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Are you considering camping in Arches National Park? You’re going to want to read this article!
Imagine making your temporary home in a beautiful desert, surrounded by towering sandstone walls like giant stone flames stretching up to the sky. The La Sal mountains loom majestically in the distance, their confectioner’s-sugar tips reaching for the sky.
At night, the sky above the campground bursts into a dazzling display of stars that outshines any diamond. You might think such a place can’t be real—and you would be wrong. It’s right there waiting for you if you only look. Arches National Park camping is a treat like nothing else.
In this article, we’re going to go over the best spots to go camping in Arches National Park, as well as discuss some top tips for camping so that you can have the desert getaway of your dreams.
Why go Camping in Arches National Park?
Well, it’s cheaper than going to Mars—yet it still has the same desolate beauty.
Arches National Park lies in eastern Utah, about two hours from the Colorado border over the vibrant red desert and the foothills of the Rockies. This little national park is home to the largest concentration of natural rock arches in the world.
Here, you’ll see the impossibly slender rainbow of rock that is Landscape Arch, the fifth-largest natural arch in the world; the North and South Windows and the rock tower separating them, looking for all the world like a big-nosed man peeking over the horizon; intimate little Najavo Arch and the sandy, sunlit grotto behind it; the way Double O Arch frames the distant mountains like a natural porthole; and last but not least, the iconic flame-red loop of rock that is Delicate Arch, fully four stories tall and an iconic symbol of not only Arches National Park but Utah itself.
And best of all? You don’t have to leave this wonderful place when the sun goes down.
You’re not driving back to the sterile enclosure of your hotel; rather you’re letting the desert come to you. You’re sleeping under the stars, with only the distant birdsong there to keep you company. You’re camping in Arches National Park, one of the most mystic places on Earth.
Camping Within the Park
Below, learn about camping directly in Arches National Park.
This is the only campground that actually lies within Arches National Park, and it more than delivers. Here, you’ll sleep among sandstone pinnacles that look like something from a painting, wake up each morning to see the sun rising over rose-red slickrock hills, and hear the jays calling from tangled juniper trees.
This campground is convenient to many sights within the park; it lies right at the trailhead of the stupendous Devil’s Garden trail and is within an easy drive to other incredible sights like Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, and Double Arch.
As far as campsites go, Devil’s Garden is fairly primitive. There are no electrical hookups or potable water—let alone showers. There’s no cell service or internet, so you’ll have to learn the lost art of reading paper books. Trash collection and firewood are available, however, and the serenity and midnight sky will more than makeup for the lack of creature comforts.
There are 51 tent/RV sites available, though none of them have electricity or water. From March through October, sites are only available by reservation; in the winter months, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you’re the adventurous type, you could always try camping in Arches National Park—in the backcountry. Here, you’ll find a true off-the-beaten-trail experience. You’ll sleep in sandy canyons as the red rock walls embrace you like a hug.
You’ll experience the peace of solitude as you’ve never seen it before—you’ll have no other tourists to compete with. You’ll see a side of Arches that very few people ever see, and you’ll come away with rare and special memories to be cherished forever.
There are two main areas available for backpacking within Arches: three campsites within Courthouse Wash and one off the Devils Garden primitive loop. Devil’s Garden is usually completed in a day hike, so we’re going to go a little more in-depth into Courthouse Wash. This route takes you up and through a remote, slender canyon that lets you see hidden arches and a babbling seasonal river.
Perhaps the biggest draw, though, is the Courthouse Wash panel, a dazzling display of rock art drawn some thousand years ago by ancestral Native Americans. This panel provides a tiny window into the true culture of the Americas, one that was nearly wiped out by the bitter embrace of European colonization.
Backpacking in Arches is not for the faint of heart. There are no trails long enough to require overnight hikes; thus, all the possible backpacking you can do requires off-trail hiking. If this is something you choose to do, you will need to have your navigational skills sharp.
Bring a compass and map, and—I can’t stress this enough—know how to use them before you go. Make sure you bring in everything you need—that includes all water supplies, as Arches is a desert, and in-route water supplies are often unreliable.
