TIPS for BEATING THE CROWDS AT A NATIONAL PARK
- Plan which hikes you will do ahead of time and determine if any require permits
- Get there before the visitor center opens – this will let you avoid the crowds of tourists that clog up the entrance booths, and perhaps even get in for free if the entrance booth isn’t manned
- Take the main road all the way to the end and start with those hikes, then work your way towards the front of the park – that way, you’ll avoid getting stuck in tourist traffic
- If not staying too far away, leave for dinner then return for sunset or a short night hike – many parks are removed enough from civilization that lack of light pollution yields prime views of the nighttime skies
I haven’t been to any National Parks in Utah, so when we packed up the gear and squeezed ourselves into the truck on a Friday afternoon, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. The further we drove along I-70, the higher the snowline on the surrounding mountaintops receded, and towards evening we were surrounded by desert. I was pleasantly surprised that the Moab region is full of free spots for dispersed camping. Just look for dirt roads and RV’s parked along them, typically on BLM land.
The next day we headed over to Arches National Park early in the morning (but not so early as to skip dinner at Denny’s) to beat traffic and snag permits to the Fiery Furnace. Arches is full of short hikes with fantastic views that are just steps from the parking lots, but the true gem of the park in my opinion is a maze of canyons and sandstone cliffs termed the ‘Fiery Furnace’. Permits are available on a first come first sever basis, and only a handful are given out each day. There’s one trail but hikers are encouraged to go off it, and explore. It’s like a giant maze for adults, where you can get lost for hours. Which we promptly proceeded to do after checking out the more popular parts of the park. Icing on the cake was that this weekend happened to be a full moon, so a few of us returned to the park after dark and hiked to the
. Super sweet sight – towering window-like behemoths lit up by the full moon. It’s a sight I’ll never forget.