Frequently Asked Questions

Trip Planning Logistics

What can we do here?

Many visitors enjoy riding to the top of the Gateway Arch. Tickets are sold at and cost $13-19. We also have a free museum about St. Louis's role in westward expansion and a 30-minute documentary movie about the building of the arch. For more trip ideas, check out our Things To Do page and our events calendar.

What are the hours?

During the summer (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend) we are open 9am to 8pm. During the winter we are open 9am to 6pm. The last tram ride to the top goes up about an hour before closing.

Where can I park?

Our parking page has information about this.

Are pets allowed?

Yes, leashed and well-behaved pets are allowed and encouraged on the grounds of Gateway Arch National Park. Pets are not permitted in the Gateway Arch Visitor Center or in the Old Courthouse (this does not apply to service animals as defined under the ADA). Pet excrement must be immediately removed from the park or disposed of in a trash container. Pets may not be left tied to light poles, handrails, trees, or other objects.

How large is the park? Is there anything to see besides the Gateway Arch?

The entire park is about 91 acres. This includes the Gateway Arch and grounds (about 62 acres), plus another 30 acres or so encompassing the Old Courthouse, Luther Ely Smith Square, and a good bit of the surrounding streets (managed as easements). Our gardeners have done amazing work on the landscape features throughout the park, so if the weather is nice, a walk around the grounds is a great addition to your day.

Is food allowed?

Yes, you may enjoy a picnic lunch anywhere on the arch grounds, though please keep in mind there are no tables. Waste must be disposed of properly. Glass bottles are not allowed. Food and drinks are allowed through the security checkpoint to the underground visitor center, but open food and beverage containers are not allowed on the carpeted areas of the museum or on the tram ride to the top.

Can I touch the arch?

Yes, go right ahead! Damaging or defacing the arch (carving/etching/painting/etc.) is strictly prohibited, but visitors are welcome to touch the arch. Beware, though: local legend says it's shaped like a boomerang because if you touch it you'll never be able to leave St. Louis. It will keep pulling you back.


About the Gateway Arch

Who designed it?

Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed the iconic structure. The ingenious tram ride to the top was designed by Dick Bowser.

How tall is it?

The Arch is 630 feet (192 meters) tall; 630 feet is also the distance from leg to leg at ground level.

When was it built?

Construction of the Arch began February 12, 1963 and was completed on October 28, 1965. The north tram was opened to the public on July 24, 1967. The south tram was completed in 1968.

How much did it cost to build?

The total building cost of the Arch was $13 million. The $11 million cost of the Arch itself was made up of 75% Federal funds and 25% City of St. Louis funds. The $2 million Arch transportation system was financed by the Bi-State Development Agency.

What does it symbolize?

St. Louis and the Gateway Arch are both referred to as the "Gateway to the West." The arch is an inspirational, transcendent symbol of Thomas Jefferson’s vision of building a unified continental nation and St. Louis’ role as a confluence and gateway to the American West during the 19th century. The park's museum interprets key individuals and cultural groups involved in exploring, exploiting, and inhabiting the lands from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

How many stories tall is it?

Allowing 10 feet for every story, the Arch is exactly 63 stories tall.

Are there restrooms or a snack bar at the top?

There are no facilities at the top of the Arch; there was never a snack bar or restaurant at the top. The observation platform is the only thing up there.

Has it been hit by lightning?

The Arch has a series of lightning rods on the top which are grounded directly into bedrock, with a perfectly insulated interior. It is able to withstand hundreds of lightning bolts which hit it each year.


About the Ride to the Top

How big is the tram car?

Each tram consists of eight capsules (aka tram cars) that have clear doors on the front and are closed on the back. Each tram car has a five-foot diameter. There are five seats in each car. Visitors with claustrophobia issues (or visitors who simply want to take souvenir pictures) are invited to sit in the replica tram car by the ticketing counter before purchasing tickets.

Can wheelchair users ride to the top?

The Tram Ride to the Top of the Gateway Arch is not fully accessible for guests with mobility impairments, as no wheelchairs, scooters or strollers are permitted on the Observation Deck. To reach the top and return, you must be able to manage at least 96 steps, divided into six flights, and you may need to stand for 30­–60 minutes. No seating or restrooms are located at the top of the Arch. Learn more about accessibility at the park.

How big is the viewing area at the top?

The viewing area at the top was designed to hold up to 160 people when at full capacity. Now that visitors only stay at the top for one tram cycle, there will never be more than 80 people at the top at a time.

How long can we stay at the top?

Visitors have one tram cycle at the top of the arch before riding back down. This works out to approximately 7-9 minutes at the top. The approximate time of a complete tour to the top is 45 minutes. The last tram of the day goes up approximately an hour before closing time.

Do we go back down the same side we came up?

Yes, you return on the same tram you rode up in. Listen to the park ranger and tour guides at the top, as they will make an announcement when it is time to board.

Are the north and south trams the same?

The trams are the same. On slower days, we may only operate one tram. On busier days, one tram is normally reservable in advance and one is same-day first-come-first-serve. The view is the same from either side, and visitors on both sides get the same amount of time at the top.

I went up to the top years ago. Is the ride different now?

The ride is mostly the same as it's always been, but there have been a few changes throughout the years.

  1. A Tram Leveling Control, known by our tram mechanics as a TLC, was installed in 2001. This system replaced the mercury-filled mechanical levelers that used to keep the tram upright. Fun fact: The TLC works well enough that we could completely eliminate the Ferris-wheel-like swinging. The ride could be so smooth visitors wouldn’t notice the adjustments. But the traditional tram ride experience was determined to be a character-defining feature of the arch, so the traditional tilting experience was preserved.
  2. New doors were installed in winter 2011/2012. The doors used to be plexiglass-metal-plexiglass. Now the whole door is clear Lexan (similar to plexiglass). Visitors riding to the top can see much more out the windows now, so people are less likely to get claustrophobic.
  3. The windows at the top were replaced in 2012 or 2013 with Lexan.
  4. The motor system was updated from 2015-2017. It went from the original 1960s generator, switches, relays, and contacts to a VFD system. It uses much less energy now.
  5. There has always been lighting inside the arch legs. It is a safety requirement that the stairs inside are lit at all times in case of emergency. At first, there were widely spaced incandescent lightbulbs, then widely spaced flood lights, and now LEDs. Because LEDs are so much cheaper to operate, there is more lighting now than ever before.

Can we walk down the stairs?

There are 1076 steps in the stairways of each leg, and they are used by maintenance and emergency personnel only.

Is the Arch moving?

The Arch is designed to sway as much as 18 inches in 150 mile per hour winds and it can withstand an earthquake; however, under normal conditions the Arch does not sway. It takes a 50-mile an hour wind to move the top 1 1/2 inches each side of center.

Are there weather constraints on the tram operation?

The tram ride to the top operates rain or shine. The arch has weathered countless severe midwest thunderstorms and is able to operate normally in all but the most severe weather. During tornado warnings, the tram rides to the top will be cancelled as a precaution. The tram rides may also be shut down if it is swaying so much visitors that are having a hard time keeping their balance. This happens very infrequently.

Why are the windows so small?

There are 16 windows on each side of the viewing area. Each window is 7 x 27 inches and 0.75 inches thick. Over 500 tons of pressure was used to jack the legs of the Arch apart for the last four-foot piece to be inserted at the top. A larger window would not withstand that pressure.

How many people can go to the top each day?

During the summer season, as many as 80 trips a day on each tram can go to the top. When operating at full capacity, forty tickets are sold for each trip, so 6400 people can visit the top each day. During the winter season there are only 48 trips to the top each day on each tram.

How far can you see in either direction at the top?

On a clear day the view at the top can extend up to thirty miles in either direction, however, St. Louis can be a very hazy city which reduces visibility at the top. On cool, damp mornings a dense fog can create zero visibility at the top. Check out the Gateway Arch Park Foundation's webcams to see what the view from the top is like today!

Which side is Missouri and which is Illinois?

The Missouri side of the river is to the west and includes downtown St. Louis. The Illinois side of the river is to the east and includes the vast industrial complexes of East St. Louis.

Why are Park Rangers at the top and do they work there all day?

Park Rangers are assigned to the top to assist visitors in boarding and unloading, provide for the safety of the visitor, and most importantly to answer visitor questions at the top. The Rangers work a single, two-hour shift at the top on a given day.


Other FAQs

Why does the memorial consist of more than just the Arch?

Gateway Arch National Park (formerly Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) was envisioned, from the time it was proposed by civic leaders in the 1930s, as being a commemorative site that would interpret St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States. Over the years several different schemes and proposals were put forward to accomplish this goal, all of which utilized the entire landscape of a large, rectangular area roughly corresponding with the original site of the French colonial town of St. Louis. Eero Saarinen’s vision of the site, which was judged the winner of the 1947-1948 architectural competition, also encompassed the entire area. All 172 entrants in the competition had to create a landscape design as well as “a large, central feature,” and most retained landscape architects on their design teams to ensure that they created a holistic space within the 62 plus acres of the site, and not just a spectacular centerpiece. The seven-person competition jury that chose the Saarinen design purposely included a landscape architect, S. Herbert Hare, for just this reason. The centerpiece of Saarinen’s design, the magnificent Gateway Arch, so enthralled the competition judges (and all later viewers) that it not only dominated the site but made people forget that a specific landscape was also designed to correspond with and enhance the Arch. Gateway Arch National Park consists of the entire site, not just the Arch itself.

Does the National Historic Landmark Nomination refer to both the Gateway Arch and the grounds which surround it?

Yes. Sixty-two acres of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, including the Gateway Arch structure and the surrounding landscape, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Although most people realize that the Gateway Arch stands with the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Rushmore, and the Washington Monument as universally recognizable forms and symbols of national identity, few are aware of the significance of the landscape which surrounds it. Architect Eero Saarinen and landscape architect Dan Kiley planned a landscape for the Arch which complements, enhances and echoes the graceful lines of the structure, while not calling attention to itself. The National Historic Landmark designation included not only the “massive stainless steel structure” of the Arch itself but also the “curvilinear, graceful staircases of toned concrete at the north and south ends [which] provide access to the grounds from the riverfront. The grounds themselves are carefully landscaped with ponds, trees, and walkways that again reflect the gentle curve of the Arch. Similar curves are repeated in the tunnel entrances for the railroad tracks that cut through the property.” The scale, impact, and design of the grounds constitute an essential mooring for the world-famous Arch and merge the Arch and its grounds, with one reflecting the other.

Why was the park name changed from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to Gateway Arch National Park?

The park was orginally named after President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's acquision in 1803 of the Louisiana Territory from France known as the of the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States. This new land was to be explored and encouraged westward expansion. The previous name has simply never been adopted by the millions of people that visit Gateway Arch National Park. The bill to rename the park was signed into law in February 2018.


Last updated: December 30, 2023

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