You’ll also be required to take out all of your trash—and yes, that means exactly what you think it does. Before embarking on any backpacking adventure within Arches, you’ll need to ensure you’re physically fit, that you know how to self-rescue, and that you know how to navigate the wilderness effectively.
Outside the Park
So backcountry camping isn’t your thing, and Devil’s Garden is full. You can still camp near Arches—just not in Arches. Camping in Arches National Park isn’t just limited to camping within the park, after all. Here, we’ll look at the best campgrounds near Arches National Park.
This small campsite, located 13 miles north of Moab (the main gateway to Arches) within Utahraptor State Park, is fairly isolated—all the better to observe the stars.
It’s a primitive campground with few amenities—vault toilets are provided, but there are no electrical hookups. There are no set campsites, but you can only camp at preexisting fire rings.
Highway 191 goes by fairly close to the campground, so despite the desert isolation, it can be noisy at times. There’s a $15 fee for use.
This RV park is located north of Moab and just across the Colorado River from Arches National Park. In contrast to all the other campsites we’ve featured thus far, this one is positively a resort. It has a pool (and attached hot tub), a human-sized chess set (so you can reenact the scene from Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone), a putting green, a dog park, a bicycle repair station, a camp store for all your fashion and souvenir needs.
This is nowhere near a backcountry campsite; though tent sites are available, most of the sites are for RVs, and there are even some small cabins available. Laundry facilities, Wi-Fi and cell service, and a covered pavilion also await you here.
If you’re looking for a true taste of the desert wilderness, though… you won’t find it here. Most of the sites are surrounded by concrete, with a few trees strategically placed in between. You’re right by Highway 191 and still close enough to Moab to see the “city” lights at night.
If you want a more resort-style camping experience, go here; if you want dark skies and desert solitude, look elsewhere. Its sister site Sun Outdoors North Moab, has much the same vibe but is farther away from Arches (yet more convenient to downtown Moab) and only has a swimming pool—if giant chessboards are the reason why you came to Utah, you’ll want Arches Gateway.
Rates are anywhere from $56 to $168 a night. Reservations are helpful.
This campground (its official name is “recreation site”) is located about 15 minutes northeast of Moab. Here, you’ll camp in the meandering canyon of the great Colorado River, still in its fledgling stages.
You’ll sleep in the embrace of red stone walls, contrasting beautifully with the emerald green of the trees. At night, you’ll see the shimmering stars above.
Its location on the Colorado River provides advantages—have you ever seen a beach in the middle of the desert before? There’s also a kayak launch and a river viewing area. Entering the river without wearing a life jacket is forbidden due to safety concerns.
Though it’s right on the border with Arches National Park, it’s not actually convenient for accessing Arches; you have to drive down to Moab, then drive up through the one entrance. There are vault toilets and fire pits, but no electrical hookups or dump stations, and RV sites are limited. Reservations required.
Arches Camping Tips
Make reservations far in advance, especially if traveling during the summer. For some unfathomable reason, summer is the most popular time to want to wander around the desert. Arches National Park camping is quite a popular activity—campgrounds fill up fast, and some only accept reservations. Either way, you’ll want to make your reservations as far in advance as possible.
Check the weather. This one especially applies if you’re going into the backcountry. You don’t want to be in a canyon or wash when there’s a flood, you don’t want to be in a high place during a thunderstorm, and you don’t want to be outside with no shade when the temperature is 105.
Come prepared. Those staying at the Sun Outdoors sites need not read this, but most of the campsites here don’t have many amenities. Some don’t even have drinking water. You’ll need to bring food, water (1 gallon of water per person per day if you’re hiking in summer), something to start a fire with, a basic first-aid kit, sun protection, and hiking shoes with ankle support for backcountry adventures. And, of course, clothes.
Leave no trace. You’re a guest in nature—act like it. Take only pictures; leave only footprints.
Camping in Arches National Park is an experience unlike any other—and we’ve laid it all out here for you. We’ll see you on the slickrock.
Utah is one of the coolest states in the USA. Check out more of our Utah posts below!
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- 9 Amazing Tours of Arches National Park to Book on Your Next Trip to Moab
- 1 Day in Arches National Park: The Perfect Itinerary
- 13 Easy Hikes in Arches National Park
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