The entrance to Arches is five miles north of downtown Moab on U.S. 191. Located just past the entrance booth, the expansive new visitor center (435/719-2299, www.nps.gov/arch, $10 per vehicle, $5 bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians) provides a good introduction to what you can expect ahead.
Exhibits identify the rock layers, describe the geologic and human history, and illustrate some of the wildlife and plants of the park. A large outdoor plaza is a good place to troll for information after hours.
A short slide program runs regularly and staff members are available to answer your questions, issue backcountry permits, and sign people up for ranger-led tours in the Fiery Furnace area of the park.
Look for the posted list of special activities; rangers host campfire programs and lead a wide variety of guided walks April–September. You’ll also find checklists, pamphlets, books, maps, posters, postcards, and film here for purchase. See the ranger for advice and the free backcountry permit required for overnight trips.
A road guide to Arches National Park, available at the visitor center, has detailed descriptions that correspond to place names along the main road. Be sure to stop only in parking lots and designated pullouts. Watch out for others who are sightseeing in this popular park. With less than 30 miles of paved road in the park, the traffic density can be surprisingly high in the summer high season.
If your plans include visiting Canyonlands National Park plus Hovenweep and Natural Bridges National Monuments, consider the so-called Local Passport, which for $25 buys entry to each of these federal preserves. Purchase the pass at any of the park or national monument entrances.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition