If you’ve tried to get into Arches National Park this fall, you’ve no doubt experienced lengthy traffic to even enter the park.
The trend is holding, too. Early Monday morning, Arches had to shut its gates to visitors today as congestion got out of control. The beloved Grand County, Utah national park warned potential visitors in a social media post at 10 AM, saying:
“Monday, Oct. 10 10:00am: The park is currently full, and we are temporarily delaying entries into the park. Vehicles attempting to enter the park should return in 3-5 hours.”
Arches National Park’s official Twitter then asked the public to :Consider visiting nearby attractions.”
They also ask potential visitors to continue to check their Twitter account for updates before returning.
Monday’s federal holiday is partially to blame. Today, America observes both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day. Post offices, banks, and countless businesses close their doors, and family are out in abundance. And as one of the country’s most-visited national parks, Arches saw a massive uptick in traffic.
Today’s holiday is also the first to come after Arches ended their timed entry system on October 4. No stranger to traffic jams, park officials put this staggered entry system in place to see if it would help visitor congestion. Throughout late spring and summer, visitors had limited availability to enter the park.
But with the entry restrictions lifted, the problems kicked back in a big way Monday. Officials have warned visitors of increased wait times for the rest of fall, but this doesn’t fix the problem.
Arches National Park Analyzing Data from Timed Entry Test, May Continue Program
As a result, the Utah national park is currently analyzing the data from their timed entry. If the system made enough of an impact, the park may reinstate the program.
But if the problem remains and 5+ hour wait times to enter continue, the park may lose patrons. One thing that certainly dampens the excitement of a national park excursion is being stuck in traffic for half a day’s-worth of daylight.
Arches has had a traffic – both vehicle and foot – problem now for years. As the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, Americans returned to their parks in droves, as they provide a great and easy way to pass time with natural social distancing. At Arches hot spots like the Window Arch in the park, however, social distancing quickly becomes irrelevant when 100 people are fighting for the same photo-op.
To beat the crowds and still get in that Arches excursion, Outsider recommend arriving to any entrance of any national park as early as possible. Congestion typically peaks in the two hours after parks open, which is typically 8 AM local time.
For more on the park and how to plan the best trip, see our Top 10 Things to Do in Arches National Park.