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The Absolute Best Time to Visit Arches National Park

Delicate Arch

If Arches National Park is on your bucket list, you’re probably wondering “When is the best time to visit?” Weather conditions, crowds, and activities can vary a lot from month to month, and your park experience on a summer visit will be very different than your experience on a winter visit.

November and March are the best times to visit Arches National Park if you are trying to avoid crowds and have reasonable temperatures. Weather and crowd levels are the largest factors to consider when choosing a time of year to visit Moab, UT. Arches is a small park, covering 119 square miles, and frequently reaches maximum capacity. This can greatly impact your visit if you don’t plan ahead.

I’ve been able to visit Moab and Arches in all four seasons; keep reading to learn everything you need to know so you can choose when to go.  

What Every Arches Visitor Needs to Know About Crowds

When is Arches Open? 

Visitors come to Utah from all over the world to see the sandstone wonders of Arches year-round. The park is open 365 days a year, including the holidays!

The visitor center inside the park is fully closed only one day a year on December 25th, however, it may close early on other holidays. 

Arches National Park does not provide any transportation, so guests will need to enter with their own vehicles or with a commercial tour operator. Due to this, on the few days a year that Grand County receives snow in the valleys, park roads may be closed to visitors until crews have time to clear the snow. Park services work quickly and are almost always able to restore safe travel within a few hours and the park roads will reopen for guests. 

When is the Park Open Daily? 

Guests can enter Arches at any time of day, 24/7 with a few limitations.

On exceptionally busy days park rangers may temporarily pause vehicle entry to the park due to limited parking. When this happens, they operate on a “one-out, one-in” policy, allowing one vehicle to enter the park each time another vehicle exits. Visitors who enter late at night or early in the morning will need to use a kiosk at the park entrance to pay any applicable entrance fees.

Arches National Park Sign

Additionally, the National Park Service has implemented a “Timed Entry System” to better control crowds during busy months (April through mid-October.) This system requires guests to have a reservation to enter the park at a specific time period. Once guests enter the park they are free to stay as long as they would like for the remainder of the day. 

Guests entering the park on bicycles, with certain permits, or with campground reservations are not required to have a Timed-Entry Reservation. For more details, see the NPS website.

What is the Best Time to Visit? 

Arches National Park is a great destination year-round, and each season offers its own pros and cons. Take a look at the table below to see some highlights. 

SeasonAverage Temp (High/Low)CrowdsProsCons
Nov, Dec, Jan, & Feb50/25LOW– Good parking availability 
– More lodging availability
– Low wait time at entrance station
– Possible cold weather
– Trails can be icy in the shade
– Fewer programs and guided tours
– Limited daylight hours
– Some restaurants and businesses are closed in the off-season 
– Snow can temporarily close Arches entrance road
March & April68/38MID/HIGH– Moderate weather
– Ranger Programs and Guided tours
– Weekdays may be less crowded 
– Can be difficult to find parking
– Popular hikes can get congested
May, June, & July92/58HIGH– Warm weather, great for hiking in streams or river rafting
– Long daylight hours 
– Many ranger programs and guided tours
– Parking is difficult in popular areas
– Mid-day temps can be extremely hot
– Sun exposure is high
– Low lodging availability
Aug, Sept, & Oct86/53HIGH– Warm weather, great for water activities
– Long daylight hours
– Weekdays may be less crowded 
– Many ranger programs/guided tours
– Parking is difficult most days
– Mid-day temps can be extremely hot
– Sun Exposure is high
– Low lodging availability
*Weather data from NOAA

When is the Worst Time to Visit?

Not only do visitors come to see Arches National Park, but the town of Moab, UT is a popular destination because of the incredible opportunities to ride a Jeep or ATV on the red rock of the nearby BLM land.

Times that get especially crazy are Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends. A big Jamboree happens over Easter break. This is also a popular destination for college students to visit during Spring Break.

October is the busiest month of the year.

Winter at Arches

If you can’t stand the crowds and don’t mind colder temperatures, Winter can be a great time to visit Arches. I personally have visited Moab every winter for the past 5 years and keep going back for more!

For me, the cold temperatures are absolutely worth it to visit with low crowds. I am able to find less expensive lodging, never have difficulty finding parking, and find myself alone in many areas of the park. The last time I visited, I hiked to Delicate Arch, and by the time I arrived at the arch, it was snowing heavily! I loved the unique view and backdrop that the snow gave to the arch.

If you visit in the winter, dress in warm layers, consider shoe spikes and/or hiking poles for stability on icy trails, and keep an eye on the weather forecasts. Park rangers at the visitor center and throughout the park are knowledgeable and up-to-date on trail and weather conditions, don’t be scared to ask if you aren’t sure!

