Moab Rocks! Visiting Two Outstanding National Parks in Utah
After visiting Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks several years ago, I decided that Southern Utah was one of the most beautiful places I had ever visited. I have been lucky enough to travel to many parts of the world, but Zion still remains the most naturally scenic place I have been to in my life so far. I am a sucker for desert landscapes and grand rock formations so it was with anticipation and excitement that we set off south to Moab, Utah, to visit another two of the famed National Parks in the area, Arches and Canyonlands.
First order of business when we arrived in Moab; get a camping spot. I was not able to get into the National Park Campground, but there are lots of campgrounds here run by the BLM. Moab is a very popular destination so we were out of luck at the first couple of places I had scouted out along the river. We regrouped and headed through the town to Sand Flats Recreation Area which is mostly used by mountain bikers, dirt bikers and 4x4 enthusiasts. We were lucky to come across a wonderfully scenic, peaceful spot. Having found the perfect location, we enjoyed fantastically starry skies before settling down for the night to dream of the sandstone rock formations and dramatic landscapes we had in store for us the next day. We couldn't wait to get on the trails.
First stop: Arches National Park. We were not disappointed, this place rocks - literally! We drove through the park and hiked at the Devil's Garden to the Landscape Arch. You can also climb the slick rock here and walk along the sandstone fins. It was a test of my rock scrambling skills (I have the upper body strength of a gerbil) and Iain's dislike of heights. The heat made hiking hard so we decided to save some of the more exposed trails for a visit another day.
Getting there a little earlier on our second visit to Arches definitely helped with the heat, particularly as the hike up to Delicate Arch is very exposed. For a large part of the hike you are just walking up slick rock with no shade. The trails are marked with rock cairns, but we still managed to lose the trail at the top and came out on the "wrong side" of the arch. "No worries" we thought, we can walk around and get to it from underneath. This was fine until the last part where we had to climb up a pretty steep grade and the drop below is shear! Iain went ahead of me and after realizing what he had taken on, darted up the rock without looking back (or down) and certainly not waiting to see how I fared. His excuse was he was fueled by terror and so it was every man for himself. I forgave him of course! Delicate Arch is a truly wonderful place and after lots of photos we came down the conventional way with everyone else. Our Facebook Album has all the photos we took during our visit.
Arches seems to be the most popular of the two National Parks in Moab. After visiting Canyonlands I am not sure that is justified. The two parks are very different. We went to the Island in the Sky part of the park, and the place was truly amazing. The views go on for ever and you do feel like you are on top of the world. Albeit a world that doesn't look like Earth. The hikes were amazing here, truly breathtaking and wondrous. See our Facebook Album for all the shots.
We were very lucky that one of our friends from San Diego was passing through Moab while we were there. After meeting at the local brewery we headed up for some grilling, a campfire and more stargazing at our Sand Flats home. The scenery here is outstanding, and while I still don't think these two parks knocked Zion off the top spot of natural beauty wonders, they certainly secured Utah's position as most scenic state I have visited. Onwards to Colorado and more beauty, hopefully we won't get scenery fatigue!