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Copyright 2002-2015
Leslie M. Barstow III

Arches National Park

Why Visit?  Park Info  Tour Guide  When To Visit  Photo Tips  Nature  Photo Gallery

[Picture: Turret Arch] Where:
From Moab: 5 miles north of Moab, Utah off of US Route 191
From I-70 access: From anywhere convenient to or north of I-70, get to I-70 and go to US-191 (east of Green River, UT), then South for around 25 miles.
From Mesa Verde: continue west and take US-491 (formerly the Devil's Highway, US-666) to US-191 northbound.
From Page, AZ: take US-89 east to US-191 northbound.
From further up Lake Powell: take Utah 95 east to US-191 north.
From Bryce Canyon (or further, from Zion): Scenic Utah 12 and Utah 24 are an excellent way to see the desert scenery.  Utah 24 connects to I-70 at Green River - take it east to US-191 South. 

Fees: $10 per car (7 day pass), $25 for a Southeast Utah annual pass (Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges and Hovenweep), or $50 for a one-year National Parks Pass.

Lodging: The park has no lodging, but Moab offers many options.

Camping: There is one campground in the park (often full during the tourist season). Several private campgrounds exist around Moab, and there are many camping areas in the vast BLM lands outside of town. Be aware that several of the BLM campgrounds have special restrictions.

Food: There are no food concessions in the park; the park has one picnic area. Moab has a good selection of food, including several cafes where you can purchase a sandwich for a picnic in the park.

Information:  The park has a Visitor's Center at the entrance; it opens around 8am and closes at varying times depending on the season.  The center offers a decent selection of park books and maps, as well as some local interest books.  Rangers lead informational talks and hikes - schedules are available at the Visitor's Center.

Park Facilities:  The park consists of a 22 mile out-and-back road with a number of viewpoints and trailheads and one major side road.  A pair of 4WD roads lead into remote sections of the park.  Although there are several excellent viewpoints, most of the park's main attractions require walking at least 1/4 mile on varying surfaces.  Only the Balanced Rock and Delicate Arch Viewpoint trails are listed as being handicapped-accessible.

Trails:  There are a number of trails ranging in length from .1 mile one-way through 7+ mile round-trip.  Trail surfaces vary widely; two are paved or gravelled; most are hard-packed dirt with rough steps; several consist of primitive trails in soft sand.  Some trails have dropoffs on narrow ridges, and some enter tight canyons (for those with the appropriate phobias, see the trail descriptions in the official park guide).   See the Tour Guide for more details on each trail. 

Notes:

Official Web Site: National Park Service - Arches National Park

Other Things To Do While You're In The Area:

Canyonlands - Island In The Sky:  This section of Canyonlands National Park has some good overlooks into the maze of canyons around the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Island In The Sky is a plateau floating out in the middle of the canyons, connected to the "mainland" only by a narrow ridge of land.  11 miles north of Moab, then 21 miles on Utah 313.

Dead Horse Point State Park:  This park is on the way to Island In The Sky,  and also has an excellent overlook into the Canyonlands.  11 miles north  of Moab, then 19 miles on Utah 313. 

Needles Overlook (BLM):  The road out to this overlook is long, and  mostly dirt.  However, the viewpoint at the end is excellent.  20 miles south of Moab, turn into the Canyonlands Recreation Area, then go about 15 miles to the overlook. 

Castle Canyon and Fisher Towers (BLM):  The canyon cut by the Colorado River as it passes by Moab leads back to several scenic areas.  Fisher Towers, about 17 miles up the road, is a series of dark spires set back from the road.  The canyon road is Utah 128, two miles north of Moab. 

Canyonlands - Needles District:  For the hiker, Needles presents a great opportunity.  There are also a number of challenging 4WD tracks in this district of the park.  For casual tourists, the drive is worth it, but the end scenery probably is not.  Utah 211 rides in the canyon, one level below Island In The Sky, and has views to several spires and monuments.  Also along the road is Newspaper Rock, a truly amazing set of pictographs carved into heavy desert varnish on a rockface.  The intersection with Route 211 is 41 miles south of Moab, and the trip to Canyonlands itself is another 38 miles.

Rafting, and Flights (from Moab):  There are many tour companies offering views of Canyonlands National Park by various modes of transportation.  You can book a flight over the area, take a 4WD tour (or rent a 4WD vehicle yourself), or book half-day through weeklong rafting, kayaking, or canoeing tours down the Colorado and Green Rivers.

Natural Bridges National Monument: If you are heading to Hite Marina on Lake Powell, the Monument is along your route.  If not, it's a pretty out-of-the way place to visit.  The Monument's claim to fame is a series of three very large natural bridges (arches cut by a river).  Each of the bridges is visible from an overlook, but to get a good perspective, you need to hike into the canyon itself; the trails are relatively short (6 miles end-to-end), but the descent looked pretty steep.

Lake Powell: Surreal - desert formations (petrified dunes, monuments, canyon walls) ending abruptly in a lake. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area also encompasses some of the surrounding canyon territory...

Monument Valley Tribal Park:  Almost everyone has seen a picture of Monument Valley or seen a movie set with its famous Buttes and Monuments in the background.  Head South on 191 and follow the signs to Mexican Hat.  Monument Valley is past Mexican Hat on the Arizona state line, in the Navajo Indian Reservation.  Be warned - the local tourist industry seems bent on sending you via a back route (the Mokee Dugway) when travelling between the Valley and upper Lake Powell or Moab; the view is superb, but for three miles you get to drive switchbacks on a dirt road straight up (or down) the side of a cliff!

Goblin Valley State Park:  Goblin Valley is relatively close to Moab, but seems very remote.  This state park is home to an astonishing collection of short hoodoos often referred to as "goblins".   From Moab, head back up to I-70, go West past Green River and turn South on Utah 24.  Turn right at the sign to Goblin Valley and follow the BLM road until another sign directs you to the left.