Are you planning on hiking Arches National Park? This park guide will walk you through where to find food, what trails to hike, and how to avoid crowds.
In the heart of Utah, there’s a stretch of land that is otherworldly– a rocky expanse that seems to be plucked from an alien planet and dropped where it does not belong.
Arches National Park is filled with massive, towering rocks inside a bright red desert.
Over the past few years, the husband and I have visited this park twice, and (because it’s the husband’s favorite park), I’m sure we’ll be back.
Will you be hiking Arches National Park? Here are a few things I learned from our visits.
Is Arches Overcrowded?
I’m sure it depends on when you visit, but both times we visited– the park was PACKED.
However, we learned from our first trip, and even though the park was actually MORE crowded on our second visit, we were able to avoid most of the crowds.
Avoid Crowds at Arches: Go Early and Go Late
Each time we visited, we started our hikes before dawn, and ended hiking around 10am.
Then, we left the park, got some lunch in Moab, relaxed, and drove back into the park around 3pm or 4pm, and stayed until dusk.
When we hiked extra-popular trails, like the trail to Delicate Arch, we left even earlier than usual.
We still had plenty of time to hike, and avoided the bulk of the crowds.
Take the Trail Less Traveled
Arches has lots of sites to see near the road, such as Balanced Rock, Double Arch, and the North and South Windows.
These arches or rock formations are near the parking lots, with very short trails.
These spots can be jam-packed with people during peak hours— and can get so crowded that you’ll spend your time hunting for a parking spot instead of hiking.
I like to visit these spots in the evening, when most people leave to go eat dinner.
But Arches also has other trails– longer trails with fewer hikers, such as the Double O Arch and Primitive Trail, Tower Arch, and Park Ranger-guided tours of the Fiery Furnace.
We hiked both the Double O Arch trail and the Tower Arch trail on Memorial Day weekend when the park was jam-packed full of visitors, and both trails were pretty empty.
Keep in mind that these strenuous trails are longer and more difficult than most of the other trails in the park, so be prepared with water and snacks.
Visit Arches Off-Season
If you don’t want crowds, avoid visiting Arches on a holiday weekend when lines to enter the park can be hours (yes, hours) long.
If you have to visit on a busy weekend, take my advice to go early and go late even more seriously.
In the summer, the park will be crowded with families on summer vacation, plus the desert heat can be dangerous. If possible, visit in spring and fall.
And if you’re okay with cold weather, consider visiting Arches National Park in winter.
Food at (and Near) Arches National Park
Inside the Park
There is nowhere to buy food inside Arches. No grocery store, no cafe. I don’t even remember seeing a vending machine.
You will need food for fuel on your hikes.
Plan on packing your food— bring trail mix, peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, dried fruit, Clif bars— whatever your favorite trail food is.
We kept a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a bottle of honey in the car, and then added bags of trail mix to our daypacks.
Nearby in Moab, Utah
Moab also has a lot of food options– grocery stores, fast food chains, and cute, independently owned restaurants.
Want to try campground cooking? Check out these Camping Recipes for a Happy Glamper for cooking tips and recipe ideas.
How Much Water Should I Bring when Hiking Arches National Park?
A lot, especially if it’s a hot day.
The first time we visited Arches, it was during a heat wave, and the Park Service was recommending that everyone have at least 2 liters of water per person on hand for the longer trails.
There are free water bottle refilling stations outside the Visitor’s Center. Once you drive past the Visitor’s Center, the only other place to refill your water bottles is at the other end of the park in the Devil’s Garden parking area.
Bring water bottles or water bladders and fill them up on your way into the park.
Do I Need Hiking Boots at Arches?
If you’ll be doing any of the longer hiking trails, I recommend either hiking boots or shoes with very good grip.
Keep in mind that you’ll be walking on tilted sandstone rock, and your hike will go much more smoothly if your shoes grip to the rock.
Looking for new hiking boots? Here are my picks for the best women’s hiking shoes + boots.
I’m Afraid of Heights. Should I Plan on Hiking Arches National Park?
The trail list clearly marks which trails have “exposure to heights,” so if you’re very concerned, you can get a better idea about what you’re getting into.
Personally, I’ve found that hiking with a trekking pole provided a little extra stability, and made me more comfortable on the trails at Arches.
Where Can I Camp at Arches?
Hotels in the area are exceptionally expensive.
What Is there to Do Nearby?
Try hiking in Canyonlands National Park! The area is gorgeous, and it’s only about 30 minutes from Arches.
The majority of the trails at Canyonlands are for off-roading ATVs or rock climbers, but there are also several short day hike options.
Have you visited Arches? Let me know what your favorite trail was in the comments!