| Backpacking | Biking
| Camping | Climbing |
Hiking | Photography
Ranger Programs | Scenic Drives | Junior Ranger Program
Arches National Park preserves over
two thousand natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate
Arch, in addition to a variety of unique geological resources and formations.
In some areas, faulting has exposed millions of years of geologic history.
The extraordinary features of the park, including balanced rocks, fins
and pinnacles, are highlighted by a striking environment of contrasting
colors, landforms and textures.
Operation Hours/Seasons: The Park is open year-round. The visitor center is open daily from 8am to 4:30pm, with extended hours spring through fall. Visitor Center is closed on December 25th.
Directions: The entrance to Arches is located 5 miles north of Moab along Highway 191.
Weather: In summer, June through September, temperatures may exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winter, December through February, temperatures often drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then, roughly two thousand years ago, the nomadic hunters and gatherers began cultivating certain plants and settled into the Four Corners region. These early agriculturalists, known as the ancestral Puebloan and Fremont people, raised domesticated maize, beans, and squash, and lived in villages like those preserved at Mesa Verde National Park.
While no dwellings have been found in Arches, the northern edge of ancestral Puebloan territory, there are rock inscription panels. Like earlier people, the ancestral Puebloans left lithic scatters, often overlooking waterholes where someone may have shaped tools while watching for game. People living in modern-day pueblos like Acoma, Cochiti, Santa Clara, Taos, and the Hopi Mesas are descendants of the ancestral Puebloans.
The Fremont were contemporaries of the ancestral Puebloans and lived in the same general area, so distinctions between the two cultures are blurry. However, Fremont rock inscriptions, pottery and other artifacts clearly demonstrate the existence of different technologies and traditions. Both the Fremont and the ancestral Puebloans left the region about 700 years ago.
As the ancestral Puebloan and Fre-mont peoples were leaving, nomadic Shoshonean peoples such as the Ute and Paiute entered the area and were here to meet the first Europeans in 1776. The petroglyph panel near Wolfe Ranch is believed to have some Ute images since it shows people on horseback, and horses were adopted by the Utes only after they were introduced by the Spanish.
The first reliable date within Arches is an interesting one. Denis Julien, a French-American trapper with a habit of chiseling his name and the date onto rocks throughout the Southwest, left an inscription in this area: Denis Julien, June 9, 1844. If we only knew what he thought of the wonders he saw!
The first European settlement of Southern Utah arose from the colonizing efforts of the Mormon Church. The Mormons attempted to establish the Elk Mountain Mission in what is now Moab in June of 1855, but conflicts with the Utes caused them to abandon the effort. In the 1800s and 1890s, Moab was settled permanently by ranchers, prospectors, and farmers. One settler even found a beautiful spot within what is now Arches National Park. John Wesley Wolfe, a veteran of the Civil War, built the homestead known as Wolfe Ranch around 1898, seeking good fortune in the newly established State of Utah. It is located on Salt Wash, at the beginning of the Delicate Arch Trail. Wolfe and his family lived there a decade or more, then moved back to Ohio. The cabin remains, an echo of what must have been a remarkable experience.
One of the earliest settlers to describe the beauty of the red rock country around Arches was Loren “Bish” Taylor, who took over the Moab newspaper in 1911 when he was eighteen years old. Bish editorialized for years about the marvels of Moab, and loved exploring and describing the rock wonderland just north of the frontier town. Some of his journeys were with John “Doc” Williams, Moab’s first doctor. As Doc rode his horse north to ranches and other settlements, he often climbed out of Salt Valley to the spot now called Doc Williams Point, stopped to let his horse rest and looked back over the fabulously colored rock fins.
Word spread. Alexander Ringhoffer, a prospector, wrote the Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1923 in an effort to publicize the area and gain support for creating a national park. Ringhoffer led railroad executives interested in attracting more rail passengers into the formations; they were impressed, and the campaign began. The government sent research teams to investigate and gather evidence. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover signed the legislation creating Arches National Monument, to protect the arches, spires, balanced rocks, and other sandstone formations. In 1971 Congress changed the status of Arches to a National Park, recognizing over 10,000 years of cultural history that flourished in this now famous landscape of sandstone arches and canyons.
Arches is a relatively small park, with very few areas far enough from roads to qualify as backcountry. Outside the developed areas there are no designated trails, campsites, or reliable water sources. In order to backpack in Arches, you must obtain a free backcountry permit at the visitor center. The maximum group size is twelve, but smaller groups are strongly recommended to reduce impacts. Permits may not be reserved in advance. Backpackers should know how to navigate with a topographic map, recognize safety hazards and practice low-impact camping specific to the high desert. Primary safety considerations include steep terrain, loose rock, lightning, flash floods, and dehydration. Pets may not accompany groups in the backcountry.
In Arches, bicycles are permitted only on roads: there is no single track or trail riding within the park. Use caution when biking on the main road. Please ride single file and stay to the edge of the lane. Many of the dirt roads here are sandy or washboarded; however, the Willow Springs road offers an enjoyable two to three hour ride.
Devils Garden campground is located eighteen miles from the park entrance
and is open year-round. From mid-March to late October, a $10 per night
fee is charged. From late October to mid-March, the fee is $5 per night.
Individual campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. From March to October, visitors must pre-register for campsites at the entrance station. Pre-registration begins at 7:30 a.m. (go to the visitor center if the entrance station is closed). During these months, the campground fills daily, often by 9 a.m.
Campground facilities include potable water, tables, grills as well as pit-style and flush toilets (water is turned off during the winter months). There are no showers. Bring your own wood or charcoal for the grills. Some sites will accommodate RV's up to 30 feet in length. Check at the visitor center for more information.
The campground has two sites for groups
of eleven or more people. The Juniper Basin campsite will accommodate
up to 55 people; the Canyon Wren campsite up to 35. The group camping
fee is $3 per person per night, with a $33 per night minimum. No recreational
vehicles or trailers are permitted in the group sites.
The rock at Arches offers excellent climbing opportunities, despite its sandy nature. Most climbing routes in the park require advanced techniques. Permits are not required, unless the trip involves an overnight stay in the backcountry.
It the responsibility of all climbers to know and obey park regulations and route closures (see left margin).
Delicate Arch Viewpoint
Desert Nature Trail
Sand Dune Arch
Arches is a photographer's paradise. The combination of brilliant colors and unique landforms (many close to the scenic drive), lends itself to picture-taking. In fact, many features of Arches, especially Delicate Arch, can be seen on posters and advertisements around the world. Though there are great spots throughout the park, here are some recommended locations for visitors who like to leave the scouting to someone else:
In order to support the program, fees are now charged for Fiery Furnace walks. The cost is $6 for adults; $3 for children six to twelve years old and adults sixty-two or older. Group size is limited, and these popular walks often fill a day or two in advance. Make your reservation and pay your fee at the visitor center up to seven days in advance of the walk, and for groups of no more than ten people. Larger groups can request a special tour by contacting the park; a minimum of four weeks' notice is advised.
Other Guided Walks
Rangers lead easy, one-hour walks each day at different locations throughout the park.
Join a ranger at the Devils Garden campground amphitheater (next to Canyon Wren group campsite and across the road from campsite #25) nightly. Programs last about forty-five minutes.
The road system in Arches passes many outstanding natural features. As Arches' popularity has increased, people have begun to park in areas that damage plants and sometimes endanger other visitors. Please park in established lots only. Generally, parking spaces are easier to find before 9 a.m. and after 7 p.m.
Drive to the Windows Section
and see some of the park's largest arches. (Add one-half hour to stroll
beneath either North Window or Double Arch.).
Hey Kids! Tired
of just sitting in the car, looking at that stuff adults call scenery?
Do you want to know more about Arches and help protect the park?
Then the Junior Ranger program is for you!
If you are between the ages of six and twelve, and you
are planning to spend at least one day in Arches, pick up a Junior Ranger
booklet at the visitor center.
For Additional Information Contact:
Arches National Park
For more information visit the National Park Service website