Arches National Park- The Ultimate Travel Guide For Beginners
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17th Jun | 10 min read

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    Arches National Park is truly otherworldly. It’s one of the coolest looking places I've ever visited and I honestly can't wait to go back. This 72 000-acre wonder is home to over 2000 natural sandstone arches and is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. 

    If you’re planning on visiting Arches National Park for the first time, this guide can help you plan the perfect trip.

    At the end of this post I’ll give you a detailed cost breakdown of our recent trip to Arches  National Park. I traveled to Arches with two friends and we split all of our costs to keep them as low as possible. 

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    Best Starting Off Point/ How To Get To Arches National Park

    The closest major city to Arches National Park is Salt Lake City. Moab, the gateway town to Arches National Park, is only a 3 hour and 40 minute drive from Salt Lake City. I didn't start my trip to Arches in Salt Lake City; instead, I started in Las Vegas, and I'd strongly recommend that anyone doing this trip do the same.

    Why Las Vegas? 

    It’s because Las Vegas is a great hub for visiting a variety of different national and state parks. In this one trip to Vegas alone I was able to visit Zion National Park, Valley of Fire, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon. 

    And if you read our Zion National Park travel guide, you'll know that my friends and I rented a car in Las Vegas before driving to Zion National Park and spending two nights there. We were on our way to Moab after Zion, but we made a quick stop at Capitol Reef on the way. We didn't spend much time in Capitol Reef, but we did do The Scenic Drive, which is a 7.9 mile (12.7 km) paved road open to all passenger vehicles. Many of the best parts of Capitol Reef are only accessible by 4WD, so we were out of luck in our Camry. Having said that, The Scenic Drive was still very beautiful, and it's well worth the time if you have it. Just keep in mind that it isn't a loop, so you have to return on the same road.

    We arrived in Moab close to sunset, and we knew we had to catch it at Arches. So after quickly checking into our hotel, we drove 10 minutes to Arches National Park, found a great vantage point by the Balanced Rock, and caught a beautiful sunset.

    Best Time To Visit Arches National Park

    In my opinion, winter is undoubtedly the best time to visit Arches National Park. There are so many benefits to visiting in the winter, when I went in mid February the park was nearly empty. We found parking at every trailhead we visited. Our accommodation in Moab was also a lot cheaper than it would be during peak season. My two friends who have visited the park in the past during the summer and autumn, noted that they’ve never seen it as empty. 

    While it was a bit chilly, it wasn’t freezing cold. If you wear a sweater or layer up, you’ll be fine. 

    If you visit Arches during the spring, summer, or fall, keep in mind that there are usually long lines to get into the park, as well as severe parking congestion. Arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon if possible. Late afternoon and evening visits can be a lot of fun. The lighting is better for photography, the temperatures are cooler, and parking lots and trails are less crowded.

    So if you’re looking to save money and avoid crowds, visit Arches in the winter.

    How To Get Around / Parking In Arches

    Arches National Park has an 18-mile scenic drive that connects all of the park's main areas, including the many trailheads, viewpoints, and magnificent arches that you've come to see.

    Again, if you’re visiting Arches in the winter, then you won't have any problems finding parking at the trailheads or viewpoints. However, if you decide to visit during any other season, popular places like Balanced Rock, Delicate Arch, and The Windows are usually full for much of the day.

    In any season other than the winter, you will find parking lots that are full, when you do make sure you:

    • Don’t wait at a spot and block traffic, move on, and come back later.

    • Park in designated areas only.

    • Avoid driving off road

    • Avoid parking on vegetation or in a way that blocks traffic.

    Best Hikes In Arches National Park

    I loved visiting Arches National Park because it was a nice change of pace from all of the hiking we did in Zion.

    Arches is fantastic because there are so many wonderful short hikes that you can do. We were aiming to see as many cool rock formations as possible in the short time we were there so we decided to get up close with Balanced Rock, Double Arch, and The Windows, and each hike lasted no longer than ten minutes. Unfortunately, however, we didn't have enough time to see the Delicate Arch. 

    Delicate Arch is the most iconic arch in the world and it's the reason most people visit Arches National Park, but because hiking to Delicate Arch was 3.2 miles out and back, we had to painfully skip it on this trip since we were limited on time. 

    The park had been so empty that Delicate Arch would have been a spectacular experience, but alas, we made our decision and I have to live with it. I will definitely return to Arches National Park to cross this off my bucket list.

    The trail to get to Balanced Rock is 0.3 miles, it's a very short stroll and this is where we spent our first sunset as soon as we arrived at Arches. This is a beautiful vantage point to catch a sunset. And I’ll talk more about this later in the post.

