are annual pass options as well – $55 for unlimited entrance to Arches for one year or $80 for unlimited entrance to any National Park or any other public lands operated by the National Park Service.
Unlike other popular National Parks, there is no hotel inside Arches but the one campground, Devil’s Garden, has individual and group sites. Between March and October, reservations are required for camp sites. Reservations open six month in advance and typically fills up in a day. The campground operates on a first-come, first-serve basis from November through February. Each individual site is $25 and the price for group sites varies by location. While the campground doesn’t have a dump station, there is portable water and flush toilets.
A popular alternate for camping is the Dead Horse Point State Park, which offers moderately priced camp sites with modern amenities. There are also several hotel options in Moab. I stayed at the Holiday Inn which was near the center of the city and conveniently located to restaurants and other Moab attractions.