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Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

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Side-by-side images show crowd-free and crowded scenes at Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

  • Arches National Park is Utah’s third most popular park, with over 1.5 million visitors each year.

  • I visited in May and experienced long waits for photos, massive crowds and packed parking lots.

  • But even with the hordes of people, the park was one of the most impressive places I have ever seen.

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Arches National Park is one of five parks in the state, and it’s the third most visited park in Utah, according to KSL. Last year, more than 1.8 million people explored the 76,500-acre park, according to the National Park Service.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

People gather near the delicate arch after walking 1.5 miles.Monica Humphries / Insider

Source: KSL, National Park Service

I visited the park for two days in mid-May, just before Memorial Day weekend, which usually marks the start of peak season for national parks. I was hoping to avoid the large crowds by arriving before the holidays.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

The author in front of a sign for Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

Source: Initiated

But even then I found it almost impossible to avoid the crowds.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

The arrows point to everyone in the Windows section of Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

For me, the crowd started at the entrance. This year, the park implemented a reservation system to alleviate traffic and crowding. To enter Les Arches between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., visitors must have a time-stamped entry ticket. Reservations open three months in advance and cost $2.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

To enter Arches National Park, visitors had to have a reservation.Monica Humphries / Insider

With my reservation in hand, I hoped to enter the park without a long line of cars. But I arrived on a Monday evening to find over two dozen cars waiting to enter.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

The entrance and a line of cars to Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

The next day when I visited again and left around lunchtime, the line was even longer, with cars stretching to the nearby highway.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

The line of cars at the entrance to Arches National Park stretched out to the nearby road.Monica Humphries / Insider

Inside Arches National Park, the crowd continued. Almost all parking lots I spotted were full.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

The car parks had few places available.Monica Humphries / Insider

And once I finally got a parking spot, I thought the entrances to the hikes and viewpoints were also crowded.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

People at Devil’s Garden trail entrance heading into Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

On every walk and hike, there were almost always people ahead and behind me.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

People filled the walkways of some of the park’s most popular trails.Monica Humphries / Insider

And once I reached my destination, like a hiking peak or a major viewpoint, crowds were a guarantee.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

Crowds await sunset at the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

The crowds also made it difficult to take photos without people.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

The author takes a photograph of an arch at Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

But I couldn’t blame the other visitors – I also wanted photos in front of the stunning arches.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

The author stands under an arch in Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

To get a good photo, I had to wait my turn. For some of the more popular arches in the park, like Delicate Arch for example, lines formed and I waited about 10 minutes with others who were eager to pose under the arch.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

An arrow points to a line of people waiting to take a picture under the delicate archway.Monica Humphries / Insider

After two days at Arches I understood why so many people visit every year. I have never seen more impressive terrain, and it was impossible for me to understand that I was exploring an environment that had been built 100 million years ago.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

Arrows point to crowds of people walking the path leading to the delicate archway of Arches.Monica Humphries / Insider

While I could barely avoid people the two days I visited Arches, I chased away a few moments of solitude by choosing smart times to explore the park.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

An empty spot on a trail near the Windows section of Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

Monday night, after the sun went down, I stayed to stargaze in one of the few remaining dark skies in the contiguous United States. When the Little Dipper and Orion’s Belt appeared, I noticed that most of the crowd had disappeared.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

Stars in the Garden of Eden at Arches National Park.Brad McGinley Photography/Getty Images

Source: National Park Service

These are the moments that left a lasting impression. And as I exited the park and descended the winding road between canyons and spiers, I was already planning my next return trip.

Disappointing photos show crowds at one of Utah’s most popular national parks – even before the busy summer season begins

 | Local News

The author takes a selfie at the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.Monica Humphries / Insider

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