Moab is the center of some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world. Rock formations like no other; Red, orange, green and blue creating a world of color, and a sun that makes the desert landscape dance around you. Moab is paradise. But to believe paradise, you need to see it.
If you get to Moab by train, you get here, Green River. North of Moab by 50 miles, Green River is the closest town to Moab by the main highway where you can get any form of civilization. But even that is a stretch. With a population of 952, there is not much going on there, except for a train stop, a gas station and some gravel roads.
If you get to Moab by car, the most popular route, you will be able to fully experience the scenery. Once you pass Green River and turn onto SR-191, you will begin to see some dramatic changes around you. Getting closer to Moab, on your left will be Arches National Park, the most popular of the two we went to, the other being Canyonlands National Park. Colorful formations, like trees, begin sprouting up everywhere, and its hard not to notice.
Heading to downtown Moab, the best way to see both national parks in a day is to rent a car, if you don’t already have one. A better version of renting a car is renting a jeep, like from Canyonlands Jeep Rental. They are a great place and have awesome staff and some jeeps that are definitely worth the money.
The first stop, as soon as you get to Moab, should probably be Arches National Park. With some great hikes and things to do, you need to get there as early as possible. Heading into Arches National Park, the first thing you see on the road is Park Avenue. A 25 minute round trip, Park Avenue gives you some great introductions to what you will see in Moab.
To save time, we didn’t stop at every single point or vista on the side of the road. It is a waste of time if you really want to see everything you can during this 15 day trip across America, so we didn’t. The next place we stopped was Balanced Rock. About 9 miles from the main entrance to the park, it is one of the most popular features, exhibiting just how interesting the terrain here is. And how dangerous. In fact, another balanced rock, called ‘Chip Off the Old Block,’ right next to this one, fell off in 1975. You can see it on the left.
Arches National Park, hence the name, is home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches. We just had to go see one, so we chose the grandest one of them all. Delicate Arch. With a long history, Delicate Arch is depicted on Utah’s number plate, and on a stamp celebrating the centennial of Utah being admitted into the Union in 1996. In 2002, the Olympic Torch Relay for the Winter Olympics passed through the torch. 65 ft tall and millions of years old, the arch is anything but delicate.
However, the hike up there is very strenuous. About 2 hours round trip including photos at the top, in the summer weather it is very difficult, both because of the extreme temperatures upwards of 90 fahrenheit in Moab, and because you have to bear those temperatures standing on top of a giant, steep slab of rock, with no shade, pictured below. I recommend either going early morning or late afternoon, and if possible to not go in the summer. However, I personally think it is well worth the hike.
Using our jeep, we decided to cool down by speeding towards Gemini Bridges. With a normal car, you can’t do this, but with a jeep or other off road car, you can certainly travel to Gemini Bridges via Gemini Bridges Rd. Quite rough, very fun, the 1.5 hour journey included lot’s of bumps in the road, to say the least.
After the bridges, we went to Shafer Trail, a trail basically traversing back and forth down a cliff face in Canyonlands National Park, one of the two surrounding Moab. The switchbacks made for a fun drive, and are a good way to get to or from Moab and Canyonlands National Park.
Our last stop on our one day adventure in Utah was Dead Horse Point State Park, the supposed best spot for sunsets around Moab. Now, I can’t disagree. The real reason it is named the top sunset spot is not because people want to watch the sun dip below the horizon, but because they want to watch the landscape around them, all the gorges and canyons, dance with the light.
The Colorado River also made an appearance among the orange, red and yellow. And this place, also a hit for night photography, is a great place for any occasion.