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Watching Wildlife in Arches National Park

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

  • Kangaroo rats
  • Skunks
  • Ringtails
  • Foxes
  • Bobcats
  • Mountain lions
  • Bats
  • Owls
  • Mule deer
  • Coyotes
  • Rabbits
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Turkey vultures

Viewing Locations

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.