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Why Winter is the Perfect Time to Visit Arches National Park + How to Plan Your Trip

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Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Sarah Puckett

Are you ready to experience the magic of Arches National Park in winter?

With cooler temperatures providing ideal conditions for hiking and exploring, winter offers a unique opportunity to witness the park’s stunning beauty in a serene setting.

From snow-dusted red rock formations to peaceful trails devoid of crowds, visiting Arches National Park in December, January, or February is an adventure you won’t want to miss. We’ve personally traveled to Arches National Park several times in the winter, from late November when winter is just starting to arrive to February when the park is likely to be a winter wonderland.

In this blog post, we’ll uncover the hidden gems and unique experiences waiting for you in one of Utah’s most iconic destinations during the colder months.

Here’s why you should visit Arches National Park in Utah in winter, what to expect, and how to prepare for exploring Utah’s most iconic park in November, December, January, and February.

Sarah in Devils Garden at Arches National Park

Why Visit Arches National Park in Winter

1. Winter Weather in Arches National Park is ACTUALLY enjoyable

Winter in Arches National Park brings a unique charm and beauty, with cooler temperatures and occasional snowfall transforming the landscape into a winter wonderland. Here’s what you can expect in terms of weather for each month of the winter season:

December in Arches National Park:

  • December marks the beginning of winter in Arches National Park, with temperatures ranging from chilly mornings to mild afternoons. Average high temperatures hover around the mid-40s°F (7-9°C), while lows can dip below freezing.
  • Snowfall is possible but not as frequent as in later months, offering a picturesque dusting of white against the red rock formations. Visitors can enjoy quieter trails and fewer crowds during this time.

January in Arches National Park

  • January brings colder temperatures to Arches National Park, with average highs in the low 40s°F (4-6°C) and lows dropping below freezing. Be prepared for brisk mornings and chilly evenings.
  • Snowfall becomes more common in January, covering the landscape in a blanket of snow and adding to the park’s stunning scenery. Hiking trails may be icy, so exercise caution when exploring.

February in Arches National Park

  • February continues the trend of cold temperatures in Arches National Park, with average highs in the mid-40s°F (7-9°C) and lows dipping into the 20s°F (-6 to -1°C).
  • Snowfall remains a possibility, especially earlier in the month, but begins to taper off as winter transitions into spring. The park’s iconic arches and rock formations contrast beautifully against the white snow, creating memorable photo opportunities.
MonthAverage High (in degrees Fahrenheit)Average Low (in degrees Fahrenheit)
December4523
January4422
February5228
Winter Highs and Lows in Arches National Park

2. Fewer People Visit Arches National Park in Winter

Compared to the peak season, winter sees a significant decrease in visitor numbers, offering a more intimate and tranquil experience in Arches National Park. While summer months may bring crowds of tourists, winter allows visitors to explore the park’s wonders with fewer people around, providing a sense of solitude and peacefulness amidst the stunning landscapes.

One of the greatest perks of visiting Arches National Park in winter is the opportunity to enjoy solitude on its trails and viewpoints. With fewer visitors, you can hike through snow-dusted canyons and marvel at iconic arches without the crowds. Take in the serenity of the park’s natural surroundings and immerse yourself in the quiet beauty of winter in the desert.

3. No Need for a Timed Entry Permit in Winter

During the busy summer months, visitors need a timed entry permit to enter Arches National Park between 7 am and 4 pm. From November through March, you do not need a timed entry permit to enter the park at any time. By visiting in winter, you have one less logistical item on your to-do list for planning your Arches National Park adventure since you don’t need to coordinate obtaining a timed entry reservation.

4. Winter is a Great Time to Hike in Arches National Park

Delicate Arch Trail

The hike to Delicate Arch is a must-do in any season, but in winter, it takes on a special allure. With fewer visitors, you can enjoy the mesmerizing sight of the iconic arch against a backdrop of snow-covered red rocks. The crisp winter air adds to the tranquility of the hike, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the park.

Delicate Arch at Sunrise

Balanced Rock Trail

The Balanced Rock Trail is a short and easy hike that offers close-up views of one of the park’s most iconic formations. In winter, the sight of Balanced Rock against a backdrop of snow-covered red rocks is truly mesmerizing. The trail is relatively flat and accessible, making it perfect for a leisurely winter stroll with stunning photo opportunities. Plus, with fewer visitors during the winter months, you can enjoy the tranquility and solitude of this unique landscape.

