Just outside of Moab, Utah lies the stunning Arches National Park. Defined by its unique orange arches and fascinating rock formations, Arches is a can’t-miss destination on any trip out West. After your visit to Arches National Park, you have several great options for where to go next!
Canyonlands National Park – A lesser-known but breathtakingly beautiful national park, add Canyonlands to your list of where to go next after your visit to Arches. Impressive desert landscape sculpted by the Colorado River, you won’t want to miss a trip to Canyonlands.
Dead Horse Point State Park – After a day spent exploring Arches National Park, head to nearby Dead Horse Point State Park for a spectacular sunset. Providing stunning overlooks of Canyonlands State Park, this is an easy way to get the most bang for your buck when you visit Arches National Park.
Moab, Utah – The closest town to Arches National Park, this charming city is definitely worth a visit while you’re in the area. With lodging and dining opportunities, Moab will be a welcome pit stop before or after your visit to Arches.
Zion National Park – A five-hour drive from Arches National Park, Zion is another great spot to head to along your way. Characterized by steep, colorful cliffs and fascinating scenic landscapes, Zion is among the country’s most popular national parks.
Grand Canyon National Park – If you’re in the area and are planning to make a trip of it, you should definitely hit the Grand Canyon before or after you check out Arches National Park, though it is a bit of a drive. This massive canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Aspen, Colorado – A gorgeous resort town about a five-hour drive from Arches National Park, Aspen is an awesome town worth checking out for a few days or stopping in on your way to somewhere else. Known for high-end restaurants, boutiques, and year round outdoor activities, you’ll be glad you visited Aspen after your trip to Arches!
For anyone who has ever visited Arches National Park, you’ll know there’s an air of calmness that makes the park incredibly peaceful. At times it might feel like there are no animals in the park with you, when in reality that is just not true! The park is home to plenty of birds, lizards, and small mammals that mainly sleep during the day to get out of the hot Utah desert sun.
Once you’re done enjoying the gorgeous natural arch formations that can be found all over the park, don’t forget to pause for a moment and learn about the animals that are sharing the area with you. These desert animals have a variety of adaptions for dealing with the lack of rain in the vicinity as well as the hot temperatures. The park is also home to animals that are active at dawn or dusk, known as crepuscular species. These species include coyotes, desert cottontails, jackrabbits, mule deer, and songbirds.
These animals will roam from water source to water source, including springs, seeps, washes, and the giant Colorado River that cuts through the park. The river is located near the southern boundary of the park which can make it hard for animals to access.
While enjoying your hiking, don’t forget to look out for some of America’s favorite land mammals like the desert bighorn sheep which blend in well with the environment. Once on the brink of becoming extinct, these sheep are making a big comeback in the south of Utah thanks to reintroduction efforts by the National Park Service. These sheep have adapted to the dryness of the climate making them wholly different from their Rocky Mountain cousins. It is estimated there are about 75 sheep in the park.
As you hike by day you are most likely to see the park’s birds, including turkey vultures and white-throated swifts. In the winter time, you can also see juncos and white-crowned sparrows foraging around the trees and shrubs. Although the park isn’t classified a birdwatching location, there are still 273 species that have been spotted in the park, whether making it their home or passing through as migrants. Don’t forget to check out the great blue herons if you have a chance to drive along the Colorado River.
And yes, there are even amphibians in Arches National Park, with plenty of frogs, toads, and salamanders that have managed to find their own habitat even in the middle of the desert. Amphibians will lay their eggs in depressions in the rock, usually in the shade where rainfall will collect. While that happens, plenty of reptiles like snakes and lizards will make their habitat in the cold ground which is cooled down by nighttime temperatures. Temperatures can fluctuate more than 50 degrees in 24-hours.
Arches National Park’s Top Animals
Highway 191: Just south of the visitor center, a section along Highway 191 is a great viewing spot for the few desert bighorn sheep that call the park their home.
Delicate Arch Bowl: If you want to catch a glimpse of animals that awaken from their slumber at dusk, head to this specific arch in the park where you can also get an amazing picture of the sunset.
