Last Updated on May 19, 2023
Arches National Park is one of most popular national parks in the U.S. – the parks gets close to 2 million (!) visitors per year, and it’s easy to see why: The Park has the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the entire world, which is what makes it completely unique. But it’s not just the over 2,000 arches that will wow you here: there are also pinnacles, rock formations, monoliths, canyons, massive rocks and fins. Add to that the striking tones of reddish and orange of many of the sandstone formations and the giant cliffs in parts of the park, and you’ll get why this park has such a “Wow Factor”.
Arches National Park is also part of Utah’s “Mighty Five” National Parks: Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef are the other four.
The “Delicate Arch” is the most famous of all the arches – a free standing rock that stands 64 feet (21 meters) high and 45 feet (15 meters) high – so famous that graces the Utah license plates and is recognized as Utah’s state symbol.
Arches National Park has always been one of Utah’s most popular National Parks, but over the past few years, the popularity has increased even more: so much so, that the NPS was forced to introduce a timed ticket reservation system in order to control the crowds during the busiest months. It now takes a bit more planning to visit Arches National Park, which is why I am detailing all the information you need to plan your trip to Moab – the base for your Arches exploration. Read on to find out how to reserve a ticket to Arches National Park, what the best hikes are, where to stay near the park, what to pack for your trip, and more:
Everything you need to know before visiting Arches National Park in 2023
Where is Arches National Park?
Arches National Park is located in southeastern Utah, about four hours from Salt Lake City (237 miles away) and about two hours from Grand Junction (110 miles). These two cities have the closest airports to Arches National Park, but most people fly into Salt Lake City since it is serviced by more airlines than Grand Junction. You can fly to Grand Junction on United from Denver, on American Airlines from Phoenix and Dallas, and on Allegiant from Las Vegas and Los Angeles (seasonal service). Denver is 350 miles away (just under 6 hours driving).
Canyonland Fields Airport is the closest airport, only 15 mins from Arches National Park and 20 mins north of Moab, but the small regional airport only has direct flights to Salt Lake City and Denver.
It is recommended to rent a car from whatever airport you arrive at and to drive to the National Park, since there is no public transportation.
The closest town the National Park is Moab, just 5 miles south of Arches.
How big is Arches National Park?
Arches National Park covers 76,679 acres / 119 square miles. That may sound like a lot, but the park is actually quite compact, which makes it easy to visit, even if you don’t have a lot of time. The main road from the park entrance to the last viewpoint / hiking area (which is Devil’s Garden, also the only campground inside the park) is just under 20 miles long.
How much does it cost to visit Arches National Park?
There are several tickets available for Arches National Park:
- 7-day pass (only valid at Arches) per vehicle: US$30
- 7-day pass (only valid at Arches) per motorcycle: US$25
- 7-day individual pass (only valid at Arches): US$15
- Southeast Utah Annual Parks Pass for Arches, Canyonlands, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges: US$55
- America The Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass: US$80
The Annual National Parks pass is free for members of the U.S. military.
Tip: If you are planning to visit Canyonlands National Park, too, it is more economical to buy the Southeast Utah Annual Parks Pass. If you are planning to visit more than two National Parks (not just in Utah – anywhere in the U.S.), the Annual National Parks Pass is the most economical option. You can order it online and it is valid for one year starting on the date of purchase.
Exempt from the entry fee are holders of the following passes: Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Volunteer Pass, Interagency 4th Grade Pass, Interagency Military Pass, Interagency Golden Age Pass, Interagency Golden Access Pass
The reservation fee is $2.
Note: Even as a holder of one of the above passes you will still need to reserve a time slot for your visit to Arches National Park.
Arches National Park can be visited for free on the following dates:
- 16 January 2023 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)
- 22 April 2023 (First Day of National Park Week)
- 4 August 2023 (Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act)
- 23 September 2023 (National Public Lands Day)
- 11 November 2023 (Veterans Day)
How to make a reservation for Arches National Park?
If you are planning to visit Arches National Park between March and October in your own vehicle, you need to make a timed reservation for your visit. During these months, the number of cars allowed in the park is capped at 2,700 between 6am and 5pm. The timed tickets are necessary to avoid overcrowding, because visitor numbers have gone up 73 percent over the last decade, from roughly a million to 1.8 million people.
Reservations have to be made online, and tickets are always released three months in advance. That means, you won’t be able to make a reservation for August in March, but you should set a reminder for the date 90 days before your planned visit so that you don’t forget to make a reservation. The time slots fill up quickly, especially during the summer months and on weekends.
Note: Reservations are made to be per vehicle, not per person.
Note: If you enter the park before 6am or after 5pm, a reservation is NOT needed.
To make the reservation online, you will have to create a profile on the Recreation.gov website. After signing up, you open the calendar on the Arches National Park Timed Entry website and click on the date of your choice. You’ll then see all available time slots for the date you selected.
After selecting the date and time for your visit, you’ll be prompted to make the payment. Once the payment is approved and the reservation is confirmed, you’ll get a confirmation email. That is the email you’ll want to flag so that you can show it at the entrance of the park.
It costs $2 to make the reservation online.
Note: You will not be able to enter the park before your allotted time slot, but you have up to an hour after your reserved time to enter the park. That means if you book a ticket for 8am, you’ll be able to enter the park between 8 and 9am.
You will need to present your reservation on your smartphone (a screenshot is sufficient) or printed, along with any form of ID (passport, drivers license or any other government-issued ID).
There is no time limit as to how long you can stay inside the park.
You are also able to leave the park and re-enter the park on the day you made the reservation for, once your booking is activated. That means if you booked an early morning ticket for 8am to visit the park during the day, you’ll be able to return for sunset on the same day without having to reserve a second time slot.
You’re headed to Moab and did not make a reservation for Arches National Park?
There are still a number of ways to enter the park:
- Enter before 6am or after 5pm
- Enter with a guided tour (see below for the best guided tours of Arches National Park)
Note: You do not need to reserve a time slot if:
- You have a reservation at the Devil’s Garden Campground
- You have a back-country camping permit (there are 4 back-country backpacking campgrounds inside the park – a permit is required)
- Special Use Permit
- Fiery Furnace Permit
If you have any of the above, make sure to have the permit on you when you enter the park.
How much time does it take to visit Arches National Park?
Two days are needed if you want to do a number of hikes and stop at all the viewpoints along the scenic drive through the park. However, if you just want to drive the 22-mile long scenic road and don’t plan on doing any hikes, one day is enough.
A 22-mile long road may not seem long, but trust me, the drive takes longer than you think, and spending time at each of the viewpoints adds up. There’s always a short walk to get to the viewpoint / arch from the carpark, and you should calculate at least 15 minutes per lookout.
Also remember that you have to drive 22 miles back, so in total you’ll be driving 44 miles, plus the five miles from Moab and back (if you are staying there).
In addition to the main road, there are two smaller roads leading that are both about 2.5 miles long. One leads to the Windows Viewpoint, and the other one to the Lower Delicate Arch Lookout. If you want to visit these spots, factor in the additional miles / time.
Tip: I recommend driving all the way to the end of the road and start there – that way you’ll already get a better idea of the layout of the park and the viewpoints you want to stop at. The great thing about Arches National Park is that many of the arches require only a short walk (around 15 minutes return) from each respective car park.
Is one day enough to visit Arches National Park?
If you only have one day to visit Arches National Park, it is going to be a long day, but it is definitely possible to cover all of the famous arches and do some hikes in just one day. I recommend starting early.
If you’re planning to just drive the scenic road and stop at the viewpoints, one day is definitely sufficient.
If you are an avid hiker and want to walk several of the hiking trails, you should plan in two days in the park.
Can you just drive through Arches National Park?
It is possible to see many Arches without having to hike, yes! There’s a scenic drive through the entire park, which is 22 miles long. If you’re planning to just drive the scenic road and stop at a few viewpoints along the way, you can visit the National Park in half a day.
Note: You cannot visit the famous Delicate Arch from the road, and some of the other arches still recommend short walks.
Not to be missed: If you’re pressed for time, I recommend quick stops at the Double Arch, the Windows, Skyline Arch and the Balanced Rock. Also stop at the Garden Of Eden viewpoint for the panoramic vistas. If you have time for the 2-hour round-trip hike to the Delicate Arch, you’ll want to do it since it is the most famous arch of them all (it’s not the easiest hike though and requires reasonable fitness, as well as sturdy shoes – see more details below). The Park Avenue Viewpoint at the trailhead of the Park Avenue Hike also offers an incredible view.
Tip: If you’re driving through the park, consider buying the $9.99 audio guide to Arches National Park – The audio tour provides insightful commentary about the park and its fascinating geological features.
What are the best hikes in Arches National Park?
Delicate Arch is the most famous of the arches, which means it is usually very busy. Everyone who is able to walk the 3 miles (round-trip) to the iconic arch is doing this hike, and visitor numbers spike around golden hour. Sunset and sunrise are both popular times to visit this stunning arch.
Tip: A lot of people hike up to the Delicate Arch in the early morning, for sunrise, but the light is actually better during golden hour and sunset. I’d recommend saving this hike for last and visit Delicate Arch at sunset.