    The next day we did Canyonlands in the morning which I’ll cover in a future post. After Canyonlands we got some food and went back to Arches a few hours before sunset. We did the short and easy 0.6 mile trek to Double Arch and got some amazing pictures. Nothing in Arches National Park looks real, but Double Arch might be the most outrageous thing I saw while I was there. After snapping millions of pictures while sitting atop of Double Arch, we made our way to the North Window  to catch the sunset.

    The North Window is about 0.2 miles from the parking lot, and it's another great vantage point for sunsets. There’s a 1.2 mile loop that also takes you to Turret Arch and The South Window, but it was already getting dark so we decided to make our stake on the North Window to catch the beautiful sunset.

    If you're looking to get in more steps during your visit, you can do the 2 mile Fiery Furnace hike, which requires a permit, or the 7.2 mile Devil's Garden Primitive Loop, which is the longest and most difficult hike in Arches.

    Best Places To Catch A Sunset

    The entire park shimmers at dusk, and there are so many great vantage points to watch the sun set. As I just mentioned in the last section,  I got to see two consecutive sunsets during my time in Arches, the first at Balanced Rock and the second while sitting atop the Windows arch. Both of these locations provide excellent views; but if you're only there for one night I'd say do the Balanced Rock. The way the balanced rock glows bright orange is so breathtaking, especially up close. It made an excellent backdrop for stunning photographs.

    Delicate Arch is also a popular spot for sunsets in Arches. If you’re visiting in the winter, then I'd imagine this would probably be one of the best place in the whole park to experience the sunset. However, it’s usually very crowded every other time of year.

    Best Place For Stargazing

    You can technically stargaze anywhere in the park. But you’ll want to get to a parking lot or as close to your car as possible because the park becomes pitch black after dusk, hence why it's so great for stargazing. 

    Panorama Point is my and many other people's favorite places in Arches National Park to go stargazing. Panorama Point is a picnic area with plenty of parking right in the center of Arches National Park with expansive unobstructed views all around you. There's also plenty of room to set up your tripod to capture the perfect shot.

    Best Places To Eat

    When you get hungry while exploring Arches National Park, you're in luck because Moab has a number of delicious restaurants. To put this in context, I was on the road for 14 days, stayed in Vegas for several nights, visited all of the national parks mentioned earlier, and out of all that traveling, my two favorite meals of the trip were in Moab. Thai Bella exceeded my expectations. The food was so flavourful & delicious, the prices weren’t too expensive, and the staff was very friendly. 

    We also ordered kabobs from Sultan Mediterranean Grill, which was also spectacular.  The meat was tender and juicy, and the portions were generous. If you visit Arches, you need to dine at these two incredible restaurants.

    Best Places To Stay

    As mentioned, during our trip, we spent two nights staying in Moab. We stayed in the Mainstay Suites and it was a wonderful experience. We booked a suite so we had a lot of space, including a big kitchen and dining area. There was also a laundry room right outside of our suite, which was extremely useful for us. (cue laundry talk)

    The staff here were very friendly, we had a few quarters jam in the machine and they immediately replaced them for us. The breakfast was also delicious both mornings, and there was a waffle machine which I loved using. All in all, our stay at the Mainstay Suites was amazing and I couldn't recommend it enough. 

    The best part was that we got it for pretty cheap. The three of us spent 158 for our two night stay. 

    We were able to get some additional hotel discounts with our GAFFL Unlimited Memberships. As a GAFFL Unlimited member you can save up to 60% off select hotels around the world. These rates are private for GAFFL Unlimited members and not available to the general public. Click here to learn more about a GAFFL Unlimited Membership. 

    Cost Breakdown

    • Usually you need to pay a $30 fee to enter Arches National Park, but we had a national park pass so we were able to get into the park for free.

    • We rented a car for the entire trip so we had it for 12 days which came to about $42 per day for the rental car.  For the duration of our Arches trip, we spent $126 in total for the car rental.

    • We rented a Toyota Camry so we were really efficient on gas. We pumped $37 after leaving Zion, and we spent $40 filling up before leaving Moab, so we spent $77 total for gas. 

    • Our hotel in Moab was $158 for two nights.

    • Our total shareable costs $361. 

    • Split by the 3 of us, we spent around $120 each

    • My flight to Vegas from Toronto was $180

    • On this trip, I spent around $300 total.

    I was only able to do this trip because I had two friends with me to split most of the costs with. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford it. 

    If you’re someone who’s dying to travel, but don’t think you can afford it alone, you can use GAFFL to find like-minded travel companions to share costs & experiences with. Simply click the link here and start connecting with travelers and locals from over 190 countries.

    Join The GAFFL Newsletter

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