Arches could discuss timed entry again next year as park fills up every morning

Oct 13, 2022, 7:26 PM | Updated: Oct 14, 2022, 11:26 am

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK — Less than two weeks after the ending of the timed entry pilot program, Arches National Park is reporting visitation so high, they’re having to shut their gates before they even hit mid-morning.

Every day since Oct. 4 when the time entry system was lifted, Arches has tweeted out around 9 a.m. that all lots in the park are full, and for visitors to come back in three to five hours.

Kaitlyn Thomas, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service, explained that visitors are rushing in from 7 to 9 a.m.

“Sometimes those lines are one to two hours long in the morning,” she explained. “What we really see is that people try to enter the park all at once,”

Anywhere from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., a tweet goes out that Arches is full. On Thursday, that tweet was sent at 9:13 a.m., announcing a 9:15 a.m. closure.

The park asks visitors to come back in the afternoon, and won’t let visitors wait at the entrance.

Arches didn’t have to send those tweets over the summer with the pilot program, which allowed visitors in at certain times that visitors reserved ahead of time.

“Timed entry was very successful in distributing visitation throughout the day,” Thomas said. “And what we’re seeing now, is that when everyone arrives all at once all within about a two-hour window, it’s really hard to get those people into the park.”

She said it is much more efficient for them to space the visitors out, reducing wait times at the gate, eliminating the need for shutting the gate when the park is full, and allowing them to get more vehicles per day into the park.

Thomas explained they are finding October is becoming one of the busiest times of the year, with high levels of visitation. She said this month would probably benefit from a management system like timed entry.

“Because we have fall breaks in Utah, we have fall breaks in a lot of our neighboring states at this time, we really do see an uptick in visitation during October,” she said.

For anyone headed that way, Thomas suggested arriving between 5 and 7 a.m. or waiting for the all-clear tweet to enter — which is usually sent between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Thomas expects visitation to slow in November.

She said they will meet with the community and public to get feedback on the potential for timed entry again next year before making decisions. Thomas said she’s not sure if they will look at another pilot program or a permanent timed entry system.

If they do decide on timed entry again, she indicated it’s possible they’d consider extending it to October.

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Arches could discuss timed entry again next year as park fills up every morning