Skip to Content

5 Reasons To Avoid Arches National Park In 2022

5 Reasons To Avoid Arches National Park In 2022

Even if you’ve never been to Arches National Park, you’ve likely seen at least one of its arches. Many of the license plates issued by Utah have a picture of Delicate Arch stamped on them.

However, despite thousands of sandstone arches, an astonishing paved scenic drive, and various hiking trails, it’s not all great.

Today, we’re sharing five reasons we think you should avoid Arches National Park, especially in 2022.

Let’s get started!

About Arches National Park

Arches National Park is in Moab, Utah, in the east-central portion of the state, and is one of the best national parks. Here you’ll find buttes carved by the Green and Colorado rivers, mesas, and over 2,000 natural sandstone arches.

The park is home to the largest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world. However, the geological formations that litter the park are equally as impressive.

In 1929 President Hoover put pen to paper and designated 4,520 acres as Arches National Monument. The goal was to protect the delicate sandstone formations. It wasn’t until 1971 that Congress changed the status to Arches National Park. Today the park covers 76,518 acres and contains a variety of astounding geological formations.

The park is a great place to enjoy the unique Utah landscapes. One of the best features of this park is the ease of enjoying it. You can easily take in the views whether you’re looking to hike the Fiery Furnace or cruise along the 36-mile scenic drive.

However, there are certain aspects of Arches National Park that are less breathtaking. Some could even potentially ruin your trip! 

5 Reasons To Avoid Arches National Park in 2022

The incredible landscapes make it easy to take photos that are sure to get a lot of likes on Instagram. However, we’ve found a handful of reasons why you might want to avoid Arches National Park in 2022. Let’s take a look!

1. It Gets Easily Overcrowded

The secret is out on the awesomeness of Arches National Park. Despite travel restrictions, the park saw a 3% growth in park attendance in 2020, and things haven’t slowed down. In some months, park attendance has increased as much as 70% over previous years.

Officials believe some trails are experiencing a 200% increase in usage due to rising crowds.

Increased attendance limits the chances that you’ll get to enjoy the landscapes in solitude. Some of the most popular trails typically become a single-file line of hikers, limiting your ability to stop and appreciate the scenery.

If you’re planning to visit Arches National Park anytime soon, be sure to plan accordingly and don’t get caught off guard by the number of visitors.

2. The New Timed-Entry Reservation System

Like many national parks, Arches is implementing a timed-entry reservation system. The park temporarily tested the waters over Memorial Day Weekend 2021 to gather data and measure the system’s effectiveness. They were pleased with the results and will be implementing another temporary system from April 3 to October 3, 2022.

The park will release monthly blocks of tickets on a first-come, first-served basis three months in advance. If you’re unable to secure a ticket, there will be a limited number of tickets available one day prior. 

It’s safe to say that many guests will be unable to snag a timed-entry ticket. Like it or not, visitors without one of these tickets will be unable to enter the park. This means that you need a plan if you’re hoping to visit the park.

Pro Tip: Arches National Park isn’t the only national park option Utah has to offer! Check out these Utah National Parks Ranked Best To Worst.

3. You Have to Plan Ahead

If you want to visit Arches when the timed-entry reservation system is in effect, you need to start planning months in advance. The reservations open up three months in advance, so you’ll likely need to start planning for your trip four to five months in advance. 

You’ll want to look at the potential dates then set a reminder on your phone or write it on a calendar to get reservations. Each timed-entry reservation is good for a single day. So if you want to do multiple days at the park, you’ll need a timed-entry reservation for each day.

Don’t think the planning is over once you’ve secured a reservation. You’re also going to need to plan to arrive on time. Timed-entry reservations give you a 60-minute buffer. If you fail to arrive within the 60-minute buffer, you’re not getting in that day.

However, you can come and go from the park once you check in with your reservation. Do yourself a favor, and do everything you can to arrive on time!

Woman hiking in Arches National Park.
Plan ahead to ensure you get tickets for Arches National Park’s new timed entry system.

4. It’s Hard To Drive From Spot To Spot

Arches is a large park, and you’ll need a vehicle to navigate around it. The increase in visitors to the park also means an increase in traffic. Getting from spot to spot can be difficult, especially during the peak season. Visitors often drive under the speed limit as they’re focusing on taking in the landscapes first and driving second.

Many of the parking lots for popular hiking trails, like Delicate Arch Trail and Landscape Arch, typically reach capacity. Many guests have driven the route to the parking lot only to experience the disappointment of a full parking lot. Having a plan B hiking option is always a good idea.

5. Canyonlands Is Only 30 Minutes Away

If you’re not able to snag a timed-entry ticket or get tired of battling the crowds, Canyonlands National Park is practically just down the road. It’s approximately a 30-minute drive from the Arches National Park Visitor Center to Canyonlands’ Island of the Sky Visitor Center.

The park offers some unforgettable views of the canyons that surround the area. However, you’ll also find paved and four-wheel-drive roads, hiking, boating, and horseback riding.

Canyonlands may not have the same geological formations as Arches National Park, but it also experiences smaller crowds. The park has seen an increase in attendance the past few years but still isn’t drawing nearly as many guests as Arches.

The park is over 250,000 acres, which means there’s much more space for visitors to spread out than the 76,000 acres at Arches National Park.

The National Park Timed-Entry Permit

When park officials began seeing lines at the gates that had some visitors waiting three or more hours to get into the park, they knew something had to change. Timed-entry permits allow officials to manage crowds, ensure guests have a great experience, and help them protect the park from overuse.

