Spring Service in Arches National Park, Utah

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14270A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Explore one of the world's unique national parks
  • See spectacular rock formations and desert life
  • Contribute to the preservation and beauty of the park


  • All group cooking gear
  • All meals
  • A beautiful base camp


DatesMay 4–10, 2014
StaffMike Kobar

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Arches National Park -- its very name evokes images of grandeur. This corner of the Colorado Plateau lives up to those images and much, much more. Three hundred million years ago, the one-kilometer-thick salt layer, deposited by the alternate filling and drying of immense seas, began to move upward under great pressure. This caused the upper layers of sandstone to buckle and break, leaving fins -- those upended slabs in which the arches form. Combine these fantastic rock formations with the high desert vegetation of sage, pinion, and juniper and you have a world that invites you to stop and think, to feel your place in the universe, and be at peace. However, the dramatic increase in the number of visitors has brought equally dramatic problems to this one-of-a-kind park.

This year, we hope to continue a tradition of highly successful service trips to this park. Our work will take us to scenes of stunning beauty that need immediate attention if we are to preserve them for the future. We will have the satisfaction of knowing that our urgently needed work has contributed to the beauty and preservation of Arches National Park.

The Project

All winter long, the National Park Service keeps a “wish list,” and waits for Sierra Club volunteers to return in the spring, when we work directly with Park Service staff on projects that have the highest priority at the time. This wish list may include trail work, fencing, removal of exotic vegetation, and other maintenance projects. Assignments are posted and crews rotated, so no one should be bored. Although no experience is required, common sense, good humor, and a good attitude are mandatory. Our rule on these trips is that everything we do is necessary, and whatever we complete is sufficient. Everyone should leave with a sense of accomplishment.

To help the Park Service staff direct our efforts most efficiently, all participants are urged to advise the leader of special skills or interests, e.g., carpentry or masonry, operating small tools, graphics and photography, a temperament for detail work, a preference to begin a task and follow it through to completion. But don’t think you will be limited to using those skills; every participant will have a chance to work on a variety of projects within our overall goal of accomplishing what the park service asks us to do.

Participants should be ready to teach and to learn new skills as our work requires. The willingness of each of us to be here, in particular, and the wholehearted effort of all of us, in general, should provide enduring memories, laughter, new friendships, and produce a job well done.


The group will assemble at Arches National Park Visitor Center (five miles north of Moab, Utah, off U.S. Highway 191) no later than 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, day one. The actual group campsite will be at Devil’s Garden campground, 18 miles and about a 30-minute drive beyond the visitor center, with beautiful views of the La Sal Mountains and Salt Valley. This is a base camp, not a backpacking trip, and once we have settled into the campground, there’s no need to move for the entire week. Parking is limited and the only vehicles that are assigned parking are the commissary vehicles. As our campsite is a tent site, anyone wishing to use a pull-behind camper or RV will need to get his or her own campsite upon arrival. Often these sites are full by 8:00 a.m. In the event we have too many vehicles, overflow parking will be arranged by the Park Service, and we use the remaining vehicles as shuttles.

The first trip meal will be lunch on Sunday, day one; the last trip meal will be breakfast on Saturday, day seven. We try to provide substantial and balanced meals using mostly fresh foods with variety and flair. Participants are encouraged to advise the leader of any food allergies, problems, or preferences. Trip members with special diet requests may be asked to provide some of their own food. Meal preparation on workdays will be done by packers, with assistance by trip members. On Sunday and Wednesday, meal preparation will be directed by staff and assisted by trip members. Menu preparation, food selection, and food transport will be done by the leaders. Meal times and daily KP crew assignments will be posted and announced. The trip ends at 10 a.m. on day seven.



