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Summer at Arches National Park

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Summer at Arches National Park is, strangely enough, the peak season. The combination of schools being out and family friendly travel brings in the crowds. While Arches is busy year-round, Summer at Arches National Park brings its own unique challenges to the visit. Not only are there major crowds, but the days are long, which in turn means it gets hot. Arches National Park is in the desert after all. If you’re planning to vacation over the summer at Arches National Park, then be sure to read on. I’ve got plenty of ways for you to avoid the crowds, beat the heat, and make your trip to the park the highlight of your summer.

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Beat the Heat During Summer At Arches National Park

As you’re now well aware, Arches National Park is in a desert. The temperatures during summer at Arches National Park can easily climb to over 100° and its not unheard of to top 110°. With this in mind visiting Arches in the summer months is going to be all about beating the heat.

The easiest way to do this is by getting there early. Due to the wide variation in temperature in the desert, its surprisingly pleasant in the morning. If you’re not a morning person, you’ll need to change that for your trip. Getting an early start allows you to enjoy the cooler temps. As a bonus, you’ll also be setting yourself up for some amazing desert sunrises. It’s honestly hard to beat a good sunrise at Arches, so don’t miss them.

Catch an amazing sunrise on the trail to Landscape Arch over summer at Arches National Park
Sunrise on the trail to Landscape Arch

You’re also going to want to make sure that you reduce the amount of exposure you have to the sun. Arches isn’t the shadiest park, so make sure that you pack a nice hat to shield your head from the sun. I’d also recommend light clothing that has some built in UV resistance. This will let your body cool off quickly when you return to your car.

The final thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t just hot but dry as well. Summer at Arches National Park is the driest part of the year. You’ll want to stay refreshed by packing plenty of water. I’d recommend at least 1L of water for every mile you intend to hike, even in the morning. It’s always better to pack in to much water, than find yourself having run out only halfway into your hike. Better safe, than sorry!

Bypassing Summer Crowds at Arches National Park

Crowds in the summer can frequently cause the park to reach capacity. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic with reduced capacities at national parks. In order to maximize your time in the park, you’ll want to follow tip #1 from above. Get to the park before sunrise and head straight to your first hike or viewpoint.

A deer casually munches on some leaves during Summer at Arches National Park
Beat the crowds and you might even eye some wildlife

Not only do you want to be there as early as possible to ensure entry, but it also helps to reduce the presence of other people on your trails. With the importance of social distancing, getting some alone time on a trail can’t be overstated. If you’re like me, you want to be alone on the trail as long as possible anyways.

You’ve got two options when it comes to choosing what trails to visit. The first is to head to the most popular spots and get them done quickly. This won’t eliminate all the people (you’re not the only one with this idea) but it will make it far more enjoyable. Depending on your timing, you might be one of the first out there. This is how we got to spend nearly 30 minutes alone at Landscape Arch before we saw our first people. It also allowed us to visit with our deer friend in the photo above.

Keep your eyes on the crowd and head against their flow. You might be lucky enough to find yourself alone like I was at Turret Arch

The alternative is to seek out less traveled parts of the park. These might not be the stunning views from your guidebooks, but they are going to be empty first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon/evening. People tend to visit these parts of the park after they see the big sites. By going there first, you’ll be all alone. This would be the option I’d choose if you’ve got more than one or two days at Arches.

One Day Highlights For Arches

If you’re one of the many who have decided to brave summer at Arches National Park, there is a good chance you’re seeing all of the Mighty Five. Utah is absolutely packed with places to see, so I’m going to quickly highlight what you must see with just one day at Arches.

Make sure you see Landscape Arch early when visiting in summer at Arches National Park
Landscape Arch will take your breath away in the morning light

Start your early morning hike by heading out to Landscape Arch. Located at the Devil’s Garden parking area, you’ll get the full scenic drive out of the way early. Landscape Arch is the longest in the park and the perfect place to catch sunrise. I guarantee you’ll enjoy every minute of solitude here. On your way back from Landscape, take the spur trail to Pine Tree Arch. Most people will bypass it early and since you’ve beaten them out at sunrise, you’ll get to see Pine Tree Arch quietly as well.

As you return south on the scenic drive, take a quick stop at Skyline Arch. It’ll only take about 15 minutes to see before you move on to your next destination. Continue south to Fiery Furnace overlook. If you’re feeling adventurous, Fiery Furnace can be hiked with a ranger. Despite it’s name, its one of the cooler parts of the park due to the large amounts of shade. However, it’s still a sight to behold, even if you don’t hike in.

Even from the overlook, you can see the people just surrounding Delicate Arch

After that head to the Delicate Arch viewpoint. Skip the hike to Delicate Arch itself. This is the most popular arch in the park and will be PACKED with people. The overlook hike is shorter, has less people, and still provides a view of the arch. You’ll be happier than braving the theme park like crowds heading to the Arch.

