Gateway National Park houses the iconic Arch that serves as a skyline landmark of St Louis. The famed steel catenary arch structure celebrates Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase. It sits just off the west bank of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.

The Gateway Arch is a highly visited tourist attraction with over four million visitors annually—about 1 in 4 visitors journey to the top of the structure. The Arch is registered in the National Register of Historic Places and officially made a National Historic Landmark on June 2, 1987.

St Louis Gateway Arch

History of the Gateway Arch Design

Architect Eero Saarinen’s creative design for a 630-foot stainless steel arch was chosen as the appropriate tribute to the spirit of the western pioneers during a nationwide competition in 1947-48. The Arch’s construction began in 1963 and ended on October 28, 1965, at a cost of less than $15 million.

Saarinen was a man of few words despite designing this modern masterpiece. He described his design as “the gateway to the West, the national expansion, and whatnot.” He wanted the park below it to be “be so densely covered with trees that it will be a forest-like park, a green retreat from the tension of the downtown city.” Saarinen understood that what made monuments and memorials iconic was their simple shape and sense of permanence.

His design is a weighted catenary curve, similar to a free-hanging chain bending under its own weight. The mathematical shape is it is a hyperbolic cosine, not a parabolic arch. In a catenary curve, the dip is created by tension from each end.

The park was first known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

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Visiting the St. Louis Arch

You can visit the Arch grounds year-round. Spring and summer are considered high seasons and can be quite busy.

Park Entrance

Park visitors 16 and up pay the $3.00 entrance fee; the entrance fee is waived for visitors 15 and under. On Fee Free Days, periodically throughout the year, the $3.00 park entrance fee may be waived. Gateway Arch visitors must enter the monument through the new west entrance, facing the Old Courthouse Gateway Arch and Fourth Street.

The tram ride to the top of the arch

Pre-Boarding Tour & Top of the Arch. (45-60 minutes)

Adults $15 – $19
Children (3–15) $11 – $15

A Video Tour to the Top

Tickets to ride the tram to the top often sell out, so we suggest you reserve your spot in advance online.

Gateway to the West Museum Entrance


Monument to the Dreams Documentary Film (35 minutes)

Adults $7; Children (3–15) $3

How do I get into the Gateway Arch National Park?

A new west entrance faces Fourth Street and the Old Courthouse, where all visitors must enter. The Gateway Arch legs have become exits only. A note on accessibility: Approaching from the west, all walking paths onto the Arch grounds from the City are open.

The arch tram is not fully accessible, but a simulation with a live feed from the top is available to those with para-ability.


Other FAQs about the Gateway Arch

What is the purpose of the Gateway Arch?

Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-born, American-educated architect, designed the Gateway Arch. It was built to commemorate President Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana in 1803 and to show how important St. Louis was in the rapid westward expansion that followed.

Thomas Jefferson Louisiana Purchase Map St Louis Arch

Can you go inside the Gateway Arch?

Yes, you can go to the top of the Gateway Arch on foot. As a rule, you must be able to climb at least six flights of stairs for at least 96 steps to get to the top and back down again. You may need to stand for 30–60 minutes to do this. There are no seats or public toilets at the top of the Arch.

What else is there to do besides climbing the Arch?

The Museum at the Gateway Arch is a great place to visit. It is a museum of westward expansion, detailing America’s move into the frontier. There is also a documentary film available for viewing.

St Louis Museum of Westward Expansion

Is the Gateway Arch the tallest monument?

In fact, the Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall, which makes it the tallest. The Arch is over twice as high as the Statue of Liberty and 75 feet taller than the Washington Monument.

How much does it cost to go up in the Gateway Arch?

As of 2022, ticket prices for the Arch now vary depending on the day of the week. If you want to go inside the arch, the basic weekend price is $12-16 for adults and $8-12 for kids under 15. This is less if you have a National Park Passport.

Has anyone died on the Arch?

There has only been one death linked to the Gateway Arch. Kenneth Swyers leapt from a plane and tried to BASE-jump to the ground from the top of the arch in 1980 died during this attempt. No one died while the Arch was constructed.

Can you see the Gateway Arch from a highway or road?

Yes, the Gateway Arch is visible from the road. The best views of the arch can be found by taking 44/55 North/East from south STL, or by taking 70/44 South/East from north STL, or by taking 64 East from west STL.

Is there a tram weight limit for the Gateway Arch?

