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Renewed call for reservations to enter Arches National Park

Arches National Park is pictured on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Photo credit: Annie Barker, Deseret News

MOAB, Utah — The arch on one of Utah’s license plates is there for a reason — it is iconic. For some, Delicate Arch is the very definition of Utah. It’s the first thing that pops into their minds when asked about the Beehive State.

And the park that surrounds it, Arches National Park, is iconic too, ranking in the top 20 (at number 15) of most visited national parks in 2019

But therein lies the rub. On Monday morning, Arches had to restrict entrance to the park because of a rush of people wanting to get inside to see Utah’s red rock beauties in person. 

This wasn’t the first time. Arches closed its gates (albeit temporarily) more than 80 times this year alone. One of the first things you see when visiting the park’s website, explains why

Parking lots at trailheads often fill before 8:00 a.m., causing the park to temporarily restrict access until congestion lessens. Periods of restricted access can last 3-5 hours.” 

Elsewhere on their website, National Park Service officials advise visitors to plan ahead and to expect long wait times between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The uptick poses a question: is it time to install a reservations system in order to enter Arches National Park? 

Proposals for reservations to enter Arches opposed

According to Sunset Magazine, there are six national parks that require entrance reservations this summer. Entrance reservations at Glacier, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Haleakala, and Arcadia National Parks are in direct response to the influx of visitors to the parks during the COVID-19 restrictions of 2020.

The Moab Sun News reported that in 2019, the National Park Service did propose an entrance reservation system for Arches. The suggestion was to require advanced, online reservations.

But local businesses were against it, as Moab Sun News reported, thinking such a reservation system might stall economic growth.

2020 and 2021 changed things

Enter 2020, and then 2021, and the huge increases in visitors seen at America’s national parks, and the idea of an entrance reservation system at Arches, is again gaining steam. The Associated Press reported in May, the Grand County Commission and Moab City Council agreed to send a letter to the National Park Service requesting a timed-entry system for Arches.

If approved it could be in place by Labor Day.