The Best of Arches National Park: How I Did The Solo Cross Country Drive

1600 miles each way, 5 days of being on the road, 6 miles hiked, an ungodly amount of podcasts, and plenty of coffee later here's how I tackled Arches National Park by myself on a whim.

Full disclosure, when I say on a whim...I hopped in my car during lunch on Thursday after realizing the flights blew and let Google Maps lead me the rest of the way. If I am being honest though, my best plans have been my lack of plans. Each way is about 23-24 hours depending on the stops. Solo in case you can't use the imagination leaves a lot of time to pass time, and PS Kansas is the worst part of the drive. However, I will save that part for a different blog. What I want to share with this blog is HOW I did this, and TIPS for visiting the park.

As someone who has been on the road quite a bit lately, actually I haven't been home for a weekend in over two months now I have ONE major tip. Know your driving limits. For myself the tolerance is about 10-13 hours depending on what I did prior. Something I have noticed is if I hiked the day away in the morning, then a 13 hour drive isn't as likely. When you know your driving limits it makes a lot of factors easier. With that my trip roughly looked like: 10 hours, 10 hours, 4 hours, 10 hours, 13 hours- & that led me through TN, MO, KS, CO, UT. The first night I car camped at Lake Shawnee Campground. Second/third nights booked a hotel due to wanting a shower/temperature being in the 20's. The final night car camped at Creek Side Resort in KS. Car camping isn't new to me, and it easily saved $200+ in extra hotels. Using a quick Google search, these checked out just fine and had showers, laundry, restrooms, and quiet spaces to get a good night sleep.

KEY other BIG tips:

  • Drive as much during the day if it is unfamiliar areas

  • Have gas filled earlier at night if you're in the middle of nowhere

  • Remain on highways ESPECIALLY at night

  • Rest areas are your friends for bathroom breaks take advantage

  • Check crime rates if you are staying somewhere alone at night regardless of hotel, car camping, etc...

Now for the good part, the main attraction Arches National Park. This park has been on my list for what seems like forever. Okay, more like the last 6 months LOL. Thanks to IG showing me a million photos, the trigger was pulled. When driving there DO NOT miss the chance to take HWY 128 all the way down, the scenic views are worth it by the Colorado River. Due to the park being VERY popular I strongly suggest a few tricks to make the experience spectacular and heads up it is a $30 entry fee good for 7 days. (TBH it'll be amazing regardless, but this is icing on the cake).

TIPS for the park:

  • Check the traffic cam- it is live non stop

  • Get there EARLY the lots start to fill around 9 am

  • Download/use their maps as service is VERY limited in the trails

  • Know what trails you want to do (Delicate Arch is probably the most popular, & if you aren't there early your pictures will probably have extra guests in them)

  • Bring water/snacks/charge your phone

  • Use the RR before starting the trail



I arrived around 12:30 pm, and didn't have an issue getting into the park itself. Typically 2-4pm starts to slow down a bit. Either get there before 9 am or wait until later in the afternoon as you can be waiting at the park entrance for hours. The adventure began with small .3 mile hike at Balanced Rock and then made my way to Delicate Arch. Due to the crowds/weekend total time to find a parking spot was about 20 minutes. The trail itself took about 1.5 hours, and that allowed me to be back at my car around 3 pm. Side note on the way up or down the trail the little turn off by the bridge has really remarkable petroglyphs something to see for sure! After the trail I made my up to Sand Dune Arch. It is another short trail great for kiddos and picture worthy moments. By this time it was closer to 4 pm, and knowing the sunset was coming soon I decided to find a spot to park and stay a little longer. Bring a blanket, a warm drink, and be prepared for unremarkable sights.

SUNSET SPOTS:

  • Delicate Arch

  • Balanced Rock

  • La Sal Mountain viewpoint

  • Courthouse Towers

I chose La Sal Mountain:

If you are staying in Moab, which I say STAY. There's a little downtown area just outside the park that has plenty of hotels, restaurants, music, and is adorable. Fun fact too Arches doesn't close + the ticket is good for 7 days which allows you to double back in the morning to catch the sunrise. That is exactly what I did, I arrived back at the park to do Delicate Arch again at about 5:45 am. My hotel was about 10 minutes away which made getting there easy. This was also my first "night" hike to catch a sunrise. IF you decide to do that there are a few things I highly suggest.

  • Bring a headlamp

  • LAYERS are your friend if it is cold temperature (elevation is a big thing)

  • Pick a trail already known that way you don't get lost

  • Go slower due to the darkness

  • Bring that warm drink + water again.

PS the park is basically empty at that time, and seeing it on two different occasions doesn't get old. & since my hotel was nearby I was able to grab a hot breakfast for the road after the trek! #win

After a hot breakfast, loading up my car, and moment of bliss later my adventure back to TN began. Now while you don't "need" more than a day in the park, it is well worth it. TBH had I packed more clothes (there will be another blog on learning curves with packing/car camping lol). I would have stayed another day to hit a few other trails there. I opted to follow the same road map back since KS is a long stint and knowing that I'd be on the road as nighttime approached. All in all, this trip being the longest I've done was well worth the drive. For most flying is easily the preferred method, but truth be told I am starting to prefer the drives due to the unknown beauty of terrain around. If you have been wanting to go to Arches regardless of driving or flying DO IT. I hope these tips, tricks, and highlights helps & until next time...


WanderLUST.


-Taryn.

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