Park Avenue Trail

This relatively easy trail offers stunning views of towering rock formations that resemble skyscrapers. In winter, the contrast between the snow-dusted red rocks and the clear blue skies creates a picturesque scene that is perfect for photography. The trail is also less crowded during the winter months, allowing you to enjoy the solitude and serenity of the canyon.

Tim and Sarah at Park Avenue in Arches National Park

Devil’s Garden Trail to Landscape Arch

While the full Devil’s Garden Loop may be challenging in winter due to icy conditions, the hike to Landscape Arch is relatively flat and accessible. Winter is an ideal time to visit Landscape Arch, as the cooler temperatures make for a more comfortable hiking experience. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the park’s largest natural arch without the crowds that often flock to it in the summer.

Windows Loop Trail

The Windows Section of Arches National Park is home to some of the park’s most iconic arches, including North Window and South Window. In winter, these massive arches are even more striking against the backdrop of snow-covered red rocks. The Windows Loop Trail offers a short and easy hike that allows you to get up close to these magnificent formations without the crowds.

Turret Arch as seen from Window Arch

Overall, winter is a magical time to explore Arches National Park, with its crisp air, snow-dusted landscapes, and peaceful trails offering a serene and unforgettable experience. Just be sure to check trail conditions and dress warmly, as temperatures can be chilly in the desert during the winter months.

Safety Precautions for Winter Hiking in Arches National Park

When hiking in winter conditions, it’s essential to take certain safety precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Be sure to dress in layers to stay warm, wear sturdy footwear with good traction, and carry plenty of water and snacks. Additionally, be aware of changing weather conditions and the possibility of ice on trails, which can make hiking more challenging. Always check trail conditions and advisories before embarking on your hike, and let someone know your itinerary in case of emergencies.

5. Winter is a Beautiful Time for Photography in Arches National Park

In winter, Arches National Park offers photographers a unique and stunning canvas to capture the park’s iconic landscapes in a whole new light. Here are some photography opportunities to explore during the winter months:

Snow-Covered Red Rocks

The contrast between the snow-dusted red rock formations and the clear blue skies creates a striking and picturesque scene. Photographers can capture the beauty of these contrasting colors, highlighting the intricate details and textures of the rock formations against the pristine white snow.

Soft Light

Winter days in Arches National Park often bring soft and diffused light, especially during the early morning and late afternoon hours. This soft light enhances the colors and textures of the landscape, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for photography. Photographers can take advantage of this gentle light to capture stunning images with rich tones and subtle shadows.

Long Shadows

With the sun sitting lower in the sky during the winter months, photographers can capture long shadows cast by the rock formations, adding depth and dimension to their images. These elongated shadows create dynamic compositions and add visual interest to photographs of the park’s iconic arches and spires.

Solitude and Serenity

Winter is a quieter time in Arches National Park, with fewer visitors crowding popular viewpoints and trails. Photographers can take advantage of this solitude to explore lesser-known areas of the park and capture intimate moments of tranquility and serenity amidst the stunning natural beauty.

Wildlife Photography

While wildlife sightings are less common in the winter months, photographers may still have the opportunity to capture images of desert-adapted animals such as mule deer, bighorn sheep, and various bird species against the backdrop of the snow-covered landscape. Patience and persistence may be rewarded with unique wildlife photography opportunities in the park.

Delicate Arch at sunrise
Delicate Arch at sunrise

6. Moab is Less Expensive in Winter

Because so many more people visit Moab and Arches National Park in summer than in winter, you’ll find much better deals on places to stay in winter. It’s simple supply and demand. In summer, demand is high, so prices are high. In winter when there are fewer visitors and therefore more rooms available per visitor, prices are lower. Overall, you can expect to spend at least 33% less on accommodations in wintertime versus summer!

Practical Tips for Visiting Arches National Park in Winter

Safety Considerations

Winter in Arches National Park can present unique challenges, so it’s essential to prioritize safety during your visit. Here are some key safety considerations to keep in mind:

Road Conditions

Winter weather can lead to icy and slippery road conditions within the park. Be sure to check the weather forecast and road conditions before your visit, and drive cautiously, especially on winding and steep roads.

Proper Clothing

Dressing appropriately for winter conditions is crucial for staying comfortable and safe during your visit. Wear layers to regulate your body temperature, and pack warm clothing, including a hat, gloves, and sturdy waterproof boots for hiking.

Check out our National Park Packing List for more on what to wear and how to layer!

Sarah and Tim at Ooh Aah Point In grand canyon national park

Stuck in a packing quandary?

Check out our ultimate national park packing list!

Trail Conditions

Trails in Arches National Park may be icy or snow-covered during the winter months. Use caution when hiking and consider using traction devices such as microspikes or crampons for added stability on slippery surfaces. Just be sure to take your microspikes off if the ground isn’t icy to avoid damaging the fragile sandstone!

Hydration and Nutrition

Even in cooler temperatures, it’s essential to stay hydrated and nourished while exploring the park. Carry plenty of water and high-energy snacks to fuel your adventures, and be mindful of signs of dehydration and fatigue.

Delicate Arch at sunrise
Delicate Arch at sunrise

Park Regulations and Closures During Winter Months

Before you visit Arches National Park in winter, familiarize yourself with park regulations and any closures that may be in place. Here are some important things to know:

Visitor Center Hours

During the winter months, visitor center hours may be reduced, so be sure to check the park’s website or contact the visitor center directly for updated information on operating hours and services.

Arches National park Visitor Center
Arches National Park Visitor Center

Road Closures

Some roads within the park may be closed or impassable due to winter weather conditions, rockfalls, or maintenance work. Check for road closures and updates on the park’s website or at the visitor center before planning your itinerary.

Campground Availability

Campsites at the Devils Garden campground are first-come first-served during the winter months, from November 1 through February 28.

Accessing the Fiery Furnace Hike

If you want to hike Fiery Furnace, you need to go on a ranger-guided hike or have an individual permit. There are no ranger-guided hikes in Fiery Furnace in winter. Tours usually start in May each year and go through September. So, if you are visiting Arches National Park in late fall or winter, you must obtain an individual permit for Fiery Furnace if you want to hike that area of the park. The good news is this permit is usually pretty easy to get.

Reservations for both ranger-guided tours and individual permits for the Fiery Furnace are available on recreation.gov.

FAQs About Visiting Arches National Park in Winter

Is Arches National Park Open in Winter?

Yes! Arches National Park is open year-round! Some services are different in winter, however. For example, there are no ranger-guided hikes in Fiery Furnace in winter. Additionally, you do not need a timed entry permit to enter Arches National Park in winter.

That said, winter weather may cause unforeseen closures, so be sure to check the official park website for the most up-to-date information.

What is the entrance fee for Arches National Park?

Arches National Park charges an admission fee of $30 per vehicle. If you plan on visiting 3 or more national parks in a 12 month period, though, we recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass for fee-free entry to over 2000 national park sites in the United States!

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America The Beautiful National Parks Pass at REI

What are the best things to do in Arches National Park in winter?

1. Drive the Scenic Drive

Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Arches from the comfort of your car by taking a scenic drive along the park’s main road. The snow-covered red rock formations against the backdrop of blue skies create a mesmerizing winter wonderland.

2. Take a Hike

Winter is an excellent time for hiking in Arches National Park, with cooler temperatures and fewer people on the trails. Some recommended winter hikes include the Delicate Arch Trail, the Devil’s Garden Loop Trail, and the Balanced Rock Trail. Be sure to check trail conditions and dress appropriately for the weather.

3. Practice Photography

Winter provides excellent opportunities for photography in Arches National Park. The soft winter light and snow-covered landscapes create stunning scenes that are perfect for capturing memorable photos. Don’t forget to bring your camera and tripod to capture the beauty of the park in winter.

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4. View Wildlife

Winter is a great time for wildlife viewing in Arches National Park. While many animals may be less active during the colder months, you may still have the chance to spot desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, and various bird species against the snowy backdrop.

5. Go Stargazing

With clearer skies and less light pollution, winter is an ideal time for stargazing in Arches National Park. Pack a blanket and head to one of the park’s designated stargazing areas for an unforgettable night under the stars.

What Should I Pack for a Winter Trip to Arches National Park?

If you’re wondering what to pack to Arches National Park in winter, look no further! Our guide has the list you need, plus a printable PDF if you join our email list!

Sarah and Tim at Ooh Aah Point In grand canyon national park

Stuck in a packing quandary?

Check out our ultimate national park packing list!

Final Thoughts

So, is winter a good time to visit Arches National Park? It’s a resounding YES from us!

With fewer crowds and stunning snow-covered landscapes, the park offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere that allows for an intimate connection with nature. The contrasting beauty of red rock formations against white snow creates breathtaking vistas that are truly unforgettable. While there may be some challenges due to weather conditions, proper planning and preparation can ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

So bundle up, grab your camera, and embark on an adventure to explore the wonders of Arches National Park in its winter splendor.

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>>> Planning to visit more Utah National Parks? Buy the Utah National Parks Road Trip Map here

>>> Planning to visit more Utah National Parks? Buy the Utah National Parks Road Trip Map here

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