There is no weight limit to ride the tram. You can ride the trams at any age or weight. A tram car that takes you both up and down. Previously, the four Saint Louis Rams pro football linemen all went to the top in one tram car. Shaquille O’Neil has also been to the top of the Arch by riding the tram.

Does the Gateway Arch light up at night?

Yes, the Gateway Arch lights up at night. It’s a beautiful site. A new, improved lighting system was installed in 2018. The National Park Service turns the Arch lights off during migratory bird seasons for two weeks, typically around early May and in late September.

Does the Arch sway?

The Arch, by design, may sway up to 18 inches and can withstand an earthquake; however, it does not sway in typical conditions. A 50-mile-per-hour wind is required to shift the top a mere 1 1/2 inches on each side of the center, and it’s designed to stand winds over 150 mph.

Is Gateway Arch the smallest national park?

Yes. Gateway Arch National Park is the smallest designated national park, of all the National Park System 400 sites, measuring just over 90 acres. The park is a true urban sanctuary in the heart of the city.

Who does the Gateway Arch honor?

The Gateway Arch commemorates St. Louis’ involvement in the United States’ Westward Expansion in the nineteenth century. The park honors Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, as well as the pioneers who helped create the region’s history and Dred Scott, who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse.

Can babies go up into the St. Louis Arch?

Yes. You can visit the Arch with a baby. The infant will need to be held during the tram ride (down to the load zone – into the tram cars – and up to the observation area at the top). Strollers must remain at the load zone entrance because no wheels are allowed at the top.

Is the St. Louis Arch okay for someone with claustrophobia?

The Gateway Arch experience might not be for you if you have claustrophobia. The tram ride up is in a small pod with 4 people for 4 minutes. They fill the tram pod to capacity, even with people you may not know. At the top of the arch, there can be a crowd of 140 people during peak hours.

However, for those not liking small, confined spaces, the Arch grounds can be enjoyed without entering the actual structure. There is also a large museum to visit.

Is the St. Louis Arch as wide as it is tall?

The Arch is equally wide and tall. The Arch is 630 feet wide and 630 feet tall. (192 meters in both width and height). It is the world’s tallest arch and Missouri’s tallest accessible building.

How long did the Arch take to build and when was it completed. ?

It took construction crews 2.5 years to complete the Arch and they began on February 12, 1963.

Is the Gateway Arch a national monument?

Yes, the Gateway Arch Park is part of the National Park Service in St. Louis, Missouri, near the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s starting point. It is also supported by the Gateway Arch Park Foundation.

How do I get into the Gateway Arch National Park?

A new west entrance faces Fourth Street and the Old Courthouse where all visitors must enter. The Gateway Arch legs have become exits only. A note on accessibility: Approaching from the west, all walking paths onto the Arch grounds from the City are open.

Is there food available in the Gateway Arch National Park?

The Arch Café, located in the Arch tram lobby, has a truly St.Louis inspired menu, including ribs, hamburgers, panini sandwiches, toasted ravioli, and vegetarian and gluten-free options.

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Arch Facts and Stats


Outer Width – Outside North Leg to Outer South Leg
630’ (192m)

Maximum Height
630’ (192m)

Shape of Arch Section
Equilateral Triangle

Dimension of Arch at Base
54 ft. (16.46m)

Dimension of Arch at Top
17 ft. (5.18m)

Size of Windows
Approx. 7″ x 27″ (180 mm x 690 mm)

Construction of Windows
3/4 in. (19mm) Plate Glass; Hinged and Locked

Size of Observation Room
7′ 2″ x 65′ x 6′ 9″ high (2.18m x 19.8m x 2.06m)

Capacity of Observation Platform
100 – 140 persons

Deflection of Arch
18” in 150 MPH wind (0.46 m in 240 km/h wind)

Method of Determining Deflection of Arch
Calculations and Wind Tunnel Tests (240 km/h)

Number of Sections in Arch

Thickness of Plates for Outer Skin
1/4” (6.3mm)

Type of Material Used in Arch Exterior

Stainless Steel; #3 Finish Type 304

Structural Capacity of Observation Area

100 lb/sq. ft (488 kg/m)

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Dr. Jason P. Brinton is an internationally recognized specialist in the field of LASIK and refractive surgery. He is a graduate of Harvard College, earned his medical doctorate from the Harvard Medical School and is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology.