Planning a Trip to Arches National Park: 7 Mistakes to Avoid

There is plenty of information around about planning a trip to Arches National Park.  [For all sorts of information about what to know before going to Arches National Park, check out my Arches National Park Travel Guide.]

The thing is that most of it focuses on what you should do. 

This guide is different. I will share with you what you should AVOID doing when planning your Arches National Park vacation. This isn’t meant to scare you, but I think it can be helpful to be aware of mistakes to avoid.

I’m a national park expert and have extensive knowledge of Arches National Park.  I’ve seen many people make mistakes (and I’ll admit I made a few myself) that have impacted their trip.  So now I’m happy to share what I’ve learned from their (and my) experiences so that you can avoid these common pitfalls.

Let’s take a look at the biggest mistakes to avoid when you plan a trip to Arches National Park.

TOP TOUR: Book a half day tour now
TOP HOTEL PICK: Check availability now
FIND THE CHEAPEST CAR RENTAL: Search Discover Cars for the best deals
FIND THE CHEAPEST FLIGHTS: Search Skyscanner for the best deals
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE: Get insured with Travelex before you go

No time right now to discover 7 mistakes to avoid when planning a trip to Arches National Park? Pin It and save it for later:

Please note this post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at zero cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full Disclosure for more information. If you have any questions, please contact me.

Subscribe to regular updates with tips for planning, travel inspiration and trip ideas and get instant access to the free PDF of this guide to
7 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Trip to Arches National Park

#1 Not knowing about the timed entry system

Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural arches, sandstone fins and balanced boulders.  These make the park an extremely popular destination.

If you rock up to the park expecting to get in any time you like, you will be making a huge mistake.  To help control numbers in the park, the NPS has implemented a timed entry system.  You need reservations to enter Arches National Park from April 1 to October 31.

Entry tickets are available online at the NPS reservation system.  Most tickets are released three months in advance (on the first of the month) and there some additional spaces made available the day before. 

If you do make this mistake and don’t get a timed entry ticket for each day you want to enter the park – or if you tried and weren’t successful – there is another option.  If you enter before 7:00 AM or after 7:00 PM, no reservation is necessary and you can stay as long as you like.

READ MORE: Arches National Park reservation system

#2 Breezing through the park in just one day (or less)

If your time is limited, and you only have one day available, then spending a day in Arches National Park is definitely better than not going at all.  You will be able to see many of the highlights in a day.  

However, if you have more time available and are trying to figure out how long to spend in Arches National Park, it’s a mistake to allocate just one day.

There is much more to see and do in Arches National Park than you may expect.  The arches are truly amazing, and there are they are incredibly varied.

The park has several key sections including Park Avenue, Windows, Fiery Furnace, Devils Garden, the Garden of Eden, and Delicate Arch.  You need 2.5 days to see them all at an enjoyable pace.

READ MORE: Devil Garden Trail Guide

#3 Only driving and not hiking through Arches National Park

If you have mobility difficulties and can’t hike, you should still visit Arches National Park.  There are several viewpoints right next to a parking lot or a short distance away.  

However, to see many of the most spectacular arches, you need to hike.  It’s a big mistake to limit yourself to just the viewpoints near the road, if you’re able to hike. 

Some of the hikes are easy, like the walk around Balanced Rock or the hike to the North and South Windows, Double Arch, Sand Dune Arch, Landscape Arch and Skyline Arch.

Others are a moderate level of difficulty, including the most famous arch in the park, Delicate Arch, as well as Broken Arch, Tapestry Arch and the hike down into Park Avenue. 

Still others, like the entire loop through Devils Garden and the guided hike through Fiery Furnace are more challenging, but well worth the effort, if you can.

READ MORE: Best hikes in Arches National Park

#4 Not camping in Arches National Park

Unlike most national parks, there are no lodges or inns in Arches National Park.  In fact, there is only one place to stay inside the park – Devils Garden Campground. 

There are restrooms at Devils Garden Campground and each site has a fire ring and picnic table, but the campground does not have showers or a store, so if you camp there, you need to be self-sufficient.  This is not for everyone, but if you’re able to camp, not trying to get a spot at the Devils Garden Campground is a huge mistake.

Most people stay in nearby Moab, which is just five miles from the entrance to the national park, and has a range of accommodation options.  

Yes, Moab is close to the park entrance.  Yes, there are a range of accommodations in Moab.  Yes, there are restaurants and bars in Moab.

But there is nothing so great as staying deep inside the park, with no light pollution marring the night sky, surrounded by sandstone fins and desert scrub.  It is a magical experience.

