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!
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?
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