Post Summary: Everything you could ever need to know about visiting Arches National Park in winter.
VISTING ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN WINTER
Are you thinking about a trip to Arches National Park in winter? Do it. Do it right now!
I thought nothing could top our four days in Yellowstone, but the desolate beauty of Arches in winter blew us away.
After a long road trip from North Idaho, we landed in Moab in winter and thought maybe we had struck gold. Freshly fallen snow on Arches’ towering red rocks is something everyone needs to put on their American bucket list.
Here’s our massive guide to everything you could possibly need to know about visiting Arches National Park in winter. We’ll cover what to do in Arches in winter, where to stay, what to pack, how to avoid crowds, winter weather in Arches, and tips for your time there.
You can use the table of contents below if you want to skip down to specific topics.
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WHY YOU NEED TO VISIT ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN WINTER
Let’s start with why visiting Arches in winter is a dream come true.
1. NO CROWDS: Arches is one of the most popular and best National Parks in the West. Popularity means everyone wants to visit this stunning marvel. 1.6 million people, to be exact. How do you get away from over a million people? You visit Arches in the wintertime. In the high season of Spring and Summer, Arches averages 200,000 people a month. In the winter months, Arches averages 40,000 people a month, with January being their slowest month. We visited Arches in January and it was blissfully quiet. Often, we had hiking trails all to ourselves.
2. NO TRAFFIC: Fewer people means no traffic or waiting for a parking spot. The parking in Arches is minimal, so even a decent amount of people visiting the park means crowded parking lots and long wait times. According to the official Arches site, parking lots are full all day from mid-March to October. You can expect long lines from 9 am to 2 pm just to enter the park in the summer. It gets so bad they have to turn people away. Visit Arches National Park in winter, and you’ll never have that problem.
3. NO HEAT STROKE: It gets pretty darn hot in Arches. 100 degrees kind of hot. Summer in Arches can be brutal and often means staying indoors for the middle part of the day. While Arches in winter is cold, the winter weather is manageable, and we think it makes for a more enjoyable hiking experience. We’ll get into the winter weather in Arches below.
4. CHEAPER ACCOMMODATIONS: Hotel and Airbnb rates will be slashed in half in the winter. That beautiful outdoor hot tub at your hotel? Enjoy it in peace.
5. SNOW ON RED ROCKS: Being able to hike through Arches National Park with a dusting of snow is glorious. The sandy red arches and the crisp white powder make for photography magic. In the distance, the La Sal Mountains will be covered in a blanket of snowfall, creating even more drama and astounding beauty.
6. PHOTOGRAPHY HEAVEN: Everyone wants a picture of Delicate Arch. Most people don’t also want that guy wearing the neon yellow muscle tee in their coveted photo. Traveling to Arches in the wintertime means no waiting for the throngs of people taking their obligatory photo underneath an arch.
FUN FACTS: Arches National Park is aptly named Arches for the over 2000 natural arches in the park, the largest concentration of arches in the world. It’s also home to hoodoos, pinnacles, balanced rocks, fins, and other geological formations that make this red ocean of desert a one-of-a-kind landscape.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK WINTER WEATHER
Let’s break down Arches winter weather so you can be prepared for what to expect. Here are the average temperatures for Arches National Park in December, January, February, and March.
Arches National Park In December: High of 45 deg. / Low of 23 deg.
Arches National Park In January: High of 44 deg. / Low of 22 deg.
Arches National Park In February High of 52 deg. / Low of 28 deg.
Arches National Park In March: High of 62 deg./ Low of 35 deg.
These are averages and aren’t set in stone, but it gives you an idea of what to prepare for. Arches is a high desert landscape with its highest elevation being 5653 feet. That means temperatures within a day can have extreme fluctuations. We visited Arches National Park in January, where the temperatures at night dipped down to 7 degrees, but the daytime temperatures were a comfortable 45 degrees. Yes, that’s comfortable if you’re prepared with the right clothing! We’ll get into what to bring below.
