In Utah, Adventure Rises in the East

In Utah, Adventure Rises in the East

By Chad Taylor
March 22, 2018

Moab is your basecamp for Arches, Canyonlands, and the eastern gateway to Utah’s 3 other national parks.

You can't go to Arches or Canyonlands National Parks without going to Moab. The town sits between the two and feeds, shelters and entertains the dusty masses that make pilgrimages to the place where Utah adventure begins.

Beginning in June 2018 there is a super convenient direct flight available from Denver. If you prefer not to check your kayak/mountain bike/camp stove; you rent equipment in Moab, or drive – great scenery and a forgiving speed limit combine for a pleasant jaunt. However you decide to get to Moab, just get there. Then do the following:

Start with Arches

Delicate Arch

Alright folks, do you want the good news or the bad news? The good news is that Arches National Park is the number one place to see naturally formed sandstone arches in the world. They’re not trying to brag, but more than 2,000 arches have been discovered within the park boundaries. As much as we’d love to recommend that you try and see all 2,000, we always want to be respectful of your precious PTO balance. Here are the must-sees/dos:

Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch: Great for kids! And for getting sand in your underwear!

Difficulty: Easy

Mileage: 0.3 miles roundtrip

Windows Trail: There’s enough arches on this trail to satisfy even the pickiest arch aficionado.

Difficulty: Easy

Mileage: 0.5 miles roundtrip

Landscape Arch: Stroll on the maintained trail to the longest arch on the continent.

Difficulty: Easy

Mileage: 1.6 miles roundtrip

Park Avenue: One-stop shopping for sandstone monoliths.

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: 2.0 miles roundtrip

Delicate Arch: Sunset gets crowded; rouse yourself early for a quietly magical sunrise.

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: 3.2 miles roundtrip

Pro Tip: Get to Arches early or late in the day to avoid larger groups of people.

Head Over to Canyonlands

Mesa Arch

With 340,000 acres of sheer, high-desert topography, Utah's largest national park presents a full spread of outdoor excursions, from “no need to get out of the car” to “moderate” to “breakneck survivalist.” You can see for miles right from the road, take some short, standard hikes to non-standard scenery, or you can get out into the wildest the West has left. Here are the must-sees/dos:

Mesa Arch: Early morning grandeur for sleepy, happy photo geeks.

Difficulty: Easy

Mileage: 0.5 miles roundtrip

Murphy Point: Lollipop loop descent into Murphy Basin.

Difficulty: Easy

Mileage: 3.6 miles roundtrip

Whale Rock: A one-mile, kid-friendly scramble up to view the Canyonlands panorama.

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: 1.0 miles roundtrip

Upheaval Dome: Wrinkles in time.

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: 1.0 miles roundtrip

Chesler Park: Climb Elephant Hill to stick the Needles district in your eyes.

Difficulty: Strenuous

Mileage: 11 miles roundtrip

If You Ever Decide to Leave Moab, Journey to the Other Three Parks

Moab mountain biking

After spending a few days in Moab, you’ll understand why this is a very big “if.” Because it’s not just the national parks that make Moab amazing. It’s the biking, rafting, climbing, eating, jeeping, and all other sorts of adventuring. But again, if you decide to leave, we recommend you visit the other parks in the following order:

Capitol Reef – 137 miles from Moab

Bryce Canyon – 116 miles (if you take the highly recommended Highway 12 route) from Capitol Reef

Zion – 72 miles from Bryce Canyon. Click here to learn more about Moab and to request information from the local travel council.