Your final stops should be at The Windows and Balanced Rock. Balanced Rock is a quick stop off the road that should take all of five minutes. The Windows are a great sunset alternative to the packed Delicate Arch. There are multiple arches on this hike, including a less traveled “primitive” trail. We did sunset here and while the clouds didn’t cooperate, it was still spectacular.

Balanced Rock is definitely one of the highlights to see when spending summer at Arches National Park
Balanced Rock is a geological wonder

Lodging Options Near The Park

When visiting Arches National Park, there will be a wealth of places to stay. Where you choose to spend the night will be based on a few factors. These will include your vehicle, number of people, weather, and necessary comfort level. While my suggestions won’t cover every possible solution, I think there are only three basic options to consider.

The most comfortable option is to simply get a hotel. Moab is minutes from the park entrance and is chock full of hotels. These range from your standard level Holiday Inns to shady roadside motels and everything in between. My personal recommendation is to avoid the big chains. You’ll get better prices staying at a local brand. We opted to stay at the Red Stone Inn in Moab. This hotel was on the main strip and perfectly cozy for the two of us.

Red Stone Inn is one of the best places to stay in the Summer at Arches National Park.
Plus, Red Stone Inn has this awesome old car and neon sign!

If you’re RVing or don’t mind camping, then you’ll want to consider one of the developed campground/RV “resorts” near Moab. These campground/RV parks are designed for people to spend anywhere from one night to a couple weeks. Many of them have full amenities, including wifi. This helps you feel like your adventuring, without quite fully escaping. Moab Valley RV Resort would be my go to here. It’s the closest to the entrance and sits right near the Colorado River.

The cheapest option of the bunch is also the most adventurous. If you don’t mind roughing it a bit, there is a ton of BLM land to camp on. Whether you’re in an RV, camping in a tent, or even driving your converted van, you can find a good spot. The best part about boondocking it on BLM land is the fact that it is free! There are a couple things to keep in mind. First, all the camping here is first-come, first-served and once you leave, your spot may not be there when you get back. Second, there are no amenities at all. If you need a shower after a long hike, consider one of the above options first. However, it doesn’t put you more in touch with nature than to camp among the stars.

Exploring Beyond Arches National Park

So you’ve completed your time at Arches National Park, but want to explore some more. The best place to head is Dead Horse Point State Park. Less than 30 minutes away, you’ll be blown away by this mini-Grand Canyon. It’s also close to Canyonlands National Park, making for a great second excursion from a base in Moab.

If you’ve braved summer at Arches National Park and want to head somewhere a little cooler and less crowded, consider spending one day at Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Just over 3 hours from Moab, Black Canyon is an entirely different experience but just as stunning.

Thanks for taking the time to read and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

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15 Responses

  1. I would never never have imagined going to Arches NO in summer but with your practical tips, I this we should venture out this year. I love the red rock formations and the Sereno beauty of the desert, especially in the morning and evening.

  2. I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures recently about this national park. You’ve added some great photos to this post, it looks really interesting to walk around here (but very hot)! I especially like the vintage car at the lodging recommendation!

  3. Arches National Park comes across as so spectacular. The rock formations have such timeless beauty. The Balanced Rock looks so awe-inspiring. Adhering to safety measures is so important during these times and it is great that you have focused on this issue in the post.

  4. The arches is one of the National Parks that I want to visit. I would likely go in the Spring or Fall which would reduce the crowds, but if I did go in the summer your tips are great. I’m definitely not a morning person, but it would be worth it the get up early to avoid the crowds. The idea of wearing some IV resistant clothing is brilliant! I will have to buy some for when I am summer hiking!

    1. Winter is also a really pretty time to visit the park, especially if you can go after a snowfall. Arches is pretty popular year round, so one other tip for timing is coming during the week and not a weekend. Gotta treat these places like theme parks 😀

  5. Wow, these arches and rock formations are truly amazing. I would love to visit and enjoy them from different angles. I can imagine that it must be very hot there – somehow I find that the sites look even hot in your pictures 😉 However, are there crowds even now?

  6. This looks like such an incredible trip to Arches! You’ve described exactly the way I would approach it, by starting early and visiting attractions against popular times. I loved each of the five stopping points you mentioned, but I would really delight in seeing Balanced Rock—it just doesn’t look possible that the big rock at the top doesn’t fall over! Thanks for the travel inspiration. When I head to the southwestern US (hopefully next year), I will look to this post again for guidance.

  7. Arches National Park has always been on my list to visit. Unfortunately, never made it. I would love to see the Sunrise on the trail to Landscape Arch. Looks so stunning. These arches and rock formations are truly amazing for a photographer like me. One day I would love to camp nearby and shoot them from different angles. Thanks for restoking the wish.

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