Does it snow in Arches National Park? Yes, but not much. On average, Arches National park will get a couple of inches of snow for the months of December and January. Even though it doesn’t snow too much, you’re likely to see snow on the ground in areas that are shaded all day due to the tall rock formations.
WHERE TO STAY IN ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN WINTER
Since there is no lodging inside Arches National Park, the best place to stay for a trip to Arches National Park is a hotel or home rental in Moab, Utah.
Moab, Utah, is the jumping-off point for visiting Arches and the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park. Moab in the winter is a little less lively, but it’s a great, small town with a good collection of restaurants, boutiques, and grocery stores.
Here are our choices for the best places to stay in Moab.
We always prefer Airbnb over a hotel since they tend to be cheaper, are more private, and we enjoy having our own kitchen to prepare meals. Check out these cute Airbnbs in Moab below:
Blue Haven In The Center Of Moab (Great for families or if you have a trailer)
Casa Moab Casita (Outdoor sauna, great for a couple or solo traveler, walking distance to restaurants)
Modern Downtown Moab Home (Great for families or if you’re traveling in a group, great walkability)
A hotel can be a great choice if you want the extra amenities of a pool, hot tub, and a concierge. We ended up staying at the SpringHill Suites from Marriott when we had a propane issue with our camper, and we needed somewhere to stay at 11 pm! The SpringHill Suites is the closest hotel to Arches and is a great choice if you want an easy drive to the park. Also, the three large outdoor hot tubs were AMAZING, and we had them all to ourselves.
Winter Camping In Arches
You can also opt to do winter camping in Arches at the only campground offered in the park, Devils Garden Campground. It’s considered one of the best campgrounds in the National Park system because of its beauty, size, and privacy. We would have stayed there in our RV, but unfortunately, the campground was closed due to a water leak. They do not take reservations in the winter and operate on a first-come, first-served basis. From what I hear, it’s not too hard to get a campsite in winter.
WHAT TO WEAR TO ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN WINTER
Being prepared with high-quality winter gear will allow you to enjoy your time hiking the park. Layering is the essential piece for how to dress for Arches. Even though it might be in the lows 40’s, hiking will get your blood circulating and your body feeling warm, so you may end up wanting to peel off that heavy fleece sweater.
When we visited Arches in January, the weather was a cool 40 degrees, but the sun was blazing down and we actually got a little hot at points. The lesson being…layer up.
Here are our recommendations for what to wear to Arches National Park in winter.
LIGHTWEIGHT JACKET: A lightweight jacket that is easy to pack and can be thrown in your daypack is ideal. I also think you’ll want a jacket that stops at your waist. Some of the hiking trails in Arches require scrambling up rocks, and I found my long knee-length jacket got in the way of climbing. We love Patagonia’s Insulated Jackets because they are lightweight and pack down to a water bottle’s size. You can check out the women’s jackets HERE and the men’s jackets HERE.
FLEECE SWEATER: A fleece jacket or sweater is the perfect layer to go under your lightweight jacket. It might keep you so warm that you won’t even need your lightweight jacket on top. I like this fashionable looking fleece I bought off Amazon. It did a great job of keeping me warm. We also love the fleece sweaters from Patagonia. They are higher quality and will last longer.
HAT: A cozy, snug beanie will keep you extra warm on the trail.
GLOVES: A good pair of winter gloves can make all the difference in the world when it’s cold outside. Because you’ll be taking so many photos on your phone, it’s best to get gloves that are leather or have a pad on the pointer finger, so you don’t have to continually take your gloves off every time you want to snap a picture. I love my Sheepskin Leather gloves that I got off Amazon.
HIKING SHOES: Since there are trails and sights in the park that require scrambling on the rocks, you’ll want a good pair of hiking shoes that have good ankle support. It gets muddy in the winter, so you’ll want shoes that are waterproof and rise to your ankle or mid-calf. We use the Danner Jag Boot, a great all-around hiking boot with a nice retro style.
YAK-TRAX: You’ll definitely want these! Many of the trails can get a thin layer of ice, making it slippery and dangerous in areas where there are steep drop-offs. A traction device like Yak-Trax, slips onto the outside of your shoes and gives you traction and stability in icy conditions. My husband wore them hiking up to Delicate Arch, and he said they made a big difference in his comfort level. Even the park rangers wear them!
DAYPACK: A backpack is a must for when you inevitably want to peel off all those winter layers! My husband always sticks to The North Face backpacks and I like Fjallraven because they’re smaller and have a range of cute color choices.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN WINTER
SUNBLOCK: Yes, you will need sunblock in Arches! The higher elevation will cause you to burn faster. My husband’s Irish Norweigan roots did not do well there, and he did indeed get a mild sunburn when we visited Arches in winter.
CHAPSTICK: The dry, Utah winter weather will wreak havoc on your lips. Bring your favorite lip moisturizer.
LUNCH AND SNACKS: There are no food vendors in the park, so you will need to pack in a lunch and snacks for your time there.
WATER BOTTLE: Even though it will be cold, you will work up a sweat hiking the trails. Bring a reusable water bottle like a Hydroflask that you can fill up at the Visitor Center.
POWER BANK: The cold weather, lack of a good cell signal, and constant photo taking will drain your phone faster than you’re used to. Bring a high-quality power bank or solar power charger so you can have your phone working at all times.
FLASHLIGHT OR HEADLAMP: Arches at sunset is a popular time for photographers and nature lovers. Bring a flashlight or headlamp if you’ll be there after the sun sets or if you plan to do nighttime hiking.
HIKING POLES: If you don’t feel steady on your feet or would like the extra support, hiking poles are a great addition to your Winter Arches packing list. We didn’t use hiking poles, but if you’ll be doing harder hiking trails like the Devil’s Garden Trail, it’s highly recommended.
TRASH BAGS: Winter conditions make for muddy hiking trails. Bring some bags to put your shoes on for when you go back into your car. Otherwise, you’ll have red sand in your car for days!
WHAT TO DO IN ARCHES NATIONAL PARK IN WINTER
We’ve come to the fun part! Planning an amazing Arches itinerary. Arches National Park is a small national park and if you’re willing to get up early and be active you can do the park in one day. We think one and a half to two days is better though. If you’re traveling to Arches with kids, you might want two days to do it all.
Here are the main highlights of Arches National Park, including any info you might need about visiting them in the winter.
ARCHES SCENIC DRIVE
There is one main road that winds through the park, Arches Scenic Drive. If you’re visiting and hiking to the main spots, then you’ll see the scenic drive as you go, and it’s not something you need to plan for. If you’re short on time or have impaired mobility and want only to do the drive, the 19-mile drive (one way) takes about two hours when you factor in a few short stops for photos.
Delicate Arch is “the star” of Arches National Park and a must-do when visiting Arches. On your drive to the park, check out a Utah license plate, and you’ll get a sneak peek of this stunning natural arch. Measuring 46 feet high and 32 feet wide, it’s the largest freestanding arch in the park.
It can not be viewed from the road and requires a moderate 3-mile roundtrip out and back hike. The hike is a steady uphill climb that has very little shade. Don’t forget your sunblock, water, and snacks!
Everyone talks about how beautiful the Delicate Arch is (and it is!), but we also really enjoyed the unique hike to get there. The walk takes you to Ute Indian petroglyphs and has beautiful views of the La Sal Mountains.
The only thing about hiking Arches National Park in winter is that the trails can be icy. Most of the trail terrain to Delicate Arch is safe, except for the last section, which requires a short walk along a slender mountain side trail with a steep drop-off. This part is completely shaded, so ice can last there until the Spring. We think it’s really worth it to invest in some Yaktrax so you can feel secure.
If you feel hesitant, talk to a park ranger or ask at the visitor center what the current condition is for the trail.
When we hiked it in January, it was only partially iced over, so we felt safe enough doing it with a toddler. But we were also wearing our Yaktrax!
TIME NEEDED: 1.5 to 3 Hours
TIP: While the hike won’t be as crowded as it is in the Spring and Summer, you can still expect crowds at sunset. Professional and amateur photographers flock to Delicate Arch to capture this beautiful natural landmark at sunset.
LOWER AND UPPER DELICATE ARCH VIEWPOINT
If you’re curious about Delicate Arch but aren’t up for the hike, you can also view Delicate from the Lower and/or Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. The Lower Viewpoint is close to the parking lot, and the Upper Viewpoint requires a .5 mile uphill hike to see Delicate. The Upper Viewpoint has a better view, but the arch will still be small at both viewpoints. The viewpoints are a good option if you cannot hike to Delicate Arch, but not necessary if you’ll be doing the Delicate Arch Hike.
TIME NEEED: 30 minutes
LANDSCAPE ARCH AND THE DEVILS GARDEN TRAIL
This is another must-do, if adventure is what you’re after, when visiting Arches. Located at the end of the Scenic Drive, The Devils Garden Trail is a 7.2-mile round trip hike with additional small walks that can be added on to view various arches. The trail can be done in a loop if you choose to do the Primitive Trail or an out-and-back trail to Double O Arch.
If 7.2 miles sounds too long for you, you can easily cut the hike down to a more manageable length.
The main draw is Landscape Arch, the longest Arch in North America. Spanning the length of a football field, this miraculously thin arch is an impressive sight and worth the easy 1.6-mile roundtrip hike to get there.
Many choose to hike to Landscape Arch and turn around from there.
After Landscape Arch, the hike becomes difficult and at times requires using your hands and feet to scramble and climb. With steep drop-offs and narrow ledges, this trail is not recommended for anyone afraid of heights. The hike past Landscape Arch is difficult on a normal day; combine snow and ice, and it can become lethal.
Many people hike the trail in winter, but it’s best to check with park rangers the day you visit to get up-to-date trail conditions. At certain times of the winter season, the hike may be too dangerous to do.
If the trail is open, you will be rewarded with some of the best views in the park and 8 different Arches, including Double O Arch, Navajo Arch, and Partition Arch.
If you do this bucket list-worthy hike…make sure to have a traction aid like Yaktrax for your shoes!!
TIME NEEDED: 1 hour if you only hike to Landscape Arch, 2-3 hours if you add Double Arch and The Primitive Trail.
TIP: Be sure to look out for the cairns (stacked rock formations). They are trail markers that let you know you are going the right way. Do not follow someone else’s footprints! It is easy to get lost on the Primitive Trail, so keep an eye out for the cairns.
SAND DUNE AND BROKEN ARCH
The short .3 mile trek to Sand Dune Arch is a magical little walk that takes you through narrow rock fins that give you the feeling of walking through a slot canyon. Sand Dune Arch is tucked away between tall walls giving it a unique cavernous feel. This is a great spot if you’re traveling to Arches with kids because it’s an easy walk, and there’s soft red sand (in the winter, parts of the sand may be frozen) that kids love playing with. Easy and quick, we definitley recommend Sand Dune Arch.
The same trailhead to Sand Dune Arch also leads to Broken Arch. If you do both, the total distance will be a 1.8-mile loop. It’s a beautiful hike that’s a nice addition if you have the time and are craving solitude.
TIME NEEDED: Sand Dune Arch – 30 minutes, Sand Dune and Broken Arch – 1.5 hours
The Windows is a popular section for its beautiful scenery and ease of access. Located right off the road, a short .7 mile walk takes you to the North and South Windows, and a short spur trail takes you to Turret Arch. While the walk to the sight isn’t difficult, many people like to scramble up the rocks to get the perfect shot. Visiting in winter means the rocks could be slick, so extra caution might be needed when climbing the rocks.