Accommodations and Food

Your mode and cost of transportation to the roadhead are not included in the price of this trip. Please make all reservations and let the leader know your travel plans. The less familiar you are with travel time and distances to this area, the more you are advised to use a travel service. As soon as a complete list of participants is available, the leader will forward copies to all members in order to facilitate the planning of transportation. Both scheduled flights and car rentals are available out of Grand Junction, Colorado. If you fly into Denver, Salt Lake, or Albuquerque you will need a full day to drive to park. Carpooling is not only cost effective, but it will also keep crowding in the campground to a minimum.

While almost all the hiking trailheads within the park are right off the paved road, individual exploration in four-wheel-drive vehicles is possible. Personal vehicles are on their own in these circumstances. Typically, we drive personal vehicles to the maintenance area. Park staff then transports us to our job assignments. As with all aspects of this trip, we will comply with all park service rules and requests.

Trip Difficulty

This trip merits a moderate to moderately strenuous rating. As in all new situations, a healthy respect for the altitude (5,400 feet) and an awareness of your personal and physical limitations should be your guide. Participants in generally good health and able to tolerate the altitude should find this an enjoyable trip.

All participants must have a current tetanus shot. Those who have not seen their doctor in five years can plan a quick, friendly visit with their physician, and after a discussion with this brochure in hand, obtain their doctor’s signature on their Medical Questionnaire. Minor medical conditions known to the participant are no impediment to having a full, enjoyable experience. Any disclosures on any questionnaire are completely confidential.

Each work day, we’ll put in a full morning and most of an afternoon on our various assignments. Lunch, packed after breakfast by each participant, is eaten wherever the crew happens to be at noon. At the end of the work day, participants not assigned to that day’s cook crew are at leisure to tour the numerous trails. Wednesday is a day off to explore the park or rest and relax. To be sure, some tasks are more physically demanding than others, and the rule is work at your own pace and rest when necessary; slow and steady gets the job done. Depending on crew size and the duration of each assignment, some adjustments may be necessary. Members should make their preference known in advance or while on the trip. To make the most happen in the easiest way possible, staff will make the final decision.

Equipment and Clothing

Trip members are expected to furnish their own day pack, tent, sleeping bag, and personal gear, including eating utensils and a hard plastic containers for lunch. The Park Service provides all work tools; the Club will provide commissary equipment, including pots, cooking utensils, and stoves. The Outings Committee Equipment List, sent to you by the office in your confirmation packet, will give you guidance in selecting your gear.

Temperatures in Arches in late April can vary from 30 degrees at night to 80 degrees or more in the daytime. Although we all hope for warm, clear days, rain can sweep in, so gear should be appropriate for three-season conditions. Clothing should be chosen not for its fashion-ability but for its layer-ability, i.e., that you can add or subtract layers depending on the ambient temperature. Be prepared for the unusual (cold, heat, rain), but bring the usual, sensible camping items, and you will be fine. Don’t forget a broad brimmed hat -- it’s bright out there!

You must bring personal water containers -- and you must carry two quarts of water with you at all times, during both work and leisure. Good boots for hiking and working are essential. Also, bring work gloves, your own supply of moleskin and Band-Aids, sunscreen, and moisturizer, plus a positive attitude toward share a unique experience and the desire to contribute toward a common goal.

Our proximity to Moab will allow you to buy forgotten items before coming to camp for the week. Please resist the temptation to be casual about bring your necessities for the week. Once in camp, consider yourself there to stay.



  • Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire.
  • Edward Abbey, The Best of Edward Abbey. Sierra Club Books.
  • Powell, John Wesley, The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons.
  • The Sierra Club Guides to the National Parks, Desert Southwest. Sierra Club Books.

This is by no means a complete list of available references; such a listing would require an additional brochure! Please explore your public library and come to Arches ready to experience it firsthand.




In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Mike Kobar has been staffing or leading Sierra Club service trips in the Southwest since 1991. He is married to a full-time artist. They have three kids and a dog and live on the Connecticut coast. Please feel free to contact him with any questions or concerns you may have about this trip.

Assistant Leader:

Scott Sims

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