Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Canyonlands National Park / Arches National Park

The next stopping point on our journey was Moab, UT. We arrived to a couple days of ugly weather
View along Highway 128

View along Highway 128
View along Highway 128
so it was a good thing we scheduled over a week to see the area. As the weather started to break up, we drove 25 miles up the Highway 128, a National Scenic Byway. It is definitely a pretty drive and iconic for the Colorado Plateau.

Canyonlands NP - view along
the Grand View Point trail
The main attractions for the Moab area are the two National Parks. We visited Canyonlands National Park first because we thought that it may be a little less crowded on the weekend. This is the largest of the Utah National Parks and it has three main areas with access points many miles apart. We went to the most accessible unit - the Island in the Sky. It gets its name because this park unit is on top of a huge mesa. The Green and Colorado Rivers have carved the canyons on each side of the mesa and they merge at the southern end of the mesa. The main attractions are the view points into the canyons. We spent a day driving to each overlook, hiking on paths to more vistas, and taking a lot of pictures. The picture taking was a battle against clouds because when you can see for up to a hundred miles, cloud shadows cause all sorts of depth perception issues. The highlight of the day was the view from the end of the trail that starts at the Grand View Point Overlook (not to mention the views along the walk). Spectacular.
Canyonlands NP - view along the
Grand View Point trail

Canyonlands NP - view at the end
of the Grand View Point trail
We next went into Arches National Park early on a Sunday morning. By 10:30 it was so crowded at every pull out that we decided to leave (if you don't have to, don't go on a weekend). We had spent enough time to see some sights and to develop a strategy when we came back the next day. Monday was much more manageable from a crowd perspective. We had a beautiful, perfectly clear day in the park. We stopped at the view points that we hadn't done the day before and did the hikes necessary to see the rest of the easily accessible arches. This park is spectacular. It isn't just about "arches". It is also about one amazing, colorful rock formation after another. There is a lot of amazing stuff to see but the absolute highlight was the Devils Garden hike all the way to Dark Angel doing all of the side trails to the various arches. Of all the hikes I've ever done (lots) this might just be the most spectacular 7 mile hike ever!
Arches National Park

Arches National Park - Double Arch

Arches NP - South & North Windows
Many would also say Dead Horse Point State Park is a must see, but really, it's basically an extension of Canyonlands National Park so if you are limited on time and don't want to pay another entrance fee, skip it.

Arches NP - Partition Arch
Pictures can never capture the amazing sites like these national parks. The beauty is just too huge and amazing. They do at least give an idea. Here are some more. Note: I don't enhance my pictures with software. These are the actual colors captured by the camera.

Arches NP - Navajo Arch

Arches NP - view along Devils
Garden trail near Double O Arch

Arches NP - Double O Arch

Arches NP - Trail to Double O Arch

Arches NP - trail above Landscape Arch

Arches NP - Landscape Arch

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