Panorama Point: This is a great spot to stargaze at night and listen to the sounds of animals rustling awake in the distance.
The Garden of Eden Viewpoint: This is a great place to catch birds soaring in the hot summer sky while they stalk their prey below them.
Balanced Rock Picnic Area: Some have claimed to have seen mountain lions, bobcats, deer, and sheep in this vicinity. You will have to go see for yourself!
When Should You Go?
Arches National Park is technically accessible year round. It is best to visit the park during the spring and fall seasons, as it can be brutally hot from June through August, as well as windy and cold in the winter months. Should you go during the hot summer months, it’s recommended to arrive early (8AM or so) to ensure you are done with your exploration by midday. Be sure to pack plenty of water and utilize the hydration stations that are available at every hiking trail entrance.
The Canyon Quest road trip will take you across Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, where you will visit the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, and Glen Canyon!
If you are looking for a retreat from Spring through Fall, this road trip can be the perfect itinerary. Although the trip traditionally takes about two weeks to complete, we recommend more time if you want to camp and hike in every park. If you’re flying in, we recommend booking flights through Las Vegas in Nevada, Salt Lake City in Utah, or Phoenix in Arizona.
Grand Canyon National Park
If you have not heard about this National park, then you might well have been living under a rock. The Grand Canyon National Park is the most iconic natural treasures of the United States.
The Grand Canyon is widely admired for the extensive range of colorful rocks that vary in shape, size and depth. The lookout points across the park provide you with stellar views. We recommend hiking on your own or joining a ranger-led tour, which will often detail the full natural history of the Canyon.
Zion National Park
Follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon. Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.
Bryce CanyonNational Park
Hoodoos, yes you read that correctly, are what make this national park a site to see. The national park is home to the largest cluster of hoodoos or more descriptively, irregular columns of rock, that are situated across the high plateau of the Grand Staircase. During your visit, explore one of the countless trails that exist in the park to discover the true beauty of the location. Like the Grand Canyon National Park, you can take part in ranger programs and camp in the outdoors. You can also take guided horseback rides or book ahead for a private horsing experience within the park.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is famous for its renowned orchards that stem over 2,000 trees including apricots, cherries, apples, peaches, mulberries, pears, walnuts, and almonds.
This park provides you with the unique experience of harvesting fruit. The staff at the park thoroughly maintain the large variety of orchard trees using traditional farming practices so that you can have the ideal fruit picking session during your visit. Familiarize yourself with the rules of the park so you can help preserve the orchards in the same manner they have been for decades.
Arches National Park
This park boasts vivid, abstract, and contrasting landscapes with formations that include massive balanced rocks and colossal fins. The most recognizable features of this park are stone arches that have been photographed countless times during the edge of dawn and dusk.
Canyonlands National Park
Although we have been discussing about the many daytime activities and places to go, the Canyonlands National Park has something for you during the night: stargazing. Canyonlands has preserved the night sky by keeping the light pollution levels low and the great air quality ensures that the stars are vibrantly on display during the night.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Three majestic natural bridges invite you to ponder the power of water in a landscape usually defined by its absence. View them from an overlook, or hit the trails and experience their grandeur from below. Declared a National Monument in 1908, the bridges are named “Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu” in honor of the ancestral Puebloans who once made this place their home.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Glen Canyon has many sights, but perhaps the most iconic is Horseshoe Bend. Below the rim, the Colorado River makes a wide sweep around a sandstone escarpment. On its long downward journey to the sea, the river meandered, sometimes making wide bends, but always seeking the path of least resistance. Over 5 million years the unique twists of Glen Canyon are poignantly summarized by photos of Horseshoe Bend.
The Grand Circle Road Trip can be enjoyed throughout the year. Ideally, it is better to experience these parks during Spring or Fall. The summertime heat may be overwhelming, especially when you are doing physically straining activities such as hiking. Springtime also provides you with the opportunity to harvest certain fruits, such as apricots and cherries, in Capitol Reef National Park.