Visiting Arches National Park in the winter is a great way to experience the beauty without the crowds of warmer months.
Did you know that National Parks are open year round? While many of them see a large influx of visitors in the warmer months due to school being out and more families traveling, there are definite benefits to going during the off season. Arches National Park just outside Moab, UT is one of the Big 5 National Parks in Utah. Going in the winter has so many benefits that you might not be aware of. Should you decide to venture down to Arches in the winter, I’m here to share some helpful tips to make it as enjoyable as possible.
One of the frustrating things about visiting Arches during warmer months is that finding parking can be challenging. You often end up looping around trying to get a spot. Because it’s colder in the winter, you’ll see a lot less crowds. When we visited (at the end of February 2021), we always found parking spots at each of the lookouts and trailheads. Less crowds also means you get to see more of the arches during your visit.
Start at Devil’s Garden
Arches National Park has one way in and one way out. The farthest point you can drive to is called Devil’s Garden, which is about 17.7 miles from the entrance. Going to Devil’s Garden first is a great way to get the most bang for your buck. This is because Devil’s Garden is a trailhead for 9 different arches. Depending on the age and stamina of your group, you may be able to see all of them. (Here is a list of the length and difficulty of each hike.)
After Devil’s Garden, you can easily stop at the lookouts for Delicate Arch (both Upper and Lower Viewpoints are accessed from the same parking lot). Then, hit up the loop that takes you to the Windows Section of the park for access to 4 more hikes. Balanced Rock and the Courthouse Towers are the two locations that are closest to the entrance of the park and include easy trails.
Some trails may be closed
Depending on the time of winter you visit, there are certain trails that are closed due to safety and inaccessibility. You can always check in at the visitor’s center before heading up for an up to date list of trails or other areas of the park that are not open.
Be prepared for the cold weather
While Arches National Park can reach temperatures of 100 degrees in the summer months, it can also get pretty cold in the winter. My family went in February and we made sure to bring our coats, hats and gloves to keep us warm. We all wore jeans and sweatshirts as well. Our baby was nice and cozy in his carrier.
The highest it got was about 45 degrees F which meant the mornings were right around freezing when we first got into the park. It’s always easier to take layers off than to wish you had brought more. If you are moving around, it’s obviously easier to stay warm, but some of the trails are pretty short so your body doesn’t always have to time warm up while you’re out of your car. This is especially true for kids. No one wants to hear them complaining that they are cold when you’re trying to create memories. *wink*
Limited hours at the visitors center
Just because Arches National Park is open year round doesn’t mean that the hours at the visitor’s center stay the same. Because there are less people visiting in the colder months, they shorten the visitor hours. If you want to stop by the visitor’s center on your way in or out of the park, make sure to check the hours they are open.
Bring water and snacks
Before you head into the park, pack your car with plenty of snacks and a cooler of drinks. There are no stores once you enter the park and the only place to find food are the vending machines by the entrance to the visitors center. Be sure to pack snacks with lots of protein to replenish your body and keep everyone full, such as trail mix, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, jerky, veggies, energy bites and cheese to name a few. And don’t let the colder weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to drink as much. The various hikes will definitely cause you to get thirsty so bring more water than you think you’ll need. And don’t worry: there are bathrooms at all the main trailheads and at the visitor’s center.
Fill up your gas tank – no gas station inside park
Lastly, remember to fill up your gas tank before you enter the park. There are NO GAS STATIONS inside the park. If you run out of gas, you’re going to have a problem and trying to get your car refilled is going to take time that you could be spending enjoying the park. So do yourself a big favor and fill up that tank!
I hope you found this post on visiting Arches National Park in the winter helpful! Have you been? What tips would you share?