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If you’ve only got a day to visit the park you can still see all of the best sites! We were able to drive along all the paved roads, stop at the viewpoints, and go on 3 total hikes. For just one day, that’s quite a lot! Of course there was plenty of stuff left over to see so I do hope to come back again one day to explore some more.
Some Info for a First Time visit
Arches National Park is located right next to the town of Moab, Utah. Moab is the place you want to stay at while visiting Arches. It’s a nice little town with lots of shops and restaurants. Moab is known for sports of all kinds, with loads of people coming here to ride ATV’s, mountain bikes, white water rafting on the Colorado River that flows through, hiking, there’s just so much to do if you want an adventurous getaway!
Fees and Hours
The entrance cost for Arches is $30 per vehicle, $25 for a motorcycle, and $15 if you’re entering on foot. Personally, my suggestion if you plan to visit at least 3 National Parks in the year is to get an Annual pass for $80, as it will save you money in the long run.
The park is open 24 hours a day, almost every day out of the year except Christmas(December 25th). The visitor’s center is generally open from 7:30-5pm.
Best Times to Visit
Arches National Park, like many parks over the recent years, has seen a great increase in visitors. It gets over 1.5 million people a year coming through the gates! Peak season is said to be between March and October, with lines of cars possible at the entrance station for waits of over an hour to get in.
The Park website recommends visiting before 8am, or after 3pm to avoid the biggest crowds.
We went to Arches in 2016 in early-mid October on a Monday, around 9am. Luckily we had no troubles with long lines or waiting for a space at a parking lot. However, the day before we drove past the entrance to Arches on our way to Canyonlands, and being a Sunday there was a line of cars waiting to get in!
The other thing to consider if you go is the weather. It can get VERY hot in the summer, as you’re in a desert climate! In October the sun was still beating down on us on a few hikes. We wore long pants and light jackers with t-shirts underneath and were comfortable.
*Make sure you gas up your vehicle, bring a lunch, and lots of water before you get into the park!
Top 5 Things to see & do in Arches National Park
Arches National Park is one of those places you just have to visit at least once in your life. It’s filled with all kinds of unique desert scenery and awesome rock formations. In total there are at least 2,000 arches located there-more than anywhere else in the world!
1. Stop at all the overlooks and drive along the paved roads
It should go without saying that anytime there’s a viewpoint in a National Park-you should probably stop at them! These are some of the most scenic spots in all the world. However it’s beautiful all along the roads, not just at the overlooks! Here are a few pictures for a small taste of the landscape beauty there:
2. The Three Gossips & Balanced Rock
When you first enter Arches and start driving down the road, you’ll wonder where all the arches are! They’re there, don’t worry, but coming up first are some pretty unique rock formations. Over time water, wind, and rain shaped the sandstone into long thin cliffs called fins, put holes in them that are now arches, and left other shapes balancing precariously on top of pillars.
You can see the Three Gossips formation from the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. Alternatively you can also park at the Park Avenue trail head and walk the 2 mile round trip length to see them at the end.
Balanced Rock has its own viewpoint and small trail walking around it. You can see it from the parking lot, but I highly suggest getting out and viewing it from different angles. It’s crazy that formations like this exist. I mean how has that rock not fallen over yet? Well there’s no earthquakes around here that’s for sure or they’d be gone!
3. The Windows & Double Arch
Just past the parking lot for Balanced Rock you’ll make a right down another road, and at the very end of it there’s a parking lot and short hiking trails to view the Windows and Double Arch formations.
You simply must walk up the trails and experience these arches up close! It feels like you’re in another world underneath Double Arch. We got there as the sun was starting to set and the golden light made the place glow, it was incredible!
4. Delicate Arch
After visiting the Windows, go back out to the main road and continue on until the next right hand turn comes up. After going down the road a ways, stop at Wolfe Ranch parking lot on the left hand side if you want to take the 3 mile hike up to Delicate Arch, or continue on down the road if you’d just rather see it from a viewpoint.
Delicate Arch has been in calendars, on postage stamps, you name it. It’s probably Utah’s most famous iconic landmark. The hike going up to it is moderate, and a big part of it is uphill in the sun during the day. You’ll need to bring a lot of water, and preferably a hat and some sunglasses. I go into more details on the hike here, it was definitely neat to see the arch up close, but the hike itself wasn’t the most fun due to a long stretch of it being pretty hot and barren.
5. Landscape Arch
Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park, and in fact, in the world! It’s 306 feet(96 meters) long, and probably should have been called “Delicate Arch” instead as it’s only 11 feet(3.3 meters) thick in the middle. It truly can collapse at any time, and in fact a part of it broke off in 1991. All the more reason to go see it soon!
The hike to see this arch is 1.6 miles long round trip, and starts all the way at the end of the main road, in Devil’s Garden. It’s really a beautiful trail and pretty easy going the whole way. This was my favorite hike of the day, and you can read and see more pictures on it here.
I hope this intro to the best things to do in Arches National Park helps you on your trip! There’s a lot more you can do and see, but these top sites will get you started and give you a very fun and fulfilling day at the park!
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