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Arches National Park Searching For Solution To Parking Problems At Delicate Arch Trailhead


If you've ever tried to find a parking spot at the Delicate Arch Trailhead in Arches National Park, you know there's not enough space to meet demand. But how should the national park address the problem?

That's the question park officials are hoping to find an answer for. They currently are collecting public comments as part of an Environmental Assessment process to analyze the effects of implementing parking congestion management strategies at the Delicate Arch/Wolfe Ranch area.

Strategies such as expanding the existing parking lot, eliminating roadside parking, and implementing a reservation system are being considered, and public comments will help the NPS develop alternatives to be evaluated in the EA.

Parking at the Delicate Arch/Wolfe Ranch trailhead is frequently congested, causing visitors to park outside of paved areas and along roadsides, resulting in damage to soils and vegetation. Flooding is also an issue in the area since Winter Camp Wash bisects the road, requiring closures of the Delicate Arch Viewpoint Road during flood events. As a result, a plan to help determine specific goals and objectives for the management of congestion and flood related issues in this area of the park is needed.

Delicate Arch is one of the most popular visitor destinations in the park, with daily visitation to the site during the peak season being approximately 2,000 people. The Delicate Arch/Wolfe Ranch parking lot has 73 vehicle spaces, which is insufficient for today’s visitation, park officials said.

The EA will result in a decision-making framework that 1) analyzes a reasonable range of alternatives to meet objectives of the proposal, 2) evaluates potential issues and impacts to the park’s resources and values, and 3) identifies mitigation measures to lessen the degree or extent of these impacts.

You can find the park's scoping document, and be able to leave your comments, on this page. Public comments are being taken through April 8, 2014.


I guess shuttles are workable for certain situations. I've been on the Zion shuttles. Neither the Bryce Canyon shuttle nor the Sequoia shuttle was mandatory. In any case, I never saw any parking issues at those places. I know there are seasonal mandatory shuttles, such as the Point Reyes lighthouse shuttle from the Patrick Visitor Center for access to the lighthouse or Chimney Rock. That operates on weekends during the prime whale watching season. Muir Woods runs a shuttle too during weekends during prime season. However, those two examples in Marin County actually require a fee in addition to regular park fees.

I was lucky enough to find parking the time I went to Delicate Arch. However, I've also seen situations where parking lots filled up and some people even resorted to parking illegally. The Bumpass Hell trailhead parking at Lassen often fills up given the short season. It's legal to park on the side of the road, but some people can't even move their cars 100 feet and park right at the entrance to the parking lot. The LE rangers have a field day with their ticket books during prime season.

I was thinking stopping ALL traffic into the park except for those going to the campground. Once they reach the campground, they must leave their vehicle parked and ride the bus. The same sort of arrangement in use in Zion Canyon. Only people with a "RED TAG" on their dashboard indicating they are staying at the lodge may enter the canyon. Then it's only to drive to the Lodge where they must leave their car.

I know there are some real challenges, but that's what was said when Zion was looking at what they've done. Now, I don't think there is anyone who would even think of returning to the old mess. Distances, however, are greater in Arches. Something like 17 miles there opposed to 7 in Zion. But if enough creative minds go to work on it, who knows what might come along?

That's what I meant - huge RVs, tour buses etc. already create a lot of traffic jams on the narrow parts of the road. Bringing in even more huge buses would not help here, unless it would lower general traffic numbers significantly. But who would take a bus into the park to only see Delicate Arch? Most people visit several areas of the park.

Gila, yes I was suggesting parking outside the park and riding shuttles from the VC. Not to argue with you, but why do you say shuttle buses climbing into the park is a bad thing? Maybe you're seeing something I'm missing.

I haven't been there for several years. But every time I have been there, I've had to follow some huge motorhomes up the hill. And once they get into the park, they really have almost nowhere to park those things. It was common to see a big machine parked catty-corner across several parking spaces.

I overheard some strong comments from frustrated drivers of both big and small vehicles -- and some of my own before I was able to get to the campground and unload my motor scooter. No parking problem after that. Maybe we could rent scooters for everyone?

Certainly no easy solutions, are there?

All campsite reservations for April are already gone. But it's a very small campground.

I was there in early September last year and got parking without problem. It was quite full of course, but not over the top. I guess that's an summer holiday problem.

Better to go this time of year-- we were just there last monday and we were the only people there. We sat at the arch for over an hour by ourselves and took pics and enjoyed the quiet. It was our first visit---I guess we were really lucky??

Shuttle Buses? Where from? The VC? Just to have all those shuttles buses climb the narrow road into the park? I hope not.

I'd opt for closing the road to the Delicate Arch area once the parking area is full. Instal some guy (or an automated barrier) at the beginning of the road and let cars only in if space is available.

Or even better: create a trail link from the parking area at the Delicate Arch viewpoint to the main one so the former can be used as overflow parking.

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