Plus, it has the practical advantage of being at the far end of the road in the park, so you can get an early start to hike into Devils Garden or to Delicate Arch without needing to get up so quite so early as if you had to drive all the way from Moab, a 45-minute drive away. And you don’t need a reservation for the days you have a reservation for!

#5 Not visiting Dead Horse Point State Park as well

OK, so I know this planning guide is about mistakes to avoid in Arches National Park, but I’m including it here because a common mistake I see when people plan their trip to Arches is to not know about other attractions nearby.

Dead Horse State Point State Park is only 40 minutes from Moab (about the same distance as Devils Garden). 

The focal point of the park is the eponymous overlook, with a view over the Colorado River and canyonlands over 2,000 feet below.  The view is stunning and there are several easy trails to enjoy. 

A half day is enough, but it’s a real shame to go all the way to Arches National Park and miss out on this amazing State Park. 

#6 Not having a detailed (and flexible) plan

With Arches being so popular and with so many things to do, having a plan is essential.  This is not a park that you can just drive to on a whim and expect to see all the highlights easily.

There is one road through the park, with a side road to Delicate Arch.  The attractions are concentrated into several key areas along the road. Even with the timed entry system, parking is limited and the popular areas usually fill quickly.

So, although the park is not that big, it’s a big mistake not to have a planned itinerary.  Of course, you also need to be flexible and be able to adjust your plans if things happen along the way.

When planning your trip to Arches National Park, you need to coordinate entry times with drive times between the attractions; know how long each hike or viewpoint will optimally take; know which areas are most popular and when you need to get there to avoid having to wait for parking; and coordinate those times throughout the day.

All this can be intimidating and/ or overwhelming, which is why I created super detailed itineraries for Arches national Park.  There is a one-day itinerary and a 2-3 – day itinerary if you have more time.  They provide an hour-by-hour breakdown, but also include all the information you need to adjust them if needed – and there are options throughout the day for people with different interests and energy levels.

Check out my detailed Arches National Park Itineraries if you want some help with your itinerary planning.

#7 Under-estimating the weather

Arches National Park is in the desert and weather conditions can be extreme, unpredictable, and quickly changing.  

The best time to hike Arches National Park is in spring and fall, but many people can only travel in the summer.  If you’re visiting in summer when average day time temperatures are in the high 90’s but temperatures can often exceed 100°F, early mornings and late afternoons are the best time to be outside. 

Always be sun safe and wear a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.  Always take more water with you than you think you’ll need, plus some salty snacks.  And be prepared for the weather to change suddenly.  I’ve been there when sudden storms have blown in with almost no warning on what was a sunny day with clear skies.

So, don’t make the mistake of under-estimating the weather and be prepared for fierce sun and sudden storms.

If you are planning to visit Arches National Park in spring, summer or fall, make your planning easy and stress free with a detailed itinerary. I have 1-, 2-, and 3-day itineraries for Arches National Park that include all the park highlights, give you choices based on your preferred activity level, and take all the stress out of planning your trip. 

Check out the three Arches itinerary options

Travel Insurance for Arches National Park

Good travel insurance also covers things like medical expenses, lost or stolen property, trip cancellation, and emergency repatriation. 

Of course, not all insurance coverage is equal and you need to check the policy very carefully to see what is – and isn’t – covered.  If you want to learn more about all this, check out my Guide to Buying Travel Insurance (on my other website) before getting your insurance.

A great insurance option is Travelex.  You can compare Travel Insurance plans here or get a quote right now:

728x90 Get Quote

Additional Planning Resources for Arches National Park

Subscribe to regular updates with tips for planning, travel inspiration and trip ideas and get instant access to the free PDF of this guide to
7 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Trip to Arches National Park

Enjoy your trip to Arches National Park? Do you have any other mistakes to avoid when planning trip to Arches National Park? I’d love to hear about them.  Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more). 

If you liked this Arches National Park trip planner, please share the love and Pin It to your Arches National Park board! 


Are you just starting to think about taking a national parks trip? Get Inspiration
Are you starting to plan a trip to Arches National Park? Read my Guide to Arches National Park
Are you looking for a place to stay near Arches National Park? Find a vacation rental near Arches National Park
Are you ready to book your trip? Use these Planning and Booking Resources
Do you want to read a book about Arches National Park? Check out my Recommended Reading List for Arches National Park

About the Author

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.

He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks. 

Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.

As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.

Read more…

Parks Collecting is a participant in the Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.