We visited Utah in October to participate in a family wedding. But before the big day we had some time to drive down to southern Utah and visit some of the most amazing national parks in the US. It was truly a fun experience and I would go back in a heart beat if I could.
Originally we flew to Salt Lake City and rented a car from there. We drove to Moab about five hours and only stopped for lunch and later for a short break to stretch our legs. Still it was already dark when we arrived.
The next morning after breakfast we slowly started to see what it looked like in Moab. Everywhere we saw red rocks. The city was tiny and everything seemed to be done for tourists. We headed to a grocery store to buy some water and snacks for our day at Arches National Park. From Moab it is only six minutes drive to Arches which is great. For once you don't have to get up super early to be somewhere early. We had been told that parking in Arches is limited and especially at the most popular sites the parking lots fill up early. After a quick stop in the visitor center, we headed to the park to see some arches.
The most famous arch is called Delicate Arch, and that is also where we started our day. It was a very wise decision since later the temperatures were reaching almost 90F. The morning weather was perfect for this 3,2 mile hike and we didn't have to worry about the parking. A lot of this trail is uphill and there is no shade, so a big bottle of water and sunscreen was very much needed. In fact you will gain 670 feet in elevation but you can do it! Even our three year old enjoyed running around on the rocks until she got a little tired and my husband had to carry her on his shoulders.
Delicate Arch is truly worth the hike. I was a little nervous to go stand in the middle of the arch when there were no fences but it was an experience I would not have missed. One can also see this arch from a view point by the road going thru the park but standing next to it is just impressive. On the way to the arch you will also see some smaller arches and some petroglyphs.
After lunch we went around the park by car. We were all tired of hiking in the sun and even the shorter hikes to different arches started to feel hard. And believe me, there are a lot of arches in that place, over 2000 of them. Plus all the other beautiful rock formations.
The next day we checked out from out hotel and headed to Canyonlands National Park. We were not quite sure what to expect other than canyons. We still had to drive all the way to Midway to the wedding venue, so we didn't do any long hikes. Hiking to the bottom of the canyon would have been a great experience but we only did a shorter trail to see Mesa arch. We drove around stopping at the viewpoints and these canyons were just spectacular! No wonder so many movies have been filmed here including the last scene of Thelma and Louise. Pictures don't do justice to these beautiful places we saw.
In the visitor center of Moab someone told us about dinosaur tracks you can find near by. I thought it was amazing and somehow insane that you could see real dinosaur foot prints. Before I visited Utah last summer for the very first time, I didn't even know something like that exists. After a small search we did indeed find some tracks from the location the ranger told us. And there they were, on the ground, without any kind of guard or protection. These tracks had been discovered a couple years ago and in the sand stone that had been discovered under the soil where the prints were, looked so delicate. We followed the wooden trail and the signs were telling us the story of the dinosaurs. But nothing would stop people walking on top of the tracks if they wanted to. We were a little bit surprised that that they just left the tracks there without any protection for people and weather. We were the only people at the scene but this place was amazing, and I truly hope that these tracks will stay there for generations to admire!
The rest of our trip we spent in Midway and Salt Lake City. More about that coming soon!
TIPS FOR VISITING ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
- If you plan to stay the night close by, book the room early. There are only a handfull of hotels in the area, and they are full from spring to fall. For a price of a nice hotel room somewhere else, you will get a motel room here
- Carry lots of water, sunscreen, a sun hat and food. Arches National Park is big and there are no restaurants
- Be there early. There is not enough parking for everyone (although they are in a process of building more) and everyone wants to see what you want to see
- During the winter there is snow in Arches National Park so plan accordingly
- Canyonlands National Park is right next to Arches. I recommend reserving at least two days for this area so you can visit both