Arches National Park
Photo by Tobias Flickr.com

With less than a month until the official end of summer, weekends of warm-weather camping are beginning to dwindle. Along with this seasonal change comes the frantic realization among most avid outdoorsmen that they haven’t come close to achieving their camping-quota for the summer. This inevitably leads to swarms of tourists flocking to the country’s most popular National Parks and Recreation Areas, filling campgrounds to maximum capacity.

I write with slight disappointment when I say that I am one of those frantic, flocking tourists.

Arches National Park
Photo by Sarah Almond

So, when my pre-planned getaway to Arches National Park this past weekend turned into a tourist trap, I made immediate efforts to evade the path most traveled and ended up enjoying a surprising amount of quality “alone-time.”

Below are three steps to take when avoiding assemblage at Arches (while still enjoying the sights.)

Arches National Park
Photo by Sarah Almond

 

1) Camp on the Colorado

Although Devil’s Garden campground is snuggled deep in the heart of the park, sites can be a bit pricey ($20 per site, per night) and privacy is selective, not to mention the sites are by “reservation only” from March-October. The Bureau of Land Management, however, owns 12 campgrounds on River Road just a quarter-mile away from the park entrance. Prices here range from $10 to $15 per site, per night and the landscape options are endless. Aside from a few reservation-only group sites, most are first-come-first-serve, so getting an early start will provide more options.

Note: Make sure to bring plenty of water and bug spray!

Arches National Park
Photo by Sarah Almond

 

2) Pick the Primitive Path

With over 2,000 arches in the park, hiking is a must in order to view some of the most spectacular sights. The trails, however, seem to frequently bottleneck visitors, making your adventure seem more like a shuffle through the Wal-Mart parking lot than an exploration through nature. Thankfully, the park has established a few “Primitive Trails” that require stronger hiking skills and provide a more intimate tour of the grounds. The primitive path from Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch to the Devils Garden campground was a highlight; there were absolutely no other hikers and the trail passed through a spectacular sandstone corridor.

Arches National Park
Photo by Sarah Almond

 

3) Start Early and Finish Late

Though the visitor center is open from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, the park itself stays open 24 hours a day. If you really want to beat the crowds, start the popular hikes early in the morning. Not only will you get more privacy, but you also won’t be quite as effected by the desert’s harsh heat. Pack in a thermos of coffee and some bagels and enjoy a nice arch-enchanted breakfast. Another great option is to pack a picnic dinner (and your headlamp) and climb to Delicate Arch to watch the sunset. If you’re patient enough, the crowds will dissipate and you’ll be left alone to watch a dazzling show of stars in one of the coolest locations in the park.

Arches National Park
Photo by Arches National Park Flickr.com

Click here for more information on the BLM campground.

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