Delicate Arch in the snow
Photo Credit: Megan Judd

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When you leave the park, you will find some services in Moab are limited. There are a number of restaurants that close completely for the winter or are only open on weekends. Tourism-related businesses often have limited hours and tour offerings. 

Spring at Arches

For guests who can’t stomach the potentially freezing temps, March and April are good options. However, crowds can be high on weekends and school holidays, so keep an eye on the park website for entrance restrictions or temporary closures if the park reaches full capacity.

Ranger programs such as guided hikes and nature talks resume in the spring. Current offerings can be found by checking the website or inquiring at the visitor center. Temperatures in the Spring are moderate with colder nights but comfortable days. Dress in layers and keep an eye on the weather to watch for late winter storms or early heat waves.

If vehicle entries are restricted during your visit and you don’t want to wait in line, check out our article about 9 alternative activities in Moab outside of the park. Each activity on that list can be completed in the spring months, and many will help you get away from the crowds and focus on the beauty of Southern Utah! 

Summer at Arches

Visitors pour into Moab in the summer months, and for good reason! There is a huge variety of activities available in Moab during the summer, and kids are out of school, opening up time for families to travel. Parking during the summer months is difficult and entry is restricted to limit overcrowding.

Long daylight hours in the summer months allow for adventures before and after the mid-day heat hits. On days when the Timed Entry System is in place, any guest (with or without a permit) may enter the park before and after the reserved slots. You can also avoid the biggest crowds if you hike early, take a break in the heat of the day, and then return for some evening exploration.

Rock formations in Arches
Photo Credit: Megan Judd

Plan afternoon hikes in spots where the sun sets early behind cliff walls to help minimize heat exposure. One of my favorite websites is ShadeMap. It lets you visualize where shade is created by natural features (hills, cliffs, etc…) throughout the day, any day of the year, as the sun’s angles change. On ShadeMap you can find your proposed location, set the day of your visit, and use the slider to see if you can time your hike to utilize the shade.

Be prepared to hike in the dark if you choose to hike late in the afternoon. Always carry a headlamp, extra water, and an emergency blanket if you think you may be out near sunset. Things can easily go wrong and you don’t want to try to navigate back to your car in the dark.

Water under an arch

If you visit Arches in the Summer months, plan to drink plenty of water, and carry water with you on every hike, even if you think it will be a short one. Dehydration happens quickly in the desert sun. Consider taking advantage of cooler temperatures in the morning and evening.

Summer thunderstorms occasionally bring heavy rains that cause flash flooding, check at the visitor center for current conditions and stay aware of your surroundings. 

For even more tips and tricks for hiking in the desert, see our article Hiking in the Desert: 11 things to know before you go and visit our recommended hiking gear page.

Lodging in the Summer can fill up fast. Check out some of our recommendations for where to stay. Don’t forget to plan ahead and reserve your lodging ahead of time.

Fall at Arches

When school resumes in the Fall, crowds in the park start to diminish, especially on weekdays in September and October. However, there is still a wide variety of activities, ranger programs, and guided hikes available. The weather in August can still average highs in the 90s and although the average temperature goes down throughout the fall, I have seen October days near 90 degrees as well.

Arches in the fall

If you’re out exploring in the fall, dress in layers and plan to carry water with you when hiking, even when temperatures are forecasted to be moderate. The desert climate is still dry and many hikes in the park have little to no shade. Ranger-led tours and talks may be limited on weekdays in the fall, so be sure to check schedules as you make your plans for each day.

Once again, lodging can fill up fast, even in the Fall.

Anytime is a Good Time

No matter what season you visit Arches National Park, good times are not hard to find, and they seem to never end. I’ve visited Moab and Arches many times, and I still see new and exciting things on each visit.

Need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do in Moab and Arches? Check out our itinerary

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO
MOAB, ARCHES, & CANYONLANDS

ARCHES & CANYONLANDS TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park, check out our Arches Homepage and our Canyonlands Homepage

ARCHES: Don’t miss all that Arches has to offer including hiking to Delicate Arch, and visiting Devil’s Garden, Fiery Furnace, & the Windows

CANYONLANDS: Visit the different areas of Canyonlands with our easy guide including the Island in the Sky District, the Needles District, and Horseshoe Canyon. Check out some amazing viewpoints, as well as, Mesa Arch, ancient ruins, and Native American rock art

MOAB: Explore the adventurous Moab area including Corona Arch, Gemini Bridges, and Dead Horse Point State Park.  Consider taking a jeep ride, a horseback ride, rafting down the Colorado River, or taking a scenic drive and exploring Potash Road

WHERE TO EAT: Don’t miss the best places to eat in Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands

WHERE TO STAY: Learn all about where to stay when visiting Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands YouTube Playlist

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