There’s a reason people flock to Arches National Park. The red rock against the blue sky would be enough for me, but add in over 2,000 documented arches (the highest concentration in the world) as well as stone pinnacles, fins, and balancing rocks, and you have an earthy wonder you must see for yourself.
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Where is Arches National Park?
Arches National Park lies five miles north of Moab, Utah. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from Salt Lake City.
There are tons of fun things to do in this area: Canyonlands National Park is only 30 minutes away, and Capitol Reef National park is two hours away. Nearby Dead Horse Point State Park is pretty awesome, too. Southern Utah is just magical; we love Goblin Valley and Leprechaun Canyon too!
When to Visit Arches National Park
Arches National Park has gotten extremely crowded; the only time you won’t encounter crowds is in the winter. The summer and fall are definitely the most pleasant times to visit, temperature-wise. When it’s sunny, even temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit make for pleasant hiking here. May and June as well as September to October are great times to visit.
DO NOT GO TO ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN THE SUMMER. You’re probably going to ignore me and do it anyway because that’s when the kids are off school, but I highly recommend against this. It’s hot and dry, temps can get over 100 degrees, and Moab is so crowded you’ll wait for a table at any restaurant (super miserable with hungry kids).
Arches in the winter, however…yes, it’s freezing and snowy and possibly icy and slippery, and fog might make some arches more difficult to see, but it’s got a magic those summer visitors are missing. We actually love Arches National Park in the winter. Just make sure you dress appropriately, as it is FREEZING.
What to Do in Arches National Park
The obvious, right? Drive slowly around and try to concentrate on the beauty of God’s creation while your kids complain that this is boring and they are hungry/need to pee/miss their Xbox. JUST KIDDING! Yes, there will be driving, but then you will stop and marvel and take photos and hopefully get to hike a little.
If you want to know where we like to go, check out our guide to the best hikes for kids in Arches National Park. (Spoiler: I do not recommend the all-uphill hike to Delicate Arch if anyone in your party is out of shape or prone to whining. The park rangers are getting tired of rescuing people on that hike. If you’re not up for the climb, you will want to make sure and take a stroll to the Lower Viewpoint of Delicate Arch).
The Windows area is an easier walk, mostly flat, leading to Double Arch, Turret Arch, and North and South Windows. This is a great place to get your stunning sunset photos if you don’t want to join the crowds at Delicate Arch.
The Fiery Furnace is another spectacular spot. So spectacular, in fact, that it requires permits that can sell out months in advance. Permits cost $6 for adults or $16 for the ranger-led hike, which is strongly recommended. The Fiery Furnace is a rocky labyrinth with no trails or cairns, and it’s best to go with someone who knows the area well.
Arches National Park hosts the usual ranger-led information sessions and Junior Ranger programs that you’ll find at most national parks, as well as a gorgeous and informative visitor center, so make sure to stop there upon entering the park.
Where to Stay in Arches National Park
You have lots of options for lodging near the park. The two hotels right outside the entrance to the park are Hyatt Place Moab and Moab Gateway Inn. Across the street, outside town, you’ll find the Aarchway Inn, a Motel 6 and a Super 8; just north is the more homey Moab Springs Ranch.
Right in Moab, a few miles from the park but close by restaurants, stores, and nightlife, there are lots of lodging options. I can vouch for the Gonzo Inn, which has super fun decor as well as a small but nice outdoor pool and hot tub.
If you want to camp, there is camping in Arches National Park at Devils Garden campsite, but spots may be hard to get at busy times. There are lots of other places to camp around Moab, too, including commercial campgrounds and on BLM land.
If you’re really on a budget, motels are usually cheaper in nearby Green River, a 40-minute drive from Arches National Park. (Tip: if you stay in Green River, I can heartily recommend the West Winds Restaurant. Don’t let the truck stop location fool you. The food was pretty good and super cheap; perfect for feeding a passel of children, and way better than the nearby Subway.)
Tips for Visiting Arches National Park
Pack water, water, water, and MORE WATER when visiting Arches National Park. People not from the desert (like my husband) often fail to appreciate just how much water each person in your family will need to drink here, regardless of the season. The only place to fill your water bottles is at the Visitor Center at the entrance to the park. (True story: we had to turn back on a relatively short hike in Capitol Reef National Park one summer because the kids drank all four liters of water I had in my bag before we were even halfway there. Needless to say this was humiliating.)
Pack salty snacks, too. You need salt along with water when you are sweating a lot. Like in the summer.
Make sure to have sunscreen — the sun is brutal in the summer, but it can be bad in the winter, too.
Dress appropriately for the weather. Hats and sunglasses are critical in the summer. In the winter, it can be brutally cold and slippery. Cheap shoe grippers will come in handy; the visitor center sells them but can and does sell out, so make sure to buy them in town first.
if you don’t like crowds or bumper-to-bumper traffic, make sure you do your research before you go. Arches National Park is very crowded for most of the year, but in winter you can still find some solitude.
If you have to be there at busy times, or are changing your mind about Arches, consider visiting other fun spots around Moab, or head down to Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. The nearby Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Parks also tend to be less packed with people.