Weekend Trip: Arches & Canyonlands

Utah is an incredible place packed with so many diverse natural wonders within only a few hours drive of each other. In early September we did a long weekend trip to Moab, the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The weather was still soaring high at the upper 90s (in some hours, it even reached past 100!). We got to Moab around noon, had lunch and checked in to our hotel. We waited another hour or so for the sun to go down a little before we started our adventure.

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The scenic 18 miles Park Road inside Arches national park.

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Balanced Rock: this view can be seen right from the road. You can walk a few feet from the parking lot to get real close to it.

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We decided to hike the trail to Delicate Arch to see the sunset. This is a very popular sunset spot so it gets very crowded. The hike is 3 miles round trip; a big portion of it is all uphill on big slabs of rocks. The trail is not clearly marked so it can be tricky coming down it in the dark. The heat plus high elevation makes this hike a little rough; I had to stop many times to catch my breaths. But the view at the end of the trail is definitely worth it!

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There was a line of people waiting for their turn to get pictures taken with the famous arch. We waited for our turn and after we were done, we found a spot and sat down to enjoy the sunset and our packed quesadilla dinner (although crowded, you can walk a little further away from the crowd if you want to have a little solitude).

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We wanted to see the milky way over the Delicate Arch but unfortunately the night was almost full moon. We stayed to watch the stars come out and then started making our way back. We enjoyed hiking under the moonlight; something about it felt so unique.

The next morning we set our alarm very early so we can beat the heat and the crowd. At 5am, we were out and on our way to Devil’s Garden trail head. On the way there, we stopped by Balanced Rock again to see if we could get a picture of the milky way. Because it was still dark and the moon had just set (a new term I learned!), we could clearly the stars and the milky way with our naked eyes. It was so cool! There was another photographer there so we tried not to use our flashlight so not to ruin his pictures. The photographer was nice and pointed out a few tips for us on how to take night photos.

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The Devil’s Garden trail to Double O Arch is around 5 miles round trip. There are several arches along the way, one of which is the famous Landscape Arch (one of the longest arch in the world!).

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The sun comes out and hits the arch till it bleeds bright orange!

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The hike after Landscape arch was very peaceful as there was nobody else around. The weather was perfect and the scenery along the way was mesmerizing.

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The hike was not bad, there are a few rock scrambling here and there; and a few sections are exposed with huge drop offs on both sides. However we did not feel it was dangerous. We finally got to the Double O arch.

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You can climb through the bottom arch to the other side where you get to see a different view of the arches.

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We sat here to enjoy the scenery and had our breakfast muffin. After a long while we heard people’s voices so it was time to pack up and head back. On the way back, we took the side trails to see Partition and Navajo arches.

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Partition arch is my most favorite arch; I found it charming with sweet personality 🙂

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By the time we got back to our car, it was super hot and super crowded. We were so glad we started out early. On our way back, we stopped by the Windows area to see the North/South and Turret arches.

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We went back to town to have lunch and rest inside away from the heat. By 6pm we went out again to Dead Horse state park. It was a 40mn drive from Moab and the road was semi under construction. This park is also popular during sunrise and sunset, so there were quite a few people there.

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It was a neat place to relax and enjoy the sunset. There is a walking trail along the canyon rim as well.

The next morning we got up early and drove 50 minutes to Canyonlands for sunrise. Mesa arch is a famous sunrise spot and it gets crazy crowded with a bunch of photographers lined up in front of the arch. Because of the crowd, this place did not feel special at all; we definitely liked the hike to Double O arch much better.

Mesa arch is known for the glowing red when the sun hits it at first light. This is the reason it attracts so many photographers.

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The view of the vast canyon behind Mesa arch is just as beautiful and not as crowded.

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After Mesa arch, we drove to the Grand View point overlook. The view is pretty cool and there is a one mile hiking trail along the rim (which we did not have time to do).

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We stopped by a few more view points along the way. Our most favorite stop was the Shafer Trail point. You can see people with 4WD cars driving down below on those winding dirt road. It looks kinda scary!

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With that view, we bid goodbye to Canyonlands and to Utah. Until next time…

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