Deciding where to go is always a challenge. This is what is considered a “first world problem.” We were fortunate to have the time and resources to go on these trips, so now where and how do we spend the time? After spending a few days in Canyonlands National Park and all of our adventures in Shafer Canyon and the Syncline Trail it was time to move on. We decided to make a quick stop in Moab, Utah for the night and then visit Arches National Park the next day before moving on. Moab is your typical “gateway” town to a National Park. This is the unofficial term given to towns that border the entrances to National Parks (West Yellowstone, MT- Yellowstone, Gatlinburg, TN- Smokey Mountains, Estes Park, CO- Rocky Mountain, and so on). For the most part I’m not a big fan of these towns. Streets full of fast food, chain hotels, t-shirt shops, and souvenir stores. Does Moab have all of these things? Absolutely! But Moab has this intangeable feeling that’s hard to explain. They are able to balance their small town feel with all the conveniences and comforts the tourist and the outdoor enthusiast is looking for. Did we partake in a chain hotel? Absolutely! A pizza shop? Yes! Both were wonderful luxuries after being in the park, dusty and sweaty for 3 days. We also loved strolling the town. Browsing bookstores and galleries. Finding hidden city parks in evening. The large variety of unique and interesting culinary options was a surprise also. Moab is definitely a town to check out when you’re in between your National Parks and you need a break from the tent and picnic table.
The next day we were planning to make the four hour drive to Capital Reef National Park. But first we would spend part of the day exploring Arches National Park. This would just be a quick visit. Not big, epic hikes. Mostly auto touring and doing short hikes to popular destinations. The park is located just a few miles outside of Moab, making it very convenient and much more popular than Canyonlands. After passing through the admissions and visitor center complex the road quickly ascends to this large open plane. We are quickly greeted by the Courthouse Towers, Park Avenues, Sheep Rock, and the Tower of Babel before continuing to Windows Sections, the Devils Garden, or Delicate Arches. Many of the popular Arches are just a quick and easy walk from the parking lot. It should be noted many of these can be very crowded, even during the off season. So be prepared and don’t expect any type of wilderness experience. Delicate Arch, Skyline, and Landscape are all very famous and worth the short walk. If you want a more challenging hike then you want to continue past Landscape Arch towards Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Navajo Arch, Partition Arch, Private Arch, and others. These are accessed by a more primitive network of trails that require some scrambling and climbing, traversing a fin, and some minor route finding. With the heavier use of this area getting lost shouldn’t be an issue, but one could get turned around pretty easily.
Our trip to Arches was exactly what we were looking for. All in all I think we spent about six hours driving around and taking short hikes. There were plenty of people around, but that was okay. We were excited to be entering a new section of our trip. Capital Reef National Park was on our horizon and we would be spending the night in the park campground. We were anticipating staying in the Fruita Campground along the Fremont River among the remains of the orchards planted by the early Mormon settlers. We were ready to get there, set up camp, and start exploring.