With over 1.5 million annual visitors, Arches is Utah’s third most popular park, and it’s not hard to see why. Arches National Park combines the stunning beauty of the Moab with over 2,000 natural sandstone arches.
Thanks to these gorgeous natural sights, it’s not wonder that it makes our list of the overall best national parks in the United States.
The sculptural beauty of the formations makes for stunning photography and one unique natural experience. Yes, Arches National Park is popular for a reason, so unless you plan carefully, you’re going to be fighting crowds.
If you want to get the most out of your visit to Arches National Park, it’s prudent to do some research.
We’ll help you find the ideal time (and the worst time) to visit, no matter what you want to do. Optimal hiking weather, the least crowded times, or simply the most affordable time of year can all be found right here.
Why You Should Visit Arches National Park
Arches National Park has the highest concentration of natural stone arches per square foot in the world. There are over 2,000 documented arches within the park grounds, some more famous than others.
The natural twisting land formations of the park give the landscape a dreamlike and out-of-this-world feel. Balanced Rock, Delicate Arch, and Double Arch are just a few of the most photographed spots in the park.
But there’s so much land to explore you’re sure to find remarkable things on your way to these sites. Visitors to the park describe the experience as stunning and unlike any other place that they’ve been.
The red of the rocks and endless open blue sky create stunning backdrops for photography buffs and influencers alike. If you enjoy nature and hiking, the park is an excellent spot for both.
If you plan wisely, you can even combine your Arches trip with nearby Canyonlands National Park, which is equally stunning with its unique rock formations. For those who think logistically when they travel, it’s good to note that Arches is a fairly accessible park.
There are a variety of hikes throughout the park that are suitable for all ages and skill levels. It has wide paved trails as well as more intense climbs.
If you don’t want “outdoorsy” to describe your whole trip, you can stay in the nearby (10 minutes from the park entrance) city of Moab, Utah, which has plenty of restaurants and hotels to wind down in after a day’s hike.
Overall Best Time to Visit Arches National Park
The best times to visit Arches National Park is in the Spring (March-May) or in Fall (Sept-Oct). This is due to the desert weather of the park.
Spring and Fall should give you the mildest temperatures, with daily averages ranging from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the park is open 24/7 all year round, so you can choose to go at the time that best suits your needs.
You should also be mindful of crowds. The most popular times to visit the park are in Spring and Fall because of the weather. You’ll find the peak busiest times to be around Easter break and Memorial Day weekend.
Many people visit the park in the summer months as well. However, you’ll likely have days around or over 100 degrees. On top of that, it’s still extremely crowded.
At the same time, if you don’t mind planning for red-hot hikes, then the benefit is that you’ll have more hours of daylight to explore. Keep in mind that the park is open 24hrs. Arches Park has some of the darkest night skies in the American southwest.
After sundown in summer, the Moab summer weather tends to average in the high 60s. You can take advantage of this by planning evening treks throughout the park. If you’re a stargazer or nighttime photographer visiting in summer is ideal.
You can even plan to solely visit the park in the evening when the weather is more pleasant. Go before sunrise, see some stars, witness the sunrise, and go home to sleep before the scorching temperatures.
Cheapest Time to Visit Arches National Park
The off-season, which is November-February, is the cheapest time to visit Arches National Park. You’ll be able to find hotels for under $100 per night in winter.
This is because there’s a huge difference in crowds between the peak seasons and the off-season. The entirety of the off-season can see fewer tourists to the park than a single month in Spring. There are a couple of tradeoffs to consider if you plan on saving money by visiting in winter.
Daytime temperatures average between 40-56 degrees during these months. So you should be prepared for cold weather hiking. If you had planned on stargazing, you’d need some serious gear since the nighttime lows will be below freezing.
Ranger programs, such as lectures and guided walks, are not offered in the winter. Keep in mind that there are park fees that apply to your visit. The price varies based on your activities.
For example, if you need a camping permit, if you have a car, or are booking a ranger-led excursion, you’ll face different costs. However, you shouldn’t need an entrance ticket if you enter the park before 6:00AM or after 5:00PM.
Airfare isn’t hugely different between the peak and off-season. Of course, this will vary greatly based on where you’re flying from.
However, if you purchase tickets ahead of time, you can get some seriously discounted plane tickets. In addition, Weekdays between Tuesday and Thursday will often be cheaper to fly on and far less crowded in the park.
Least Busy Time to Visit Arches National Park
As mentioned, the off-season of the winter months is the least busy time to visit Arches National Park. This is largely due to the cold daytime temperatures and freezing nighttime temperatures.
Additionally, you should remember that there are no ranger programs in the winter months. If guided hikes, learning opportunities, or added safety is important to you, then this may not be the ideal time.
If crowds don’t bother you, especially in a large national park, then you can go in spring, summer, or fall when the weather’s warm. Spring and fall tend to be consistently mild, with the summer months reaching highs of 100 degrees.
If you want to avoid crowds even in the peak season, you can consider visiting the park before 6 am or after 5 pm.
If you do this, you also should be able to avoid the park entrance fee, as the visiting center will be closed, and no rangers will be on duty. Pre-sunrise is usually the least busy time in the park all year round.
