Mother Nature’s masterpieces are on full display at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. More than 2,000 natural stone arches have been recorded throughout the 119-square-mile park, as well as hundreds of pinnacles, fins and balanced rocks. Arches National Park isn’t only a destination for geologists, but for anyone who enjoys admiring natural beauty as well. The park, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (visitor center hours vary throughout the year), was established as a national monument in 1929, and designated a national park in 1971. In its first year as a national monument, 500 people visited; in 2010, Arches reached 1 million annual visitors, and in 2015 that number increased to nearly 1.4 million. To make the most of your visit to the popular Arches National Park, we checked in with VisitUtah.com for a few of their insider tips..
1. Take a drive: The 18-mile scenic drive that winds through Arches National Park reveals many of the park’s incredible natural features. Some of the park’s largest arches can be found in the Windows Section, or drive to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint to see the world’s most famous arch, just a mile away. If you have the time, park at any of the trailheads and get out of the car to walk or hike to some of these magnificent formations.
2. Go off-roading: Though ATVs and other off-highway vehicles are not permitted within Arches National Park, four-wheel-driving is. Navtec Expeditions takes guests in high-clearance SUVs on dirt roads to secluded spots within the park for all the views without all the crowds.
3. Horseback riding: Another terrific way to see Arches National Park is by horseback. Horseback riding is permitted within the park, but regulations do apply. So if you’d like, saddle up and take a ride; you can even camp overnight.
4. Hike to Delicate Arch: One of the world’s most famous arches, Delicate Arch is visible from three points within the park. At the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint, a 100-yard walk provides views from one mile away; the Upper Viewpoint offers a less-obstructed view via a half-mile walk. For the best view, hike three miles roundtrip to the arch itself. Whichever you choose, it’ll be worth your time.
5. Explore Fiery Furnace: The Fiery Furnace section is one of the park’s most popular, and anyone who goes to this part of the park must obtain a permit or be on ranger-guided tour. If you plan on visiting Fiery Furnace during your visit to Arches National Park, plan ahead – permits oftentimes sell out during busy times of the year, and are available at the visitor center during regular business hours.
6. Go climb a rock: With all of its geologic features, it’s probably no surprise that rock climbing is popular within Arches National Park for those with advanced climbing techniques. Park rangers urge climbers to register and obtain a free permit, either online or at the self-register kiosk outside of the visitor center. And be sure to check to see which climbing routes may be closed, temporarily or permanently.
7. Go canyoneering: Just as with rock climbing, the rock formations in Arches seem to be made for canyoneering: rappelling, scrambling, climbing, crawling and doing whatever it takes to traverse the rocks. Park rangers urge those who go canyoneering to register and obtain a free permit, either online or at the self-register kiosk outside of the visitor center. (If you want to canyoneer Fiery Furnace, a specific permit is required and costs $4 per person.)
8. Bring the family: Similar to the National Parks’ Junior Ranger Program, the entire family can get involved in the learning and fun with Explorer Packs. Available for check-out at the visitor center, the packs include binoculars, a hand lens, a naturalist guide, a notebook and activity ideas. When kids complete at least three activities, they’ll earn the Junior Ranger badge.
9. Look for Art in the Park: As part of the Art in the Park program, Arches National Park is hosting community artist Madeline “Maddy” Logowitz throughout the year. Visitors to the park are encouraged to meet Maddy and join her for a fun experience and see her the park through her artistic eyes.
10. See the stars: Since Arches National Park is open 24 hours a day, stargazing is another terrific way to experience the park, which was designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. Park rangers host Night Sky Programs complete with telescopes for even more stellar viewings; the next Night Sky Program in Arches is scheduled for August 6 at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint.