Arches National Park is one of the many striking preserves of the Colorado Plateau, a vast region of slickrock, tableland, and mountains in the southwestern U.S. The park features a multitude of natural sandstone formations, including the iconic Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock. Its 2,000-plus rock arches constitute the greatest number in the world. Interest in Arches increased substantially with the 1968 publication of "Desert Solitaire," author Edward Abbey's iconic account of the landscape wherein he worked for several seasons as a park ranger.
The Devils Garden
The only established campground in Arches National Park is Devils Garden, named for an adjoining nest of sandstone fins and arches in the northern section. There are 52 sites, over half of which can be reserved through www.recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777. Sites cost $20 per night. The Juniper Basin and Canyon Wren sites are for groups of up to 55 and 35, respectively, at a nightly rate of $3 per person and $33 minimum. Devils Garden Campground has water, picnic tables, fire grills and shower-less bathrooms.
Backpackers need to pick up a free permit at the Arches Visitor Center. While the 73,000-acre park is relatively narrow, its washes and slickrock formations provide a sense of isolation from the main road. Before pitching camp in the Arches hinterlands, familiarize yourself with backcountry navigation and safety---water is scantily-available, terrain is rugged, flash-flooding is possible, and heat can be stunning. In addition, cross-country travelers should avoid trampling on cryptobiotic soil---a fragile, ground cover crust of cyanobacteria, lichen, algae, and moss critical to soil stabilization, fertility and hydrology.
For additional camping opportunities, the Bureau of Land Management's Moab District manages more than 20 campgrounds in the vicinity of Arches National Park, including sites immediately west, south and east in the Sand Flats Recreation Area, off Kane Creek Road, and along highways 313, 279 and 128. Dispersed camping is not allowed in much of the district. Visit www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab.html for more information and to check regulations.