Arches National Park, Utah
Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know
Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know
Get out into the great outdoors and swap out those ‘golden arches’ for some incredible natural ones. At Arches National Park in Utah. As you venture across Utah in your rental RV, a stop at Arches National Park along the eastern border is an absolute must. More than 2,000 natural stone arches can be found throughout the namesake park, making it one of the most unique stops on your road trip through ‘The Beehive State.’
There are two main reasons so many natural arches exist in one place: sandstone and water. The large chunks of unique sandstone throughout the park have been exposed to the elements for millions of years, allowing freeze and thaw cycles to contract and expand water trapped in the porous sandstone. The result is a unique erosion process that produces the dramatic arch shape.
Today, the nearly 80,000-acre national park attracts more than one million visitors every year looking to explore these geological wonders. Whether you are seeking serenity or thrills among the arches, there’s plenty to see and do that make this a worthwhile stop along your journey.
Whether you want to get a lay of the land or just want to rest the legs for a bit, the 18-mile scenic drive through Arches National Park is the most efficient way to appreciate its beauty. Wind up and down the canyons and take in views of many of the 2,000 arches found throughout the park. There are many viewpoint stops along the way, so to properly enjoy the experience, budget about three hours of time.
There are two primary stops along the route that you’ll want to spend a little more time exploring. The Windows Section is one of the most popular areas in the park and features hiking among some of the largest arches around. In addition, a stop at the Wolfe Ranch will give you an interesting look into what homesteading in these unforgiving lands in the early 1900s was like.
The rugged canyon terrain and expansive views at Arches National Park make it a truly perfect destination for hikers. The 16 trails throughout the park offer more than 25 miles of beautiful nature to explore and there is something great for visitors of all abilities. From a leisurely stroll along the paved 50-yard Nature Trail loop to an exhilarating four-hour excursion through Devils Garden, the trails at Arches will please any RV adventurer.
If you encounter any small standing pools of water along your route, the park Rangers request that they be left undisturbed. These shallow ‘ephemeral pools’ fill during the wet season and are critical for sustaining life during the rest of the year in the otherwise very dry environment. These pools are also a great opportunity to spot wildlife so keep your eyes peeled for one of the park’s many resident species.
As you look around Arches National Park and see all of these rock features and canyon walls, rock climbing will surely come to mind. Although sandstone is not always a great option for climbing, Arches does have plenty of safe (relatively speaking) routes. These routes, however, are fairly challenging and should mostly be attempted by experienced climbers. Gear outfitters in Moab will be happy to point you to easier, guided options outside of Arches if you and your group are new to the sport.
If you are climbing inside of Arches, be sure to check in with park staff before you go. Most climbing routes require registration (for your safety) and temporary closures are often in place. In the spring, many birds of prey utilize the craggy canyon faces for nesting and the park does everything possible to protect this habitat.
Although related, the sport of canyoneering is a more accessible cousin of traditional rock climbing. Both inside and around Arches National Park visitors will find unrivaled canyoneering opportunities that are a new and unique means of natural exploration to most folks. Canyoneering essentially combines hiking, scrambling, rappelling, and other techniques to work your way through the base of a canyon, making it a very dynamic experience that is exciting for all. Unlike rock climbing, you generally won’t be hanging dozens (or hundreds) of feet in the air on a rock face so many people find canyoneering to be a great alternative.
The most popular canyoneering route in the park is the Fiery Furnace and permits ($6) must be obtained from the visitor center. If you prefer, there are Ranger-led excursions through the Fiery Furnace. In addition, private companies offer a variety of half- and full-day guided canyoneering adventures in and around Arches for both novices and experts alike.
Although the expansive canyon scenery is one of the best features of the desert landscape, some of the best views at Arches National Park can be found in the middle of the night. As with most deserts, the distance from modern towns and cities reduces the light pollution in the area and there is little cloud cover. What this means for you is an incredible night sky for some truly awesome stargazing.
The park offers some ranger-led stargazing programs in the summer if you would like a guided experience. Otherwise, head to Panorama Point, the Windows Section, or the Garden of Eden Viewpoint for some of the best unobstructed vantage points. If you are able to time your viewing with a ‘new moon,’ where not even a sliver of moonlight is visible, you will have an optimal stargazing experience at Arches National Park.
Despite the name, there’s nothing scary about the park’s only campground. The Devils Garden Campground has 51 RV-suitable sites available and is located at the north end of the park. Although there are no hookups, campers have access to potable water, flush toilets, and an amphitheater with engaging programs in the summer months. There’s so much to do at Arches National Park and staying within its borders is a surefire way to get the most out of your stay.
Most of the great RV camping outside of Arches will be found in the town of Moab and Canyonlands RV Resort and Campground (six miles) is one of the great options. Although you are essentially in the desert, the grounds are covered in mature trees and even feature a stream. You’ll have a pull-through site waiting for your RV all set up with full hookup access and 30-/50-amp electrical. Amenities include bathhouses, laundry, a dump station, camp store, and picnic area. For recreation, check out the splash pad, swimming pool, horseshoe pits, or head into downtown Moab.
A little further out of town in Moab, the Spanish Trail RV Park is more separated from the hustle and bustle, but still close enough to town that it’s convenient (9.4 miles from Arches). The majority of the park’s sites are large pull-throughs with full hookup access. There are tons of mature shade trees around as well as expansive views of the surrounding rugged desert terrain, making this one of the more aesthetically pleasing options in the area. In addition to the usual amenities, there is also a newly updated pool and spa where you can unwind after a long day of exploring.
All of these campgrounds in Moab are really close to Arches National Park, but Slickrock Campground is the closest option outside the park (three miles). The location of this campground puts you within walking distance of both the Colorado River and downtown Moab, making it a great choice for the active camper. Pull-through and full hookup sites are available for your convenience as well as bathhouses, laundry, and a camp store.
The OK RV Park is much better than its name lets on. Although technically in Moab, it’s a little further from Arches than most of the other campgrounds in the area (10 miles) if you are looking for a little distance. Tons of mature shade trees will adorn your full hookup campsite and you’ll have plenty of gorgeous canyon views as well. Although there are limited recreation options at the park itself, you will be within a short distance of great hiking and swimming attractions like Power Dam and Kens Lake.
Unfortunately, there are no dining facilities within the park, itself. Nevertheless, a picnic at one of the five designated areas is certainly worthy of consideration. The views at Panorama Point are particularly pleasant.
Although there aren’t any food options at Arches National Park, the town of Moab just five miles away has plenty to offer the hungry camper. There are plenty of American-style grills as well as more unique options like a smokehouse, Thai, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese, and more. There are also a number of quaint coffee shops and bakeries that are perfect for breakfast or a quick snack.
No matter where you stay, the dramatic landscape of Arches National Park is sure to be one of the more unique memories from your road trip through the great state of Utah.