You know Arches and Canyonlands (or at least Island in the Sky). So does everyone else. That’s kinda the problem. Get to know their less-crowded neighbors.
No disrespect to TJ, but we think he picked the wrong Monticello to call home. Utah’s version, 54 miles south of Moab, is a hub-and-spoke for some of the raddest sites that you don’t have to share with hundreds of sweaty tourists. From Moab, head south on Highway 191 and do the following:
Quick detour to Looking Glass Rock
No one knows about this. Or they didn’t before we published this article. But don’t worry, it’ll still be less crowded than the national parks. Twenty-three miles south of Moab, hang a rosco onto Looking Glass Road. After 2 miles, you’ll arrive at this gorgeous sandstone formation. Part arch, part window, you can hike up the base into a large amphitheater.
Stop at Wilson Arch
Get back to Highway 191 and head another two miles south to get to Wilson Arch. Think of it as the arch that couldn’t keep up with the others headed for present day Arches National Park. Just as awesome, but maybe too contemplative or independent to fit in with the others. Named for Joe Wilson, the arch spans 91 feet and lets you get up close and personal. Scramble up to the actual arch and take all sorts of silly photos for Instagram.
Don’t (but do) overlook Canyonlands’ Needles district
Go 7.4 miles further down Highway 191, then take Highway 211 (Needles Overlook Road) for 22 miles. Prepare for some crazy views. You’ll see all sorts of different rock formations depending on which direction you face. Beware, your mind might start wandering to thoughts like, “What if I were lost out there?” or, “Haven’t I seen this in movies?” but then someone will like your Instagram from Wilson Arch and you’ll snap back to reality.
Newspaper Rock always delivers
Back to Highway 191, then south for seven miles to Highway 211. Take it 12 miles to Newspaper Rock. They say print journalism is dying, but this one — one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs — has stood the test of time. The first carvings were made 2,000 years ago from the Archaic, Ancestral Puebloan, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures. Consider it the earth’s first combined newsroom. Look but don’t touch.
After a day of exploring, head to Monticello for a good meal (we recommend Wagon Wheel Pizza) and a great night’s sleep (we recommend borrowing a cabin from our friend Jerry at Canyonlands Lodging). The best part about Monticello? It’s the perfect place to start your next day’s adventure, checking out all sorts of amazing Native American ruins in the area, which you can read more about here.