Note: If you’re not an experienced hiker, you’ll find Delicate Arch not the easiest hike. I would only recommend this hike if you have sturdy shoes and feel comfortable walking on rocks and uneven surfaces, at times quite steep.
Length & Time: 3 miles (5 kilometers) round trip / 1.5 – 2 hours
Tip: If you don’t have that much time but you still want to see the famous arch, head to Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. The hike to this viewpoint is shorter – 0.6 miles (roughly 1 kilometer) round trip – and takes only 20 – 30 minutes. It should be noted though that this is a steep climb.
Also: Seeing the Delicate Arch close-up is a much more impressive experience than seeing it from afar.
North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch
Turret Arch is the closest to the road, and there is a hiking trail that connects all three arches. This hike allows you to see several arches in a short amount of time, and with little effort.
Length & Time: 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometers) round trip / 30 – 45 minutes
Devil’s Garden Hike
A lot of people say that this is the best hike in Arches National Park, because you get to see seven different arches, plus some incredible fins and other rock formations. On this hike, you also get to see Landscape Arch, which is the arch with the longest span in all of North America (306 feet / 93.3 kilometers) and is the fourth largest arch in the world! This is also the longest hike in the park, so if you want to get your steps in, don’t miss the Devils Garden Hike.
Length & Time: 4.2 miles (6.7 kilometers) – it takes about 4 hours. If you don’t have that much time, it’s worth just hiking to Landscape Arch with a quick detour to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch along the way. The hike to Landscape Arch is 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) roundtrip and takes about an hour.
Park Avenue Trail
I love this hike because it’s so different than all the other hikes in the park. It doesn’t feature aren’t any arches! Instead, you walk through a canyon alongside giant monoliths and interesting rock formations. It is named after Park Avenue in New York City, where the imposing skyscrapers that flank the famous Manhattan thoroughfare evoke a similar feeling of smallness as you walk alongside these giant towering canyon-like sandstone walls.
The light here is best in the late afternoon, when the sun brings out the most vibrant orange in the rocks.
Tip: If you have someone in your family who doesn’t like hiking, make them drop you off at the Park Avenue trailhead and wait for you at the Courthouse Towers viewpoint – that way you won’t have to walk the whole way back.
Length & Time: 2 miles (3 kilometers) – about 45 minutes; or half that if you have someone picking you up at the Courthouse Towers
Sand Dune Arch Trail
The sand dune arch also feels a little different than all the other arches, because it is hidden inside a small slot canyon. The reddish sandstone rocks surrounding the arch and the sand you walk through (hence the name “Sand Dune Arch”) reminded me of the hikes I did in Jordan.
Length & Time: This is a short hike, only half a mile long. It takes only 15 minutes to walk to the Sand Dune Arch and back to the car park.
Are there guided tours of Arches National Park?
It is possible to visit Arches National Park with a guided tour, yes. Here are some tours that are worth checking out:
4-hour morning tour
This tour includes several stops in the National Park, short hikes, and a tour guide who provides insightful commentary on the creation of the arches, the flora and fauna, and other interesting things to know.
Price: $108 ($88 for children) per person including snacks, water and the park entrance fee. Book here.
4-hour sunset tour
As the 4-hour morning tour, this tour shows you the very best places in Arches National Park in a short amount of time, and a tour guide who provides additional details and can answer all your questions. The start time of the sunset tour varies depending on the time of sunset.
Price: $108 ($88 for children) per person including snacks, water and the park entrance fee. Book here.
Scenic flight over the arches
You can take a 30-minute scenic flight over the arches, canyons and the Colorado River. Getting to see the landscapes of the American Southwest from a bird’s eye view is truly remarkable, and if this is in your budget, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity for a scenic flight. Book here.
Price: $150 per person / $120 kids ages 3-12
4×4 half-day tour
This tour takes you “off the beaten path” in Arches National Park, since you’ll be traveling off-road, allowing you to see parts of the park that most people don’t get to see. You learn about the geology and history of the park and the rock formations, and even see dinosaur tracks! You’ll also see lesser known arches such as the “Eye of the Whale Arch”, “Tower Arch” and “The Marching Men”, a group of 7 towers lined up in one row. The tour starts and ends in Moab.
Price: $189 per person. Book here.
Where to stay near Arches National Park
Moab, five miles south of the National Park, has the most accommodation options, however, they do fill up quickly since there is a limited number of hotels and lodges. Book your accommodation well in advance!
Camping / RV
There is only one campground inside the National Park: The Devils Garden Campground. There are only 50 sites, so again, make your reservation well in advance, if you’re planning to visit Arches between March and October. You can reserve your spot up to six months in advance.
