Road Trip – Utah
Arches National Park and Canyonlands
The entrance to Arches National Park is a 5-mile drive from Moab, where you can pick up a picnic lunch, snacks, and water. If you don’t plan on doing much hiking, Arches can be seen in half a day, though ideally, one should allow for one full day.
Sunrise and sunset are the most spectacular: the arches are silhouetted against a blue sky; the sun beams its light onto a peak, the inside of an arch, or a rock, making it glow like a golden orb through ‘The Windows.‘ Shadows from one rock formation are reflected on another, creating a canvas of artistic shapes and forms; visitors, overcome with awe, converse in whispers, careful not to intrude on the magic of the moment or break the silence.
After passing through the entrance station, you’ll begin your steep zigzag ascent into the park, and when the road levels out, you’ll find yourself surrounded by majestic, sculpted rock formations. Names such as The Organ, The Courthouse, The Tower of Babel, and the most appropriate of all, The Three Gossips – have been bestowed upon nature’s artwork.
A gentle, one-mile round trip trail leads to The Windows and Turret Arch, and a half-mile round trip trail leads to Double Arch.
The iconic Delicate Arch can be seen from the Upper and Lower Viewpoints or close up via a 3-mile round trip hike. Be aware that there is no shade on this trail, so take plenty of water and avoid doing this hike in the heat of the day. There are also steep, Slickrock slopes and a narrow ledge to navigate shortly before reaching Delicate Arch.
Fiery Furnace Viewpoint is worth a stop, especially in the early morning or late afternoon when the colors are deep and rich.
Devil’s Garden Trail will take you on a gorgeous hike to Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and Landscape Arch. If you’re up to a challenging, poorly marked trail that leads you over slippery sandstone slabs, narrow ledges, and scrambling on all fours, continue on the path to Double O Arch (a 4.2-mile hike).
Canyonlands National Park – Utah
The Island in the Sky entrance to Canyonlands is ten miles from Arches National Park. If you don’t plan on doing any major hikes, Canyonlands’ highlights can be seen in a day.
The magnetic beauty of Canyonlands is its vast, untamed, ruggedness: five hundred and twenty-seven miles, consisting of flat mesas, arches, spires, and two rivers: The Green River and the Colorado River, which snake through the canyons.
Arrive before sunrise if possible and stop at Shafer Canyon Overlook for a view of the Island in the Sky, then head for Mesa Arch, where the sunrise is akin to a landscape painting.
Upheaval Dome – Take the short hike to Upheaval Dome to view this unique geological phenomenon. Scientists believe that it was either created by the impact of a meteor or a salt dome uplift. Photographed from above, the rock layers form an almost circular bull’s eye, which is 3.4 miles in diameter. The oldest rocks are in the center.
The Green River Overlook and Grand Viewpoint Overlook are both “must-sees.” Here one gets a sense of the majesty, the size, and the tranquility that makes Canyonlands a national treasure.
The charming town of Moab, surrounded by lofty red rock formations, has an abundance of hotels and inns to choose from, plus a great choice of restaurants and two well-stocked grocery stores.
*We did not visit Dead Horse Point Overlook. On our way there, the clouds marched in and dropped a deluge of water.
** Note: There is nowhere to purchase food and drinks in Arches National Park or Canyonlands.