Arches National Park is one of those natural wonders that make you stare with your mouth wide open. The arches, set upon the blue skies and the wide-open spaces, are simply mesmerizing. You feel like you could walk or climb forever. Some of the best arches are literally five minutes from your car, while others are 5 miles. This national park truly gives you a feel for the geology of the American Southwest.
That rental car of yours probably has a GPS system, and the highways are pretty easy to find. If you feel like you want to see America, Las Vegas is a perfect place to base your adventurous journey. Grab a map, some energy bars, and plenty of water because with so many National Parks to see along the way, you will find it hard to pick just one.
The Distance and the Destination
Getting to Arches National Park from Las Vegas can take you over a variety of different routes, from the 453-mile short route (6.5 hours) via I-15 N and I-70; 548 miles over via I-15 N (8 hours); or via I-40 E for 579 miles (just over 9 hours).
Late spring is beautiful. The summer temperatures dominate the afternoon hours after June gets going, and you will contend with a lot more tourists during that season. The trails are accessible year-round, but checking local road reports will help to make sure that you can get to any trailhead in the park no matter the time of the year.
The hikes are numerous in Arches National Park, and spending some time in nearby Moab, Utah, is also worth the eight hours in the car from Las Vegas. Main Street in Moab offers plenty of opportunities to book an off-road adventure, rent a bike for some exploring, or even find a spot on a raft to test your skill at navigating boulders on a river.
Enjoy the Drive
The route that takes you through Capitol Reef National Park and along Escalante Canyon is a little longer, but you’ll see so much sandstone that you’ll be able to identify the stratigraphic columns of the Kaibab Formation. You’ll see enough amazing rock structures to fill the memory on your digital camera and leave you seeking long trails and color-changing sunsets. Most of the rock here is what you see way up high on the Grand Canyon, so if you visit both parks you'll find some similarities in the sedimentary structures.
Places Along the Journey
If you take the route through Capitol Reef National Park; Zion National Park; the Grand Staircase–Escalante Monument; Moab, Utah; and Canyonlands National Park, this journey is long but isn't just about the destination. It's about taking a road trip from a place that you could otherwise fly to easily and cheaply. It's about packing in amazing natural wonders and seeing them up close and personal.
National Park Passes
If you plan to visit more than one of the national parks, it may be worth your while to buy an annual pass, which is $80 as of 2018 and good for an entire year for all U.S. national parks and national wildlife refuges; otherwise, the fee for Zion is $30 per vehicle or $15 per person (no car), good for seven days; Capitol Reef is $15 per vehicle or $7 per person; and Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are $30 per vehicle or $15 per person each (reflecting an increase that is effective June 1, 2018).
Or you can purchase a Southeast Utah Parks pass, which covers one vehicle or pass holder to Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, and Natural Bridges National Monument for $55.