Arches National Park is the latest to incorporate an entry reservation system to compensate for soaring visitor numbers.

Moab Arch
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Another national park is incorporating an entry reservation system to compensate for soaring visitor numbers and the host of complications that often accompanies a surge of new outdoor enthusiasts.

Arches National Park officials cited “congestion and crowding that can negatively impact public safety, visitor experiences, and park resources” as catalysts for the decision designed to protect the park’s treasured martian landscapes. The new system, which will go into effect for six months at the southern Utah hotspot starting April 3, mirrors those implemented during the summer by Glacier, Zion, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Acadia, and Haleakalā national parks, all destinations that saw previous attendance records obliterated as COVID-19 vaccinations were made readily available.

While it has experienced a similar post-pandemic rush of American visitors eager to get into the outdoors, Arches’ popularity actually predates the 2020 upheaval of life as we knew it. In fact, from 2009 to 2019, the number of annual visitors flocking to the Moab area destination grew from just over 995,000 to almost 1.7 million.

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“By implementing a temporary, timed entry reservation system, our goal is to better spread visitation throughout the day to reduce traffic congestion and visitor crowding,” Arches National Park Superintendent Patricia Trap said in a Park Service release.

“We believe this will create a higher-quality experience while maximizing access for our visitors. Additionally, we will use data gathered from this pilot to adapt and improve this system throughout the season, as well as to inform our future responses going forward.” 

Reservations for Arches National Park can be made through recreation.gov on a first-come, first-served basis. Each reservation window, meanwhile, will open three months prior to the corresponding visitation timeframe. Reservations for visits between April 3 and April 30, for example, will open Jan. 3. May reservations will become available on Feb. 1, and so on.

Once booked, visitors will be issued a Timed Entry Ticket good for a designated one-hour entry window between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. After entering the park with a validated ticket, visitors will be free to exit and re-enter and can remain in the park for the duration of the day.

Of course, not every visitor is able to map out a trip to southern Utah three months in advance. (Some of us can’t even decide what to have for dinner tonight.) For those interested in a last-minute getaway, a limited number of reservations will be made available the evening prior to a planned visit. Those, too, must be purchased online via recreation.gov. Zero tickets will be available for purchase at the gate.

Excluded from reservation requirements will be “those with camping permits, backcountry permits, Fiery Furnace permits, special use permits, concessions contracts, or commercial use authorizations,” according to the NPS release.

If you’re planning a trip to this treasured Utah icon, you best be quick to snag tickets. They’re expected to sell out fast. Stay up to date with the official Arches website for the latest information.


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