Canyonlands and Arches National Park
We left Capitol Reef National Park in the afternoon to make the 2.5 hour drive to Moab. It’s nearly impossible to boondock in Moab due to strict rules in town, but there are plenty of BLM sites scattered around the area. We drove over to Kings Bottom, located southwest of the main tourism strip in Moab by the Colorado River.
We enjoyed dinner in town before turning in for the night.
Canyonlands National Park
If I’m being completely honest, I actually wished we had much more time to explore Canyonlands and the greater Moab area and Colorado River by ATV, raft, and other non-AWD vehicles. The area has so much to offer with regards to outdoor recreation, and I know we’ll definitely be back some day.
The plan for the day was to do a few hikes in Canyonlands and then head over to Arches in time for a sunset hike to the arch.
Canyonlands has three areas—Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. While it is possible to explore areas of Canyonlands on foot, it’s really one of those parks where you need to get out in more remote areas that are only accessible by ATV or 4WD. We had neither, so we stuck to two hikes in the Island in the Sky (the most accessible of the three)—Aztec Butte and Grand View Trail.
Aztec Butte is a moderate 2-mile trail that ends with a steep and windy rock scramble up the edge of the butte.
The hike took about two hours and the last scramble up the butte was a bit terrifying (I lost a waterbottle on the way up!).
The Grand View Point was much easier. While it was also two miles roundtrip, it was a smooth walking trail around the edge of the canyon rim. Scenic and relaxing, it’s highly recommended for families looking for a leisurely stroll looking over the park.
Arches National Park
After an early dinner in Moab, we headed over to Arches for a sunset hike to Delicate Arch. The 3-mile trail is labeled as difficult and follows a paved path for the first half before crossing over and into the rock formation. Follow the cairns for the last half where the end point is a view of the iconic Delicate Arch.
Being the most popular trail in the park, it was quite crowded even as the sun went down. Still, if you are visiting Arches, it is one that you can’t miss.
The hike back to the car in the dark was actually easier than the hike there. Overall, Arches is worth one visit and exactly one. The rest of the park is car-friendly with a lot of scenic viewing points of various arches and short 5-10 minute hikes to and from formations, but overall I think that Arches is very overrated. Of all the parks in the Big 5, I would want to visit Canyonlands again. There’s a specific hike I’d like to do in Zion (The Narrows!), but aside from that, there’s a lot more around southern Utah to explore outside the parks.