The National Parks Service is considering requiring all private vehicles to have a permit to enter Arches National Park based on time of day during the peak months of March to October. There will be 4 time slots available, though arrivals before 7am and after 6pm will not require a reservation. Biking and walking into the park (the latter being a hard proposition at Arches) will not require a reservations to enter. Interestingly, if you have a campground reservation or a Fiery Furnace hiking reservation, that qualifies you to enter without an additional private vehicle entry reservation. The comment period for the proposed use of entry reservations for is now online. Feel free to comment as you see fit.
The NPS has tentatively decided that the cap will be around 2,000 private vehicles per day. Roughly 75% of those will be bookable (for free) via recreation.gov at the 6 month window. The remaining 25% will be held back for “day before” or “day of” reservations.
The NPS has long been interested in traffic and parking management at Arches National Park. This is a culmination of many studies, some dating back to the 1980’s. Traffic since 2013 has spiked at Arches (and the other Utah parks) and at this point, the NPS feels something must be done. During our last visit in 2016, we noticed it was a significant issue and the Devil’s Garden parking filled up by 9:00 a.m. and the line to enter, as we exited one day at 2:00 p.m., stretched nearly 1/2 a mile back to highway US 191. It will be interesting to see if and how this works.
A free public shuttle system inside the park has been previously reviewed and the NPS has found it to be both too expensive and too long, as it would take a bus 80 minutes to travel from one end of the park to the other.
The NPS does note this will help with conservation, as there are less vehicles on the road and also less illegal parking along the sides of roads and away from parking lots.
Interestingly, a proposed but ultimately rejected idea was to pave the Salt Valley Road and use it as a second entrance in the north by the Devil’s Garden. The Salt Valley Road goes right through the heart of the backcountry of Arches and it was determined to let that land stay as unencumbered wilderness.
Visit parkplanning.nps.gov to let your thoughts be known or click here to visit the direct comment page, the comment period closes on Dec 4th.
Banner photo of Double Arch, by Amy Beth Wright.