Anybody planning to visit Arches National Park this year will need to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a reservation.
Visitors arriving at Arches between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., from April 1 to October 31, 2023, will need what’s called a timed entry reservation. The reservations — which must be purchased in advance on Recreation.gov — are free, but there is a $2 processing fee. That fee is in addition to the park’s entrance fees.
The National Park Service explains that the pilot timed entry system is necessary because the park has become so popular, and consequently, crowded.
Indeed, between 2011 and 2021, visitation to Arches National Park grew more than 73 percent. In 2022, for instance, just short of 1.5 million people visited Arches, according to the National Park Service. In 2021, just over 1.8 million people visited the park.
“This increase in visitor use creates congestion and crowding that can negatively impact public safety, visitor experiences, and park resources,” the National Park Service explains. “During times of peak congestion, the park has had to temporarily close its gates until crowding has lessened. With timed entry, however, temporary closures are not typically required.”
That’s because managed access systems such as timed entry distribute visitation throughout the day and season, the National Park Service continues.
Here’s why so many people travel to visit Arches, which is just 5 miles outside Moab, Utah. The park is home to more than 2,000 natural stone arches, towers, pinnacles, and balanced rocks that “might feel timeless, dream-like, or even other-worldly,” the National Park Service explains.
How The Reservation System Works
Arches has already begun releasing reservations 3 months in advance. For example, reservations for July became available on April 1, while reservations for August will become available May 1.
After booking a reservation, visitors will receive a timed entry ticket. These tickets, which are required to enter the park from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., will allow visitors to enter the park during a specified 1-hour window.
After entering, visitors may stay in the park for the remainder of the day. Importantly, ticket holders may exit and re-enter the park on the same day as long as they still have their correctly validated ticket.
Timed entry tickets are expected to sell out quickly, so the National Park Service encourages visitors to plan ahead.
Now, it should be noted that timed entry tickets are not needed by all visitors.
For example, timed entry tickets are not required if you have a camping permit, backcountry permit, Fiery Furnace permit, special use permit, concessions contract, or have received commercial use authorizations.
Also, if you plan to beat the crowds and arrive at Arches before 7 a.m. or plan to arrive after 4 p.m., you will not need a timed entry ticket.
You can find all the details and even make reservations at Recreration.gov’s Arches National Park Timed Entry webpage.
Know Before You Go
Even with a timed entry system, rangers caution visitors that they may encounter traffic that then leads to long wait times to enter Arches. Consequently, they encourage visitors to plan ahead so they can make the most of their time inside the park.
You can find basic park information and lists of all the noteworthy things to do and places to see at the park’s Plan Your Visit webpage.
Finally, if you’ll be visiting Arches, keep in mind that sunset and evening are great times to visit Arches. The park will be less crowded, the temperatures will be cooler, and the setting sun makes the red rock landscape look even more majestic. Plus, after the sun sets, the stargazing is spectacular.
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