Moab. The dusty old mining town that borders two amazing National Parks in South Eastern Utah. The town is now a bustling community of adventure seekers, as an ideal basecamp for both Canyonlands and Arches National Park as well as countless other recreational opportunities.
My stop at Moab was my 2nd this year, I had previously been to Arches in March and hiked Devil’s Garden as well as seeing the famous Delicate Arch at Sunrise. This time my plans were a bit different. I arrived at Arches and did a little hiking around some of the windows and other less famous Arches. I knew what I wanted to see though, Delicate Arch with the Blood Moon. I was not the only one with the idea and I was joined by hordes of others who wanted to see the Arch during this very rare lunar eclipse event. Delicate Arch is a famous, stunning thin strand of delicate perfectly perched Sandstone, seemingly impossibly framed by the beautiful Lasal Mountains in the background.
I made my way up and around the arch getting some pictures there before settling on a large ridge opposite it. I met a nice guy named Mike there and we took pictures and talked for a while. It was nice to be away from the madness at the other side of the Arch viewpoint. It ended up being the perfect night to watch the blood moon. I was able to get some interesting pictures of it. This one is my favorite.
After I left Arches for the day I made way towards Canyonlands National Park and Island in the Sky. I had been to the mind boggling Needles Section of the park a few days prior. Island in the Sky is a large Mesa Top area surrounded by huge multi layered canyons. Formed by the eroding powers of the Green and Colorado Rivers which run through the park Island in the Sky has viewpoints which seem to stretch on and on forever.
I set out to explore this section of the park for the day but was greeted by an unfortunate reality–I was almost completely out of gas. I was able to see Grand View Point and Upheaval Dome, two of the more spectacular views in the park before I knew it was time to head back to Moab.
Grand View point offers spectacular views over most of the region, seemingly at the end of the planet, the drop offs reach over 1800 feet straight down to the canyon below. The views here are spectacular, the white rimmed trail winds around the white sandstone rimmed canyons and the beautifully carved canyons stretch for as far as the eye can see.
Upheaval Dome is a relative geologic curiosity, geologists are unsure how this massive sandstone crater formed. Deep, massive, mysterious it is a truly unique feature on this landscape. Several theories have been posited as to how it formed, namely a meteorite strike, and a vast upheaval and collapse of the land. At and rate standing at the brim of this huge crater is awe inspiring. Filled with salt and surrounded by a rugged rim, it is truly a sight to behold.
Getting back in my car after my hike at Upheavel Dome I knew I was in for a challenge. As I was parking I had the dreaded “Low Fuel” light click on. I knew that meant I would be hard pressed to make it back to Moab and the nearest gas station, 40 miles away. Luckily, I drive a Prius, I was able to hypermile effectively enough back to town getting 108 miles per gallon on the way there and was able to comfortably refuel. Perks of driving a Prius I guess.
That night I stayed at the venerable Lazy Lizard hostel on the outskirts of Moab. For 12 dollars a night it was a nice reprieve from sleeping in the outdoors for a night. It also afforded me to opportunity to stay the night in town and catch the Packers vs. Chiefs game. The Packers won in convincing fashion and it was a night to celebrate!
Unfortunately when I woke up the next morning I realized I had celebrated a bit too effectively. Feeling nowhere near 100% I spent most of the day in the Library writing and researching. I was able to make it down beautiful historic highway 128 which follows the Colorado River and a beautiful red sandstone canyon north. I stopped at Fisher Towers for the night, yet another incredible rock formation nestled in a small valley of the canyon. The rocks were beautiful and offered a great place to camp for the night.
The next morning I headed for the large Morning Glory Bridge just north of Moab, the bridge is technically an Arch, but it was formed by flowing water hence it being a bridge. It’s massive form is nestled in a side canyon off of 128. The Bridge itself is massive, in a veritable desert oasis full of rare desert vegetation. I was lucky enough to see some adventurous people rappelling from the edge of the Canyon which the bridge sits in.
My next destination was again Arches National Park. I had already quite thoroughy explored this park this year, seeing Delicate Arch twice and hiking the entireity of the magical Devil’s Garden. One more challenge remained though, hiking the Firey Furnace. A maze of Red Sand Stone fins and hidden arches consist of the backcountry and wild Firey Furnace. No trails run through this part of the park, so I booked a guided tour of the Furnace. The sites were amazing, usually Arches National Park greets you with hordes of tourists and selfie sticks. The solitude and peace inside the Firey Furnace make it one of my favorite places in Arches. Rugged terrain and tough hiking are the norm inside here. The tour offered a slew of information about the formation of the Arches within the park and the vegetation and life that lives within it’s boundaries of this high desert park.
The next day my goal was to finish seeing Canyonlands and the nearby Dead Horse State Park. Fully loaded with fuel I set out to explore the parts of Canyonlands I had missed. I woke up early in the morning to catch a famous site, the sunrise at Mesa Verde Arch. Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one with that idea and when I arrived at the arch there must’ve been some 50 people already at the arch with extravagant camera equipment set up to catch the spectacular sunrise. What a sunrise it was!
The Arch perfectly frames the distant mountains and catches the light through it’s wide mouth incredibly. The sky was lit up in various different colors that made getting up at the crack of dawn well worth it.
After I did a bit more exploring of Canyonlands I headed to Dead Horse State Park. Basically an extension of Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse State Park offers an incredible view of the Colorado River some 2000 feet below you. The park has other amazing views of down into the Canyonlands below, offering a 4 mile canyon rim hike which takes you to several stunning overlooks. The best of which is the view at Dead Horse Point. The name comes from old Cowboys who used to wrangle wild Colts up on to this point and trap them in, at it’s narrowest the mesa top is only 30 yards across. The Cowboys would take the horses they wanted from those they caught and let the rest die of thirst. Horrible-but the reason for the name of the park.
The view over the point is spectacular, the Colorado River winds through the canyon and into the distance. Being 2000 feet over the river makes it seem tranquil and small, but looks are deceiving. The mighty Colorado churns through the ancient sandstone here to carve an epic Canyon which gives the region it’s name.
The Moab area of Utah brings some spectacular scenery. From the incredible red rock formations at Arches, to the chiseled Canyons of Canyonlands and other features of such a unique landscape make Moab and ideal destination for adventurers. I spent a good 5 days in this region and could’ve spent countless more. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but I set my sights for my next National Park, Capital Reef in remote Southern Central Utah.