National Parks North America Travel

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Red rocks, towering arches and deep canyons, it was a sight that we  couldn’t get tired of, it only left us memorized and wanting  more.

This trip for us was really spontaneous since we made our decision to go only a week before leaving. We decided to choose adventure over working and set out on a 15hr road trip to Moab, Utah where the world’s most beautiful arches are located.

Moab is located in southeastern Utah. It’s a very small resort town at the center of the most stunning red rock landscapes that you’ll ever see. This city is a perfect destination for visiting two of the most sought-after destinations by travelers, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. A few miles away from Canyonlands N.P is  Dead Horse Point State Park  which reminded me of the famous Horseshoe Bend in Arizona. Additionally the Colorado River,  and three scenic byways are nearby which you can enjoy while eating  fruit popsicles which is exactly what we did and ate like a whole box.

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Arches National Park

Peak season to visit-March through October 

Our first stop was at Arches National Park located just 5 miles north of Moab. There is a $25 car entrance fee that is good for 7 days. We happened to avoid the fee, by arriving during times at which the pay booth was closed such as late evening, early morning, or once right at lunchtime. Right as you drive into the park you will see a Visitors Center which has a free guide and map to the park and all the wonderful hiking trails you could do there. It’s also a great place to learn the history about  the natural sandstone arches that are concentrated in the park.

We spent a full day and half exploring Arches National Park. To start your adventure you will be driving along the 36 mile round trip Scenic Drive that goes along the park and has many turnoffs to view points, hiking trails and picnic spots. If you have the entire day at the park, definitely drive along the scenic road and stop at all the view points and do some of the short hiking trails that lead you to the magnificent arches. If you have more time or an extra day, do all the short trails and the longer trails that will take you to Double O Arch, Tower Arch, Delicate Arch, and Landscape Arch. Enjoy a picnic and make sure to bring lots of water, and drink it. We brought two water bottles and that wasn’t enough! The Visitors Center has clean water that you can fill your water bottle or water jugs with for free. 

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Best arch for sunrise/morning: 

Moab Fault, The Great Wall, Turret Arch, Double Arch, Landscape Arch, Double O Arch

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Best for evening/sunset:

Park Avenue, Courthouse Towers, Balanced Rock, North and South Windows, Delicate Arch, Skyline Arch, Tower Arch

Camping: The park itself has 50 individual sites that are $20 per night. They need to be reserved in advance since they fill up quickly! If you don’t want to stay in the park or there’s no available sites, that’s not a problem. There are many campgrounds near Moab. There are privately owned campgrounds, Bureau of Land and Management Campgrounds, and National, State, and Forest Campgrounds. We actually found a free camping area that didn’t have any amenities but we were able to experience camping out in middle of the desert. The spot is fairly well used by other campers who were doing the same as us, some with tents, RV’s or trailers. It’s located on Willow Springs Rd also known as BLM 378. If you want to go backpacking inside of Arches you will need to get a backpackers permit in advance at the Visitors Center.

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Our favorite hiking trail that we hiked for our sunrise adventure was in the Devil’s Garden, which starting at the trailhead is a 7.8 mile hike with jaw dropping views of park, arches, and red rocks. The entire time that we were hiking I just couldn’t help but imagine dinosaurs roaming this area of the park.

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Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands N.P. is HUGE! It’s actually the largest National Park in Utah. That’s why it’s divided into four districts, Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze and the rivers. The most popular of them being Island in the Sky. It’s located 32 miles away from Moab. During our trip we got to visit two of the districts, Island in the Sky and the Needles.

We started out our day by driving to the Island in the Sky district and stopping at the Visitors Center to pick up a map of the land and all the hiking trails. We did most of the trails that took us around the mesa (the top of the canyon). There are several trails that will lead you from the mesa top to the white rim (the bottom of the canyon). These trails are a lot longer, more strenuous and some might even take you a full day or even overnight. We spent the next day in the Needles District which is 40 miles south of Moab. There we hiked a trail called Squaw Canyon to Lost Canyon (8.7 miles) which took us through valleys, up into canyons, climbing through cracks and it had us racing storm clouds the last two miles to make it in time before hail, thunder, and lightning.One of our favorite and memorable hikes!

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The best way to see and do the Needles and Island in the Sky is of course to drive to all the viewpoints and do as many hiking trails as you can, but if you really want to experience the canyon and take it a step further, renting a 4×4 vehicle like a Jeep would let you drive the 100 miles of the White Rim in the canyon. Another great way to adventure, is to rent a bike or bring one and ride the many trails including the 100 mile rim trail. 

Camping: Within the Island in the Sky district there are two campgrounds that you can stay at. In the Needles district there are three campgrounds. Outside of the park within a few miles there are many more campgrounds that you can stay at. If you want to go backpacking the best district to do that at is in the Needles. We ran into several backpackers that did that. To do that, you will need to obtain a Backcountry Permit  from the visitors center. 

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To end our trip we watched our last sunset at Island in the Sky at the end of the Grand View Point Trail. It was glorious. As you sit in silence surrounded by an enormous canyon, towering rocks, and a sky bleeding with red, orange and gold colors, you can’t help but praise the creator who created this beauty for us all to enjoy.

I hope you make the time to visit these wonderful parks full of architecture.

Excited for you,

Katie

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