Frequently Asked Questions

How tall is the Gateway Arch?

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

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 documentary movie about the building of the arch. For more trip ideas, check out our Things To Do page and our events calendar.

How long can we stay at the top?

As a Covid-19 pandemic precaution, visitors may no longer stay at the top as long as they like. Instead, all 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.

Where can I park?

Our parking page has information about this.

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

Yes, you return on the same tram you rode up in.

What river is that directly below?

The Mississippi River flows directly below the east windows of the Arch at a normal top water speed of 3 miles an hour at a depth of about 12-15 feet. The Missouri River meets the Mississippi about 15 miles to the north of the Arch.

How many stories tall is the Arch?

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

How long until the tram returns to the top?

The tram takes four minutes to get to the top and three minutes to travel from the top to the bottom, plus some time to load and unload; so a tram just leaving the top will return in approximately 7-10 minutes.

When do we board the tram to go down?

Listen to the park ranger and the tram operator, as they will make an announcement when it is time to board.

Do we go down in the same car we came up in?

Yes, you ride back down in the same car you came up in.

How big is the viewing area at the top?

The viewing area at the top can hold up to 160 people when at full capacity. There are 16 windows on each side of the viewing area. Each window is 7 x 27 inches.

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.

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.

Has the Arch 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.

Why are the windows so small?

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 much did the Arch 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.

When was the Arch 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 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. The tram has been operating under decreased capacity since 2020 due to COVID-19.

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.

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.

How large is the Memorial and does the Memorial consist of more than the Gateway Arch?

The entire Memorial 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).

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: July 10, 2022

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One Memorial Drive
Suite 730

St. Louis , MO 63102


314 655-1600

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