Arches National Park Wildlife Guide

Welcome to Arches National Park, a magical corner of eastern Utah where the desert comes alive with over 76,000 acres of red rock wonders, including thousands of natural arches, giant spires, and expansive plateaus. But it’s not all about the scenery; amidst this serene desert landscape, a vibrant array of wildlife calls this place home. Here’s your guide to exploring Arches National Park’s wildlife during your visit.

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing in Arches

Arches National Park is open to visitors year-round, but wildlife viewing peaks during the spring and fall months when the weather is cooler. During these periods, the desert ecosystem comes alive, and animals are more active, especially during the cooler hours of early morning and late evening. Adapted to the desert’s conditions, many park residents are nocturnal, offering sightings during nighttime stargazing visits. However, daytime or “diurnal” creatures can be spotted throughout the day, ensuring wildlife encounters any time you visit.

Meet Arches National Park Wildlife: Day vs. Night

Daytime Wildlife

As the sun rises over the red rock formations, the park awakens. Desert cottontails dart among the brush, while lizards bask on warm rocks. Keep an eye out for desert mule deer as they easily navigate the rocky terrain. Birdwatchers will delight in spotting falcons, eagles, and songbirds soaring above. While cute, the curious and ever-present rock squirrels should be admired from a distance to avoid any unwelcome interactions. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars or a zoom camera lens to get a closer look.

Nighttime Wildlife

With the setting of the sun, Arches transforms. Nocturnal animals emerge, offering a glimpse into the park’s otherworldly nightlife. Listen for the calls of owls or the soft steps of nocturnal creatures such as foxes, coyotes, and ringtails. Look up to see bats swooping in search of their next meal. Nighttime also unveils an incredible view of the stars, providing a perfect backdrop for night photography and wildlife observation.

Pro tips for wildlife spotting at night: 

  • Look for eye shine to spot animals in the dark.
  • Avoid shining lights directly at animals.
  • Use a red light filter or headlamp with a red light setting to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark and minimize disturbance to wildlife.
  • Patience is key – stay quiet and still to increase your chances of observing wildlife.

Popular Animals to Watch for in Arches

Arches National Park is a sanctuary for diverse wildlife, including the elusive mountain lion and wandering black bears of the nearby La Sal Mountains, and the tiniest kangaroo rats. Spotting these creatures is a matter of luck, but your chances of encountering the park’s more popular wildlife listed below during your visit are good if you time it right, practice stillness, and know where to look.

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Admire these agile climbers along the park’s rocky outcrops.

Mule Deer

Often seen at dusk and dawn, mule deer are a common sight, usually spotted grazing in the park’s open areas and along tranquil trails.

Western Collared Lizard 

This vibrantly colored yellow and blue reptile contrasts its desert surroundings.

Peregrine Falcon

Known for their incredible diving speed, these birds of prey are thrilling to observe.

Red-tailed Hawk

Their distinctive screech and majestic flight patterns are iconic.

Golden Eagle 

One of the largest, fastest, and nimblest birds of prey, keep an eye for them soaring above the rock formations of Arches.

Black-tailed Jackrabbits

These large-eared hares are well adapted to the desert environment with a keen sense of hearing and are often seen hopping around at night.

Rock Squirrel

Everywhere across the park, they’re known for their entertaining antics, but remember to keep your snacks to yourself.


Though elusive, their howls often fill the evening air.

Best Places for Wildlife Watching in Arches

Park Avenue

This iconic trail offers spectacular views and the chance to spot wildlife among the monolithic sandstone formations.

The Windows Section

Easy to access and rich in scenic views, this area is great for observing birds and small mammals, especially in the morning and evening.

Delicate Arch Viewpoint

While most visitors come for the iconic arch, the surrounding area is good for spotting desert bighorn sheep and mule deer.

The Colorado River 

Near the southeast border of Arches, you can spot animals sipping from the river or grazing along its shores.

Best Wildlife Trails in Arches National Park

Looking for hiking trails to explore? Consider these routes for wildlife spotting:

Devils Garden Trail

This is an adventurous 8-mile round-trip hike that may reward you with sightings of desert bighorn sheep and numerous bird species. You can hike part or all of the trail route.

Fiery Furnace Trails

Guided tours through this maze-like area increase your chances of spotting wildlife under the guidance of a ranger who can point out hidden creatures. The only way to hike Fiery Furnace trails is with a ranger or by acquiring an individual permit.

Balanced Rock Viewpoint and Trail 

Early morning or late evening walks around Balanced Rock can be excellent for observing the park’s smaller residents, such as lizards and birds. The rock formation, one of the most Instagrammable places in Moab, can be seen from the Arches Scenic Drive, or you can park and walk the easy 0.3-mile loop trail at its base.

Wildlife Viewing Activities

Arches Scenic Drive 

The Arches Scenic Drive is a 25-mile out-and-back paved road that winds through the heart of Arches National Park. It offers an unparalleled opportunity for wildlife viewing amidst its stunning landscapes. Depending on how often you stop, this journey takes approximately 2 to 3 hours to complete. It features over a dozen viewpoints and trailheads, each providing a unique vantage point of the park’s diverse habitats and resident wildlife.

Arches Discovery Tour 

Sit back and take in the astounding views as a professional guide takes you through the park on a morning or sunset tour of Arches. From the vehicle, you’ll see views of the famous Balanced Rock, Courthouse Towers, La Sal Mountains, Petrified Dunes, and Panorama Point. You’ll also enjoy short guided walks to the North and South Window Arches, Turret Arch, and the legendary Delicate Arch Overlook. Your guide will know where to look for wildlife and can help identify them. The views only get better as the setting sun paints the surrounding sandstone monoliths and La Sal Mountains’ spectacular shades of color.

Fostering Respectful Wildlife Encounters

When enjoying Arches’ wildlife, always maintain a respectful distance to ensure your safety and the well-being of the animals. Use binoculars or zoom lenses to get a closer look without disturbing them. Stick to trails and never feed wildlife, as human food can harm their health and change their natural behaviors. Remember, the desert ecosystem is fragile, and with your help, we can preserve it for future generations by practicing leave no trace principles.

Where to Stay Near Arches National Park

Located just seven miles north of Moab and close to Arches National Park, Under Canvas Moab provides the perfect base for exploring Utah’s Canyon Country. Open from March to October, our camp offers luxury safari-inspired accommodations and stunning vistas of red rock landscapes and vast desert skies. This unique setup offers guests comfort in nature, under the pristine night skies and amidst the area’s rich wildlife, for an unparalleled outdoor experience.



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