One of the best parts of a road trip are the unexpected and amazing things you see along the way. We loved the empty and beautiful desert roads of Northern Arizona! And even though we typically avoid “touristy” type stops, sometimes it’s fun to check them out. Four Corners Monument was definitely one of those kinds of stops. Where else can you go to do a headstand in four states at the same time?
Arches National Park
We spent two nights in Moab, a perfect location for visiting Arches National Park just 4 miles north of town. The park contains the highest density of natural arches in the world. One sign said there are more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches located in the park.
We loved this park! The first day we drove the 36 mile round-trip scenic drive through the park, making stops at overlooks and taking short hikes along the way.
Park Avenue Trail
The hike at Park Avenue Trail is 1 mile out and another mile back. (Unless you have a shuttle driver to pick you up on the other side). It is an easy and beautiful hike. We loved trying to find objects, people and animals in the face of the rocks. A little like looking for objects in the clouds. What do you see when you look at these?
Balanced Rock is right off the road. Or you can do a short hike around it. Standing below these huge formations, you marvel at how they came to be and wonder how long that rock will stay balanced.
The hike to the North and South Windows is a 1 mile loop. Seeing a person in the archway gives a little perspective on the size of these beautiful arches and windows.
As you travel through the park it’s not unusual to spot what look like little specks moving along the face of the rocks. Look closely – you might see rock climbers scaling the walls.
Day 2 – Canyonlands National Park Sunrise
Our first day got a little cloudy before sunset, but the forecast for day 2 was sunny skies. I did my research, prepared my equipment the night before, and made plans to photograph sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. The alarm went off at 5 am, and I made a quick exit for the 6:48 am sunrise. However, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Evidently you need to arrive at this location at least an hour before sunrise to claim your spot. There was not a sliver of view to capture the sunrise through the arch when I arrived. Even though it don’t go as planned, watching the sun rise is always an amazing experience. And once the sun came up, people didn’t stay long so I got a chance for a few early morning shots through the arch.
Colorado Riverway Utah Scenic Byway 128
After morning sunrise we took a scenic drive along the Colorado River. From Moab the first 13 miles is fairly narrow with the Colorado River on the left and red sandstone cliffs towering above you on the right. We took the drive 21.6 miles one way to Fisher Towers before heading back. It was a beautiful drive and fun to watch white water rafters, rock climbers, speed boats, and even some brave paddle boarders along the way.
Sunset at Delicate Arch
We headed back to Arches National Park with plans to capture Delicate Arch at sunset. We thought we had plenty of time so we did a little more hiking through Devil’s Garden before starting the trek up to the arch. There are a couple of short hikes to a viewpoint of Delicate Arch, but we wanted to make the hike that took us right up to the arch.
This trail is “supposedly” 3 miles round trip from Wolfe Ranch. If we had known what to expect, we would have started sooner and not hiked so much earlier in the day!
The first .5 mile is a wide, well-defined trail. Once you reach the Slickrock you need to follow the rock cairns. The trail climbs gradually and you think you’ve got to be almost there several times along the way. Once it levels out toward the top, the trail goes along a rock ledge for about 200 yards and you are there! It was a challenging hike to say the least and we were pushing hard to make it by sunset! It was an incredible view and so much fun even though we had to make the hike back down on some very tired legs!
We loved Arches National Park! It is definitely at the top of our list of favorite National Parks. We can’t wait to go back next year and explore more of the beautiful state of Utah. What’s your favorite National Park?