The park releases month-long blocks of timed-entry passes for each day three months in advance on Recreation.gov. Each timed-entry pass cost is $2, and they are non-transferable. Guests who can snag a reservation will need to arrive within the one-hour window assigned to them and pay the park entrance fee.

Pro Tip: Still want to stick it out and explore Arches National Park? This is How to Spend a Day in Arches National Park.

Are Other National Parks Implementing The Reservation System?

Many national parks across the country are implementing timed-entry reservation systems during their busy seasons. National parks that use timed reservation systems include Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Acadia, Glacier, and Haleakala.

Some parks use reservation systems to control traffic and prevent overuse at some of the most popular attractions. For example, guests can enter and explore Acadia National Park without a reservation. However, to drive up Cadillac Summit Road, you’ll need to purchase the $6 timed reservation.

Why You Should Think About Skipping Arches In 2022

Arches is one of the top parks managed by the National Park System. However, if you’ve never visited the park, you want your first experience to be a good one. Fighting crowds and waiting in line is not how you want to remember Arches.

For many of the popular parks, like Arches, it may be best to wait another year or two for the hype to subside before trying to visit. Or plan your visit for the shoulder or off-season. You’ll likely get a much better experience by doing so. Have you ever had a bad experience at a national park due to the crowds?

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

Bonnie

Friday 11th of February 2022

As a Utahn who visits only during the off season, I still love Arches, but I would highly recommend consideration too for the Needles District of Canyonlands for those who don’t mind a bit more remote exploration. It’s absolutely mind-boggling terrain and often times you can have few others out there with you. Treks are usually longer and may involve some additional navigation with cairn/map study, but it’s an all time favourite for me!

Cheryl D Garcia

Tuesday 8th of February 2022

I do understand the reasoning the Park system is implementing new fees.... and I do know they are trying to come up with additional funding. Sadly, there will be many disappointed visitors who arrive without knowing the new process. That will leave a bad taste and hopefully won't result in tempers lashing out. We will be staying away and exploring less-crowded and more elusive places, so thanks to your tips, we appreciate your drivin n vibin blog!

Hahn Choi

Friday 4th of February 2022

Good information.

oggy bleacher

Friday 4th of February 2022

some of these details are not totally accurate.

From the park website-The timed entry system: "Tickets will be required from 6am to 5 pm daily April 3 through October 3, 2022."

So, after 5pm the entry ticket/reservations are not required. See? The entry kiosk closes around 6pm. This means that visitors will arrive before 6am, which they already did in huge numbers, and then after 5pm. If you have no reservation then you will have to go somewhere else until after 5pm. In the summer there is plenty of daylight until 8pm so in 3 hours you could see a substantial amount of the park. The timed entry is just delaying entry, not prohibiting it, because there were simply zero places to park during peak season. This led to improvised parking that damaged resources and created bottlenecks at parking areas. Or visitors just drove in circles for a few hours looking for a place to park.

The park was created in 1929 when there were no asphalt roads and no plastic packaging. Now there are 10,000 cars a day trying to fit in 600 spaces. 250,000 visitors per month bringing trash from Colorado and beyond. Visitors must try to pack their trash out of the park. PLEASE. The NPS budget is being depleted paying to dispose of trash. Moab is too remote to recycle much more than aluminum cans. Everything else is bound for the Moab landfill.

Moab hotels fill up during the summer and cost around $150/night. RV parks are usually full. The only campground in Arches has 50 sites, no hookups of any kind, and will be completely reserved for the summer by the end of January...but there are sometimes 1 or 2 cancellations that can be claimed that day.

The park is open 24 hours and is a special place after dark. Be prepared. rescue teams take 5 hours to assemble. The vault toilets are always open but the visitor center/gift store closes around 5pm and all the rangers leave at that time except for an evening program at the campground.

There is only drinking water outside the visitor center and at the Devil's Garden trailhead in the summer. No water is available at any other trailhead.

The park road is 18 miles from entrance station to the end, 40 minute drive out and 40 minutes back. That's not very big considering how remote Moab is from the rest of the country. Moab is about 10 minutes south. Utah is huge. If you drove to Moab then you can drive 18 more miles to the end of the road. Only about 5% of the park is accessible by asphalt. Stay on trails. Leave a note on your dashboard with your itinerary. No dogs are allowed on the trails. Dogs may only go on asphalt...and dogs will quickly dehydrate if left in a vehicle. Off Road vehicles like UTV/ATV are not allowed in the park, even on the asphalt. A jeep is a road vehicle and are allowed.

Moab is extremely hot in the summer. 115 degrees. 90+ at night. No one should hike long distances in the summer heat. 1 hour walks are best. Hike with others. Team up with strangers.

Islands in the Sky part of Canyonlands is about 50 minutes north/northwest to see the Grand View Overlook. There is a Utah State Park on the way to Islands in the Sky called Deadhorse State Park that has a different entrance fee because it is a state operation. The Needles portion of Canyonlands is SOUTH about 1.5 hours. Hovenweep is a few hours south/east. Natural Bridges is a few hours south/west. Colorado National Monument is 2 hours East. Black Canyon of the Gunnison is several hours east. If you are going to the Grand Canyon then you might pass through Flagstaff and can visit Wupatki, Walnut Canyon and Sunset Crater parks on your way. Petrified Forest is south near Holbrook. Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Zion, Cedar Breaks are several hours to the West.

The parks pass for $80 is the best value...valid for 1 year at all federal rec stations.

Micheal Whelan

Friday 4th of February 2022

We have to agree. As a result of the Feds feeling they have to regulate how we see out national treasures it tells us they are over used. We will not visit any any of the national parks this year. There are to many other places that are equally as interesting and allow us the freedom to investigate on our schedule not the schedule of the park masters.

%d bloggers like this: