(Photo by Dino Reichmuth)
Four hours south of Utah’s state capitol is Arches National Park, a natural wonder that is home to the most sandstone arches (over 2,000 in only 119 sq mi!) on the whole planet.
Formed millions of years ago, they’re a sight that continues to wow park visitors through the modern age.
The Arches National Park was almost made to drive.
While the sandstone formations date back millennia, before the wheel was invented, the road paved for easy car access was meant to be.
It allows people easy access to the incredible sight of the Arches.
The entrance to the Arches National Park is off U.S. Highway 191.
After passing through the visitor’s center and paying the entrance fee ($30 for cars, $25 for motorcycles, and $15 for pedestrian visitors or cyclists), the road through Arches takes you almost the full length of the park.
It runs right down the center and offers views of arches, both east and west.
It’s important to plan ahead as it can get very busy.
The National Parks website warns that spring to fall, 7 am to 2 pm are by far the busiest times.
If there are too many people, they will restrict access and not let in new visitors until others start to trickle out.
Branching off of the main, paved road is a dirt path called Salt Valley Road.
If you can switch into two-wheel-drive and have high clearance, this backwoods experience can be breathtaking.
Can you see all of Arches Natioanl Park by car?
You can see almost all of the major sites at the Arches thanks to the road.
Each monument is graced with its own viewpoint.
Pull off into the designated parking lot – all are clearly marked with signs – and enjoy the view!
There are some which require a short and easy hike to the appropriate viewing location, so it’s best to wear suitable shoes.
What can’t you see by car?
There’s almost nothing you can’t see from a driving tour of Arches National Park.
Many stops do require a short walk (hardly a hike) to the corresponding viewpoint, but are otherwise extremely accessible.
If you don’t plan on doing any hiking, then most of the views at the Devil’s Garden will be lost to you.
The same goes for Delicate Arch (Upper, Lower, and original) and parts of The Windows.
How long does it take to drive through Arches?
The time it takes to drive through Arches National Park is up to you.
It could be done in only a couple of hours or it could take the whole day.
Overall, the Park makes for a 36 mile-long trip. The time it takes depends on how often you stop, how long you stop for, and whether or not you make all of the stops.
The good news is that you’re not hard pressed to get in and out.
The park is open 24 hours, so you can arrive as early or as late as you want. Or you can camp overnight!
There’s only one campground, though, so in the busy season it’s hard to reserve a pitch.
Where to stop on Arches National Park
- Park Avenue
- The La Sal Mountains, Utah’s second highest mountain range.
- Courthouse Towers
- Petrified Dunes Viewpoint
- Balanced Rock
- The Windows District, off The Windows Road, including Cove of Caves, Double Arch, the Garden of Eden, North Window, Parade of Elephants, South Window, and Turret Arch.
- Panorama Point
- Delicate Arch (off Delicate Arch Road, also paved) and Wolfe Ranch, a late 19th century homestead of a Civil War veteran.
- Salt Valley Overlook
- Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
- Sand Dune Arch
- Skyline Arch
- Devil’s Garden, where a short and easy walk along the trail gives views of Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches. An extra 20 minutes hike leads you to Navajo, Landscape, Partition, and Wall Arches. If your car can’t make it down Salt Valley Road, but you’re happy to hike, you can go all the way to the Tower Arch Trailhead and see the Klondike Bluffs.
If you’re able to drive down Salt Valley Road, you can stop to see Tower Arch and the Klondike Bluffs with less of a hike.
It almost seems too good to be true: hop into the car and get a whirlwind tour of incredible natural beauty within a few hours.
Believe it or not, the juxtaposition of modern amenities bringing you to ancient geological wonders is possible.
There’s no reason not to go see Arches National Park.
Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit.
She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.