Note: This campground is very basic: There are no hookups, no dump station, no showers, and there’s no cell coverage.
There are plenty of campgrounds in the vicinity of Arches National Park, and one that has great amenities (even a pool!) is Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground.
Backpacking campgrounds: There are a couple of campsites for backcountry backpackers, but a permit is required and I recommend reading through all the necessary details and requirements on the NPS website.
Hotels in Moab
These are the best rated hotels, and most of them are located centrally on the Main Street in Moab.
Note that prices vary depending on time of year and peak during holidays and on weekends.
Budget hotels < $200
- Scenic View Inn & Suites Moab – great accommodation right in the center of Moab. Outdoor swimming pool, gym, fridge & coffee maker in each room. Double rooms from $175 per night, including breakfast.
- Expedition Lodge – hotel with outdoor pool on the northern end of Main Street. Double rooms with 2 king beds (can fit two adults and two kids) start at $156, including breakfast.
- My Place Hotel – 3-star hotel on the northern end of Moab, with a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and a shared lounge. Double rooms from around $190.
- Bowen Motel – Affordable hotel on Main Street; double rooms from $186 per night.
- Aarchway Inn – Small hotel north of Moab. Comfortable, spacious rooms with fridge & microwave. Outdoor swimming pool and gym. Breakfast included. Room rates start at around $200 per night.
Mid-range hotels $200 – $300 per night
- The Gonzo Inn – Located on the southern end of Moab’s Main Street, this hotel has an outdoor pool and hot tub. Every room has a patio, a coffee maker, fridge and microwave. Double rooms from $250, breakfast included.
- MainStay Suites – 2-star hotel with comfortable rooms (some are equipped with a kitchen including fridge, a dishwasher and a microwave). Seasonal outdoor swimming pool. Double rooms from $242 per night, including breakfast.
- Rustic Inn – self-catering rooms with kitchenettes and apartments right in the center of Moab. There’s an outdoor pool. Double rooms per night from around $212; 2-bedroom apartments from around $300.
- Element by Marriott – The Element Hotel is a new 3-star hotel (opened post-pandemic) on the northern end of Moab. Comfortable studios with fully equipped kitchenettes. From $269 per night (sleeps 4 people), breakfast included.
- Comfort Suites Moab – Located on the northern end of Main Street. Large rooms, outdoor pool and hot tub, hot breakfast included in the room rate. Double rooms from $235 per night.
- Radcliffe Moab – 3-star hotel on the southern end of Moab, with modern rooms, equipped with coffee makers, fridge, microwave. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool, a shared lounge, a restaurant and bar onsite. Double rooms from $259 per night.
Splurge / Luxury $300 – $500
- Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn – hotel with spacious rooms right on Main Street. There’s an outdoor pool and a hot tub, hot breakfast included. Double rooms from $312 per night
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott Moab – scenic resort north of Moab, right by the Colorado River, just a short drive from the entrance to Arches National Park. Water park with seasonal outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi. There’s also a gym, and breakfast included. Rooms from $309 per night.
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Moab – another hotel right on Main Street, with spacious rooms & kitchenettes, and a heated indoor swimming pool. Hot breakfast included in the room rate. Double suites start at $300 per night.
- Red Cliffs Lodge: Beautiful resort with stunning cliff views right on the Colorado River off of Scenic Byway 128 (about 25 mins from Arches National Park & Moab). Onsite are a horse corral, a Western film museum and Castle Creek Winery. Every suite have private patios with creek or river views. There are an outdoor pool, a gym and 2 tennis courts. Breakfast can be booked for an additional charge. Double suites from $300 per night.
- Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection By Hilton – Luxury resort in the heart of Moab. Outdoor swimming pool and full-service spa. Restaurant on-site. King suites start at around $650 per night.
Other attractions near Arches National Park
It’s worth spending a few nights in Moab and use it as a base to explore more of the region – there’s more than just Arches National Park to see here! Other places worth visiting are:
Canyonlands is a nearby National Park that is famous for its vast canyon views and unique red-and-white-striped stone spires. The northern part of the park, known as the “Island In The Sky” district, is around 40 minutes from Moab, whereas the “Needles” district (which is home to the stone spires) is just under 90 minutes from Moab (driving south).
If you don’t have much time, I recommend focusing on the northern part of the park (Island in the Sky), which is closer to Moab and offers a great introduction to everything this giant park has to offer. Island in the Sky also has several fantastic overlooks a number of short hiking trails. Don’t miss the Green River Overlook and the Mesa Arch Hike.