Worst Time to Visit Arches National Park
Holiday weekends in Spring and Summer are the worst days to visit Arches National Park.
Pretty much everyone in America has Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day off from work and school, making these holiday weekends the busiest in an already busy season. On top of having to deal with insane crowds, this will also be the most expensive time to fly or book a hotel.
If you, like many other people, don’t have a lot of options for vacation time, here are tips for visiting Arches during any of these weekends:
- Enter the park before 6 am. It’s your best bet to avoid crowds, and you get the bonus of a sunrise over a spectacular landscape.
- Book as far in advance as you can; prices on hotels and airfare only go up the closer to your travel date.
- Independence Day will be crowded, and July is the hottest month at the park. Plan your clothing, sunblock, and water accordingly. It will be hard to go in and out of the park due to crowds, so it’s more convenient if you don’t have to turn back for supplies.
- Plan an evening excursion. Rent a car and drive to the park after 6 pm. You can get some serious stargazing in, and the weather should be nice in the summer season.
- If you want to do a daytime hike, you should still enter the park in the early morning. Car traffic can move extremely slowly in the peak season. You don’t want to lose daylight because of waiting in a car line.
Arches National Park is a beautiful experience. Even the “worst” time to visit will make for a great trip when you plan carefully.
Things to Consider
Here are the top things to consider when planning your trip to Arches National Park:
- The peak seasons of summer, spring, and fall are peak for a reason. You’ll have the best weather but also the largest crowds. Because of overbooked flights and hotels, this is also the most expensive time to visit.
- It gets busy. Traffic congestion between March and October can mean you’ll be waiting in line to even enter the park. You can choose to go in the off-season or plan for very early mornings to avoid crowds.
- Summer can be great or a problem. Summer, though popular, is extremely hot. Hiking in 100 degrees isn’t for everyone and can even be dangerous. Make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen.
- You can visit off-season. The winter months from Nov-Feb will save you from the crowds, but the cold to freezing temperature has its drawbacks. Additionally, the park doesn’t operate ranger services during this time.
- Take care of your electronics. Cell service is known to be spotty in the park. There’s no public wifi at the park or the visitor’s center. There’s also nowhere to charge your devices. So make sure you bring a battery pack or solar charger if you require any electronic device.
- Make reservations. In the off-season, you can usually walk right into the park. In peak season you should reserve a ticket ahead of time. Certain activities like tours and campground spots always require a reservation ahead of time.
- Look up nearby attractions. If you’ve got time to spare, it’s worth looking up nearby Utah attractions. The less-known destinations like Canyonlands National Park or Glen Canyon National Recreation area are equally beautiful and tend to see fewer crowds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have questions or concerns about visiting Arches National Park? Here are the top things people wanted to know before booking their trip to Arches.
How many days do you need at Arches National Park?
If you’re more of a day hiker, then two days should be enough to explore the most popular sites at Arches. Popular hikes like the Fiery Furnace, Park Avenue Trail, and other shorter trails don’t require a lot of time.
Some people will spend multiple days doing longer hikes and then staying in the Devils Garden Campground. In peak season, you may need several days before finding the perfect, unobstructed spot for photos.
What day of the week is best to visit Arches National Park?
Weekdays will be the best time to visit Arches National Park. Most visitors plan to visit Arches over a long weekend. So you’ll usually see the most visitors between Friday-Monday.
If you can plan your visit on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you’ll see smaller crowds, even in the peak season. The park itself is open 24/7 all year round. So it’s always available to you.
What time does Arches National Park fill up?
In the peak months, Arches National Park’s parking lots can fill up by 9 am. Especially the ones closest to trailheads. When the lots are filled, Rangers may direct or hold traffic, delaying your entrance.
Your best bet is to get there between 6-7 am. Alternatively, you can plan to visit around or after sunset. Day hikers tend to leave for the day, and the crowds will have started to thin out.
Can you drive straight through Arches National Park?
Yes, you can drive through Arches National Park rather than go for a hiking trip. There is a 36-mile (round trip) road through Arches that’s open to vehicles. This includes places to stop off for beautiful vistas and photo ops.
How far apart are Zion and Arches National Park?
Zion and Arches National Parks are 351 miles apart, just over 5hrs of driving time without heavy traffic. This question is so frequently asked because Zion National Park is the most popular park in Utah and frequently tops the list of most visited National parks in the United States.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Arches National Park?
The best time to visit Arches National park will be in the Spring and Fall months. The weather is the mildest, and you should have enough hours of daylight for the most popular hiking trails. The popular ranger-led programs are in full swing.
Summer is close behind as the next best time, though the scorching desert heat will put off some travelers. The evening weather makes it very nice for camping. Despite the heat, summer still draws huge crowds.
For those who hate crowds and are unafraid of freezing temps, winter can also be a lovely time to visit. You may see some beautiful sites, like the red rocks covered in snow, and have the park to yourself.
In any case, Arches National Park can be visited year-round. Depending on your preferences for weather, in-park programs like guided hikes, and how well you handle crowds, there will be a perfect time to visit for anyone. Happy travels!