You can also opt to walk the Primitive Trail to get back to the parking lot. The trail takes you behind the arches and is a fun choice if you want to scramble, climb, and take a hand at your navigation skills. The trail is marked with cairns and would add .7 miles to your walk.
TIME NEEDED: 30 minutes to an hour
Across from the parking lot of the Windows Section is the trailhead to Double Arch. The walk is .6 miles out and back that takes you to the tallest arch in the park, Double Arch. Well worth the easy hike to get a close look at this grand arch. Once the trail ends, you will need to scramble and climb if you want to get directly underneath the arch.
TIME NEEDED: 30 minutes
PARK AVENUE TRAIL
The Park Avenue Trail is a two-mile out-and-back hike that doesn’t highlight a particular arch but rather walks you through the valley floor, getting you up close to the towering rock walls that line the park. The hike takes you to see the Courthouse Towers and The Three Gossips. The perspective is amazing and a great hike to add to your itinerary.
TIME NEEDED: 30-45 minutes
Balanced Rock is an easy stop along the Arches Scenic Drive. A simple .03 mile roundtrip hike will take you around the rock and back to the parking lot. The 128 feet tall rock can be seen from the road, so if you’re short on time, skip the walk and view it from the parking lot.
TIME NEEDED: 15-20 minutes
TIPS AND FAQS FOR ARCHES IN WINTER
What are the road conditions for Arches National Park in Winter? If there’s a big snowstorm, the park might close for a few hours while the roads are plowed. Big snow storms are uncommon for Arches, so most likely the roads will be open for winter. You can check the official Arches website for up to date information on road closures during your visit.
Is Arches National Park open in winter? Yes, the park is open year round, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
Is the Visitors Center open in winter? Yes, the visitors center is open every day from 9 am- 4 pm in the winter except Christmas Day. There are no ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in the winter.
Is there cell service or wifi in the park? There is no wifi and cell service is spotty at best.
Are there gas stations in the park? No. You will need to fill up before you get to the park.
How many entrances are there to Arches? There is only one entrance to the park.
How much does Arches National Park cost? Entrance to Arches is $30 per vehicle and is good for seven days. If you’ll be making a Utah road trip to see Zion National Park, Capitol Reef, or Bryce Canyon or any other federal lands in the US, buying an America The Beautiful Pass could save you money. It’s $80, good for one year, and gets you into over 2000 federal recreation sites. You can learn more about it HERE.
Is there food in Arches National Park? No. There are no restaurants or snacks sold in the park. You will need to bring your own snacks and lunch with you. There is water at the visitor’s center for refilling reusable water bottles.
What is the closest major airport to Arches National Park? The closest airport to Arches is Grand Junction Regional Airport in Colorado. It’s a 1.5 hour drive to the park. There’s also the Salt Lake City International Airport. It’s a 3.5 hour drive to the park.
Is hiking Arches National Park in winter dangerous? For the most part, hiking in Arches in winter is a safe and wonderful experience. Many trails will have icy spots that you will need to be careful navigating. Always check at the visitor’s center or with a park ranger to get up-to-date information on trail conditions and safety. If you are doing more difficult hikes like Devil’s Garden or Delicate Arch, traction cleats and hiking poles are highly recommended.
Are there tours available for the park? Yes, you can definitely find tours that will guide you through some fun excursions through the park. There are Arches National Park hiking tours and an adventurous 4 x 4 backcountry tour that can take you into more remote sections of the park. We haven’t personally done a tour, but you can check out the tours offered from Get Your Guide. I like them because you can read through reviews to suss out which tour seems right for you.
FINAL TIP: Before you go, download the National Park App. It’s a comprehensive app to the entire National Park Service that includes a great section on Arches. Information on parking, bathrooms, picnic tables, and more. It’s also a great way to check if there are any road or trail closures.
Do you feel ready to explore Arches National Park in winter? Let us know if you have any questions about the park below.
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