Exploring the Backcountry
There are no designated backcountry trails or campsites, and little of the park is open to overnight camping, but backcountry hiking is permitted. Ask park rangers to suggest routes. No fires are allowed, and hikers must carry their own water and practice low-impact hiking and camping techniques. Those planning to be out overnight need free backcountry permits, available at the visitor center.
Other Sports & Activities
Arches National Park and the surrounding public lands offer plenty for the do-it-yourselfer, and more than 60 local outfitters offer excursions of all kinds just outside the park. They range from rugged mountain-bike treks to relatively comfortable four-wheel-drive adventures. You can also rent a canoe or take a guided boat trip on the Colorado River, which follows the park's southeast boundary.
The chart below lists some of the major companies that can help you fully enjoy this beautiful country. They are all in Moab. Advance reservations are often required, and it's best to check with several outfitters before deciding which best fits your needs. When making reservations, be sure to ask about the company's cancellation policy, just in case.
Biking -- Bikes are prohibited on all trails and off-road in the backcountry. They are permitted on the scenic drive, although the 18-mile dead-end road is narrow and winding in spots, and can be crowded with motor vehicles during the summer.
Mountain bikers also have the option of tackling one of several four-wheel-drive roads. Cyclists can get information, as well as rent or repair bikes, at Poison Spider Bicycles, 497 N. Main St. (tel. 800/635-1792 or 435/259-7882; www.poisonspiderbicycles.com), which recommends shuttle services from Porcupine Shuttle (tel. 435/260-0896). Bike rentals and repairs, plus shuttle services, will be found at Chile Pepper Bike Shop, 702 S. Main St. (tel. 888/677-4688 or 435/259-4688; www.chilebikes.com). Bike rentals range from $40 to $65 per day, with discounts for multiday rentals. Bike shuttle services are also available from several of the companies, including Coyote Shuttle (tel. 435/260-2097; www.coyoteshuttle.com) and Roadrunner Shuttle (tel. 435/259-9402; www.roadrunnershuttle.com).
Several local companies also offer guided mountain-bike tours, with rates starting at about $85 for a half-day and about $110 for a full day. Multiday biking/camping trips are also available.
Boating, Canoeing & Rafting -- Although there are no bodies of water inside Arches National Park, the Colorado River follows the park's boundary along its southeast edge, and river-running is a wonderful change of pace from hiking over the park's dry, rocky terrain. You can travel down the river in a canoe, kayak, large or small rubber raft (with or without a motor), or speedy, solid jet boat.
Do-it-yourselfers can rent kayaks or canoes for $40 to $65 for a full day, or rafts starting at $70 for a full day. Half-day guided river trips start at about $45 per person; full-day trips are usually $55 to $75 per person. Multiday rafting expeditions, which include meals and camping equipment, start at about $300 per person for 2 days. Jet-boat trips, which cover a lot more river in a given amount of time, cost about $50 for 2 hours, and from $80 for a half-day trip. Children's rates are usually 10% to 20% lower. Some companies also offer sunset or dinner trips. See the chart.
Public boat-launching ramps are opposite Lion's Park, near the intersection of U.S. 191 and Utah 128; at Take-Out Beach, along Utah 128 about 10 miles east of its intersection with U.S. 191; and at Hittle Bottom, also along Utah 128, about 24 miles east of its intersection with U.S. 191. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (tel. 801/539-1311 [recording]; www.cbrfc.noaa.gov) provides information on river flows and reservoir conditions.
Four-Wheeling -- There aren't as many four-wheel-drive opportunities here as in nearby Canyonlands National Park, but there are a few, including the Salt Valley Road and the Willow Flats Road, both of which can be extremely slick after a rain and are open to four-wheel-drive vehicles and mountain bikes. Check at the visitor center for directions and current conditions.
Rock Climbing -- Technical climbing is permitted in some areas of the park, but only for experienced climbers. In addition, it is prohibited on many of the park's best-known arches, as well as Balanced Rock and a few other locations. Special permits are not required for day trips. Information is available from park rangers.
Several local companies offer instruction and guided climbs in surrounding areas, with rates for full-day climbs generally from $150 to $200 per adult with two people going. Contact Desert Highlights, 50 E. Center St. (P.O. Box 1342), Moab, UT 84532 (tel. 800/747-1342 or 435/259-4433; www.deserthighlights.com), Moab Desert Adventures, 415 N. Main St., Moab, UT 84532 (tel. 877/765-6622 or 435/260-2404; www.moabdesertadventures.com), or Moab Cliffs & Canyons, 253 N. Main St., Moab, UT 84532 (tel. 877/641-5271 or 435/259-3317; www.cliffsandcanyons.com). For climbing equipment, you'll find one of the best selections anywhere, at reasonable prices, at Gearheads, 471 S. Main St. (tel. 435/259-4327), which also offers free filtered water (bring your own jugs).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.