Dead Horse State Park
This State Park makes for a great add-on to your Arches National Park visit since it is only 30 miles from Moab (it takes about 40 minutes to get there) and it is a relatively small park. Despite its small size, it offers breathtaking canyon views and short hiking trails. The Dead Horse Point Overlook is not to be missed, and if you go around sunset (or sunrise, if you’re an early riser), then you’ll get to see the massive canyon cliffs in a really pretty glowing light. Admission to Dead Horse Point State Park is $20 per vehicle, or $10 per motorbike / bicycle / walk-in.
Scenic Colorado River Drive
- Scenic Colorado River Drive
- La Sal Mountain Loop
Whitewater rafting on the Colorado River
No matter if you’re an experienced rafter or a first-timer, the Colorado River is a fantastic place to get an adrenaline kick on the water while enjoying the spectacular scenery surrounding you. In fact, the ride from Moab to the Colorado River, along scenic Byway 128, is already worth the trip. On this half-day adventure, you’ll be on mild class 1 and 2 rapids for about 7 miles. After the rafting trip, you’ll get to enjoy a buffet-style lunch before returning to Moab. Tours are $95 and can be booked here.
A 4×4 UTV tour of the Hell’s Revenge Trail
If you’re looking for a bit of an adventure, this self-driving UTV tour is a great way to spend an afternoon in Moab! You’ll be driving the 4×4 UTV, but you’ll follow a guide through the Hells Revenge Trail. You’ll be able to enjoy some epic of the Colorado River and of course Arches National Park views along the way – views that you wouldn’t get any other way. Tours are about 2.5 hours long and they include water and snacks. Price: $178.50. Book here.
Other things to know before visiting Arches National Park
Checking the weather forecast is essential
The weather can change quickly in the high desert, and rainstorms can move in and out very fast. I recommend checking a weather app or website that offers an hourly forecast for the park.
Crowds in Arches National Park
If you want to avoid the crowds, visit between November and March, when the park is less busy. Arches National Park is open year-round 24/7, but is considerably busier during the summer months.
May, June and September are typically the months when it gets the most crowded. If you are planning to visit the park on a Holiday weekend, like Memorial Day or 4th July, or during vacation times such as spring break, expect bigger crowds than usual. This can affect the availability of parking spaces at the viewpoints, since there’s only a limited number of parking spaces at each car park.
No Food and limited water inside Arches National Park
There is no food available for purchase inside the National Park – make sure to bring a packed lunch or pick up some snacks in Moab before you head to the park. Make sure to pack enough water, especially during the summer months. It gets very hot in Utah during the day, even when it is cool in the morning.
Drinking water is only available in two locations in the park: At the Arches Visitor Center and at the very end of the scenic road, at the Devils Garden trailhead.
Are dogs allowed in Arches National Park?
It’s not recommended bringing your dog to Arches National Park, since they’re not allowed on the trails and it would be quite miserable for them to wait in the car, considering how hot it gets in this part of Utah. If you are traveling to Moab with your dog, the Corona Arch Trail outside of the National Park allows dogs on a leash.
Things to pack for your trip to Arches National Park
If you are planning to do one or more hikes, pack comfortable hiking clothes and hiking shoes, although sneakers are sufficient for most of the hikes in the National Park.
Additionally, you should pack:
- Sunscreen (if you visit during the summer months, consider this sweat-proof Neutrogena 70+ SPF sunscreen specifically for hiking)
- A sunhat or a visor, especially if you are visiting during the summer months.
- Food and Water (there is no food inside the park; the closest restaurants and supermarkets are in Moab).
- A headlamp comes in handy if you hike up to the Delicate Arch for sunset, or if you visit the park at night to stargaze:
Stargazing at Arches National Park
Arches National Park is a dedicated “Dark Sky Reserve”, which means it is a place with low light pollution and excellent air quality.
And since the national park is open 24 hours, you can enjoy the night sky in the park while you’re there. The easiest way to see the night sky is by doing the sunset hike to the Delicate Arch and then drive a little further into the park, and find an empty parking lot. There’s a dedicated Stargazing Area at Panorama Point. Another good place for stargazing is the Windows Section. Pack a picnic dinner and gaze at the stars – you’re likely to see shooting stars! The Garden Of Eden viewpoint is also a fantastic spot to stargaze, as is the Balanced Rock parking lot and picnic area.
Are drones allowed in Arches National Park?
Drones are not allowed inside the park, and this rule applies to all South East Utah National Parks. Flying a drone in a National Park can result in a $5,000 fine and six months of jail time, so think twice if you want to risk it. If you really need to fly your drone, you can apply for a special permit from the FAA or NPS.