Moab: Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

We arrived in Moab late so we went straight to bed… in a hotel room that was ah, well let’s just say I checked for bedbugs before getting into bed.

Because we were right on the highway and unable to sleep we were up early and into Arches National park before they even opened to start charging, so we got in free, and beat the crowds.  I was surprised that Arches was mostly a driving park.  What do I mean by this? There is a paved main road that has several pull outs for photo taking, mostly they want you to stick to the very short trails that lead from the pull outs up to the arches and back to your car so as to not disturb the land.

There was one hike that we were able to find.  If you drive all the way to the end of the road into the park there is a lollypop hike around, through, and over the arches.  Devil’s Garden is a mix of sandy, and rock hiking and climbing.  The guide said it was 7.8 miles, my watch had it at under 6 miles, though we didn’t do each and every little overlook.  It was actually a lot of fun, the rules are mostly if its a hard rock you can climb on it as much as you like, if its sand or dirt, stay on the main trail to minimize erosion.

The 1-2 mile hikes to the arches were super crowded, the hike around Devil’s Garden thinned out once you got a mile from the parking lot.  If you don’t like heights, this may not be for you, if you hike clockwise you begin hiking up a slickrock arch with drop offs on either side.  The drop isn’t terribly far, but seemed to unnerve some of the other hikers. Also, the slickrock wasn’t slick as long as you weren’t wearing shoes with just flat soles, the rock is actually sandy, like sandpaper.  My shoes gripped fine, my husband was wearing shoes that had been totally worn out and he had a slightly harder time, but it still wasn’t bad. Most guidebooks call this strenuous and say it takes 5 hours.  Hiking took us 3 hours and the hardest part was the walk through sand.  For an active person this hike was fairly easy, again, as long as you are comfortable climbing up and down the rock.  There was a little route finding as you followed the trial downhill, but as long as you kept an eye out for the cairns it was no problem.  Note-its well marked, if you don’t see a cairn for more than a few minutes, back track and find where you went wrong.

We finished the entire park by 1pm and headed back to town for lunch.  After lunch we headed over to Gearheads Outdoor Store to find a map and decide what to do in Canyonlands the next day.  We had wanted to do a bike tour of Canyonlands but there was a really big storm with high winds, lightning, and even snow headed our way, so we picked something we could finish by noon.

With a map in hand, we decided we could do one more short hike before dark, so we headed back out to Corona Arch.  As the sun was setting we finished this 3 mile, 440 foot gain, round trip hike just before dark.  It was an easy hike, able to be completed by people of all ages, no special equipment needed. The colors were really amazing!

The second day in Moab we hit Canyonlands.  Canyonlands National Park is almost as otherworldly as Arches, except you drive up and up and up to a plateau, called Island in the Sky, and look down into all the canyons below.  It felt kind of strange with all the storm clouds blowing in over sandy dunes that eventually would open up to vast reddish canyons below.

We had hoped to do Upheaval Dome, but with the winds picking up, and the storm nearby the Park officials strongly suggested we skip the hike.  Instead of doing the 7.8 mile hike around it through canyons and washes, we opted for the 2 mile out and back up it to see down into the crater.  It was still amazing even if we couldn’t do our planned hike.

From there we drove to Murphy Trail. It was a mile hike through a sandy prairie to the top of the rim, and then dropped 845 feet in just .95 of a mile.  There is a 10 mile round trip hike that sounds really cool, but trying not to get blown off the canyon we just went down and back so we could experience the fun part of the hike, the loop just goes along the flat section of canyon below.

We ended the day by hiking out to the very tip of the Island in the Sky to look over all of the canyons.  This is an easy and very popular hike and many tourists do it.  By the time we had gotten out there the wind had picked up and was whipping sand at us.  We snapped a few pictures and called it a day.

Next up: Santa Fe!



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