Heading through Arches National Park in mid-March, I figured I'd spend a night at the Devils Garden Campground. I also figured I'd have it all to myself. Boy was I wrong.
So wrong was I that a week before I left home the 50-site campground was already sold out for the night I hoped to pitch my tent, a Monday night at that!
In hindsight, though, I shouldn't have been surprised. Spring break in Utah and Colorado falls for many schools in mid-March, and for people well-familiar with the park, mid-March is a much, much better time to be camping in Devils Garden than July or August. That's when temperatures soar towards, and occasionally beyond, the century mark.
Located on the northern end of the park road 18 miles from the main entrance, the campground runs long, and somewhat skinny, along an east-facing ridge of red-rock. The campground road runs down the middle of this ridge, with sites on either side. There's somewhat of an "upper" and "lower" section to the campground, elevation-wise, but it's not a great drop.
Which side should you aim for when making a reservation?
If you select a site on the east side of the road you'll have sweeping views out towards Clover Canyon and Lost Spring Canyon beyond, but you'll also have little shelter from either the sun overhead or the occasional winds. There are scattered junipers and pinyon here, but not many.
Choose a site on the west side and you'll be better protected, thanks to the somewhat thicker stands of pinyon and juniper and rock outcrops. You won't have the same sweeping views to wake to, but the surrounding geology offers many rocky fins and outcrops that rise above the trees and which you can clamber onto for great views.
Choose a site in the "lower" section of the campground and you'll have more shelter from any winds thanks to rock walls, and also have trailheads that lead to Broken Arch (8-10ths of a mile one way) and Sand Dune Arch (1.2 miles away). The trailheads can be found next to campsite 40.
The campground also has a nice amphitheater for ranger talks, and behind it a short trail leads to striking views of the backside of Skyline Arch. Plus, the Devils Garden Trailhead, which leads you to Landscape Arch and many other arches, is just three-tenths of a mile walk from the campground's entrance.
There are two group campsites, the 35-person Canyon Wren site on the upper bench and the 55-person Juniper Basin site down below. The fees for these sites are $3 per person per night, with a $33 minimum. No trailers or RVs are allowed at these sites.
The individual sites, which come with picnic tables, grills, and fire rings, will run you $20 a night. There is room in some sites for RVs up to 30 feet in length, but the campground has no hookups and no dump station.
You'll also have some nice restrooms -- one in the upper section, one in the lower -- that even offer dish-washing areas as well as water spigots. Small bundles of firewood sell for $5; you'll likely need at least two for one night's campfire.
Individual sites can be reserved for dates between March 1 and November 1 at recreation.gov. There is a $9 booking fee. From November 1 to the end of February sites 1-24 are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
* Speed limit is 15 MPH in the campground and the Devils Garden area.
* Check out time is 10 a.m.
* Generator use is limited to: 8 to 10 a.m., and 4 to 8 p.m.. The campground quiet hours are between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
* Please keep all vehicles, including bicycles, on paved or graveled areas of the campsite.
* Leashed pets are allowed in the site and on the road only. Please clean up after your pet.
* Fires are allowed only in the fire pits and grills. You must provide your own fuel from outside the park. Firewood may be purchased from the camp host from March 1st to October 31st.
* Camp only in designated sites. Each site has a 10 person limit and is to be used by only one group.
* Skates, roller blades, scooters, skateboards and other such items are not allowed in the campsite or on roads or trails.
* Water is scarce. Please use sparingly and refill only water bottles and jugs.
* Group Campsites are by reservation. The parking area may not be used for overnight camping.