Looking to escape the winter weather and go exploring in February? Look no further than Arches National Park in eastern Utah.
I first moved to the Pacific Northwest from a small town in Wisconsin. When I did, I didn’t know oceans, forests, or mountains. All I knew was that I really liked the Packers and that there were a lot of farms in Wisconsin.
When I realized how much raw beauty there was in Washington’s Cascade mountain range, I immediately fell in love with exploring, with adventure, and with pushing the limits of my mind and my body.
The radius of my exploration grew from Washington state to the entire western United States. I have been to more than a dozen National Parks in just over three years, and I have to tell you, there is a special place in my heart for Arches National Park.
February and March is the perfect time to go!
Most states in our country are cold during the winter months of February and March. (Duh!) In Wisconsin, it is likely that there’s about four feet of snow on the ground. In contrast, the daily highs in southern and eastern Utah creep into the 50s. Once the calendar flips to March, those temperatures get even balmier.
Skip the summer crowds when there are so many people at the parks that it feels like you are walking on top of people. You can realistically have this park all to yourself if you plan your winter trip correctly. The silence of the park in the early morning hours is hypnotizing.
Place to stay
With zero percent hesitation, my recommendation for a place to camp near Arches is a little gem called Dead Horse Point State Park about thirty minutes away. This state park has a view of the Colorado River and is at such a high elevation that you look up at night and practically touch the stars. Book your spot at Kayenta Campground before time runs out!
If you’re a nighttime or galaxy photographer, this will be something of a paradise for you. It may be a little chilly up at elevation in comparison to the temperature down in Arches. Easily solution: bring a lot of blankets. If you’re not one for roughing it and dealing with the elements, check out the yurts where you can go glamping.
Other places to stay
Places to see, things to do
Set your alarm clock for nice and early in the morning. Arches is best seen in the early light of morning, and if you need proof, check out my Instagram page for pictures of the beautiful orange sandstone in the morning light.
At the very end of the road lies the Devil’s Garden trail. You’ll see seven arches if you opt for the 4.8-mile loop, and can see up to 10 if you do the full 7.8-mile trail.
Two of my favorite sections of the park include the Windows section and Balanced Rock – here you can see some of the most iconic places the park has to offer. Pick up a park map at the gate and do whatever you can to spend a full day at the park.
I’m partial to Arches because of the unique geology that is on display. What makes the Moab area such a great destination, however, is that it is home to two national parks. About a 15 minutes away from Dead Horse Point State Park lies Moab’s second National Park – Canyonlands.
This land of tiered and layered canyons is breathtaking in its own right and is home to one of the most famous photos in eastern Utah: Mesa Arch. Get to this gem at sunrise for a great photo opportunity, but get there early to get a good spot. On a clear day, the arch radiates a bright orange, perfect for a landscape shot.
Moab itself is a destination in its own right. The tourist town is good for outfitters for all kind of extreme sports (skydiving, rafting the Colorado, rock climbing), shopping, and pizza. If you like a lot of pizza, go to ZAX.
Getting to Moab
I like driving to places across the United States. The freedom of the open road, especially in the western and southern parts of the United States is an amazing way to see this great country. That being said, I understand not everyone can hop in a car from where they are and drive to eastern Utah. If flying in, make Denver or Salt Lake City your home base, and rent a car from there! Check out my favorite way to book flights here.
Arches and Canyonlands are a great destination if you only have three-seven days you can get off from the dreaded 9-5. Grab the tent, a few sleeping bags, and a load of blankets and pillows and just go. Who’s stopping you?
All the photos in this post are mine.