Our older son, Jason, joined us for the week. His flight into Montrose, CO arrived shortly before 10 am on Friday, September 24th, which enabled us to pick him up and return to our rig in time to check-out by 11 am. We then drove 198 miles to Moab, UT where we spent the week at OK RV Park. As we reached downtown Moab, an apparent watermain break forced us to take a long detour through the back streets. Although the detour was poorly marked, Phil kept following a semi and it led us to where we needed to go.
The months of May through October are the peak tourist season for the five Utah national parks. The National Park Service advises visitors to either arrive before 8 am or after 3 pm, or risk being turned away for 3-5 hours. Since we’re not early morning people, we chose to visit the parks later in the day.
Rather than fight the crowds at the national parks on a Saturday, we opted to spend the day at Dead Horse Point State Park. This relatively small state park is on a plateau that is surrounded by vast canyons and leads to a sharp point. According to legend, the point was once used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa. Cowboys rounded up these horses and herded them across the narrow neck of land onto the point. The neck, which is only 30 yards wide, was then fenced off with branches and brush, creating a natural corral surrounded by steep cliffs. The cowboys then chose the horses they wanted and, for reasons unknown, left the other horses to die of thirst within view of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below.
After stopping at the Visitor Center, we drove on to Dead Horse Point Overlook. We then hiked the 3-mile West Rim Trail back to the Visitor Center. After eating lunch at the Visitor Center, Phil and Jason hiked 2-miles on the East Rim Trail back to Dead Horse Point Overlook to get our car.
After leaving the park, we drove back toward Moab and decided to look for the location where the final scene of the film “Thelma and Louise” had been filmed. Google provided various directions but we took the one that appeared the most detailed. We drove along a road that had steep cliffs on one side and the Colorado River on the other. We came to an unpaved road and continued on despite the feeling that this was probably a bad idea. As the road became more rugged, we kept going “just past the next curve” and “just over the next hill.” Finally, we decided we really needed a 4-wheel-drive vehicle if we were going to go any farther and, very carefully, turned around. On the return, we stopped to watch some rock climbers who were attempting to scale the steep cliffs.
On Sunday, we waited until 3 pm for the crowds to clear out before visiting Arches National Park. We drove non-stop along the scenic drive to reach the parking area at Wolfe Ranch and were able find one of the few open spots. We then hiked the 3-mile out-and-back trail to Delicate Arch, the iconic feature of Arches National Park. This hike involved climbing 480 feet up a steep slickrock slope. Just before reaching Delicate Arch, the trail followed a narrow rock ledge for about 200 yards. This hike was quite strenuous but we took it slowly. The view at Delicate Arch was fabulous and made the effort worthwhile. The arch is 45 feet high and 33 feet wide, but seems much larger.
After descending from Delicate Arch, we drove a mile farther up the road to a couple of other Delicate Arch overlooks. These provided a view from the opposite site of the arch, across a canyon.
The sun was setting as we left the national park. We stopped at Balanced Rock for some photos.
On Monday afternoon, we visited Canyonland National Park. Canyonland consists of four districts, which are divided by the Green and Colorado Rivers. We limited our visit to Island in the Sky, the district closest to Moab and the most visited district. After a brief stop at the Visitor Center, we drove to Grand View Point and hiked a two-mile out-and-back trail along the rim of the canyon.
We next headed to Mesa Arch. A half-mile loop trail took us to this natural stone arch that frames spectacular views of the La Sal Mountains, Buck Canyon, Washer Woman Arch and Monster Tower.
Our next stop was at Green River Overlook, with its views of high plateaus and the Green River.
Our final stop for the day was at Upheaval Dome. We hiked a half-mile to the first overlook. Upheaval Dome is a crater in which the rock layers are fractured and tilted, forming a circular depression more than two miles wide. There is disagreement as to the cause but recent findings support the belief that it was caused by a violent meteorite impact.
On Tuesday, we took a day off from hiking. Jan and Jason went exploring downtown Moab while Phil gave our rig a long-overdue bath.
On Wednesday, we attempted to visit Arches National Park at 1:30 pm but were greeted by a sign that said “Park Full – Return in 3-5 hours.” Instead of returning home, we drove a few miles away and did the 3-mile hike to the Corona and Bowtie Arches. The trail crosses wide expanses of slickrock pavement. A couple of slickrock sections have metal safety cables to use as handrails as well a steel ladder bolted into the rock on one steep step. We reached Bowtie Arch first. This pothole arch formed when a pothole above, usually filled with water, eroded down into the cave below. We then came to the massive Corona Arch, measuring 140 feet across and 105 feet high.
After finishing this hike, we returned to Arches National Park at 4:30 pm and had no trouble getting in. We drove to the windows section of the park. As we drove past the towering peaks, it was fun to imagine what the shapes resemble. We spotted one rock that all three of us thought looked like a baby. We walked along a short path to Double Arch. The larger of these twin arches has a span of 144 feet – the third largest in the park – and a height of 112 feet – the highest in the park.
From the same parking lot, we then hiked to the North Window, South Window and Turret Arch.
Thursday was our final full day in Moab so we arose early and arrived at Arches National Park at 6:45 am. Sunrise wasn’t until 7:13 am so we drove to the northernmost end of the scenic highway while the sun rose. We then walked a short path to the Skyline Arch. Along the path, we spotted seven deer grazing on the brush. Their greenish coats made them difficult to spot within the foliage.
We then drove to Sand Dune Arch and hiked .3-mile through deep sand to a secluded arch tucked among sandstone fins.
From the same parking area, we then hiked .6-mile to Broken Arch. After scrambling up the rock face of Broken Arch, we continued on another .8-mile to Tapestry Arch, before hiking back the way we had come.
On next stop was at Balanced Rock. We walked a .3-mile loop around the base of this fragile, picturesque rock formation.
Our final stop was at Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. We hiked a portion of the Park Avenue Trail along the canyon floor, providing close up views of massive fins, balanced rocks and lofty monoliths.