Utah’s Adventure Dad is a school teacher, so almost all of our vacations come in the Summer or over Spring or Fall Break. But recently we took the opportunity to make a short trip to Arches National Park in January. There were so many advantages to this short trip! We will share a few and let you know what to expect at Arches National Park in Winter.
The first advantage of the Winter trip is that crowds are extra thin. On Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday we saw only a few hundred people in the park, and it was a free National Park day. Compare that to the Summer, when there are no parking spots in the entire park, and you end up driving around until someone leaves. We loved the quite atmosphere in January.
The second benefit of a trip to Arches National Park in January is the weather. It is cooler than you think, so you’ll want jackets, gloves, and solid boots or shoes. But the scorching southern Utah sun is much more gentle during the Winter months. Expect snow on the ground. Some areas were even icy, like the hike to Delicate Arch, but we didn’t have any major problems, though the Winter we went had been very mild.
Arches is even more beautiful in Winter than in Summer. The bright orange rock contrasts so beautifully with the crisp white snow. The desert certainly had a different look during January than during July.
We were only in Arches for one day, and we were able to do so much! We hiked the Windows, Delicate Arch, Tapestry Arch, Broken and Sand Dune Arch, and Skyline Arch. We’ll have to go back another day for the longer hike through Devil’s Garden out past Landscape Arch. You can read more about all of these hikes on our Arches Kid Hikes post.
When you visit in the winter you never really know what the weather will be like. So we packed boots, snow pants, light jackets, big coats, and tennis shoes. We were glad we had a variety because in the morning we wore our hats, gloves, and coats, but by the afternoon we were shedding layers as it warmed up. It is always best to be prepared.
Every trail that we hiked was different. Some were in great condition, some were muddy, and some were icy. You can check trail conditions in the Visitor Center, but be prepared for any conditions depending on what the weather has been like the days before you visit. The trail to Delicate Arch has one section that is always icy no matter what. Be very careful because coming down was scarier than going up. The rangers recommend wearing traction devices such as microspikes, as well as trekking poles. We didn’t have these, so we went very slowly and held our kids’ hands.
The other thing to note is that hours are different in Arches during the Winter season. The Visitor Center opens at 9 am and closes at 4 pm. The park is accessible 24 hours per day, but road conditions vary. Also, certain programs like the Fiery Furnace Hike and other Ranger led tours and talks are closed, so please check their NPS website before you go. Because we visited in the winter we did not need a timed-entry reservation. If you plan to visit between April-October, you will need to get a reservation in order to enter the park. More details here.