We got up early our second day in Moab and headed straight to Arches National Park so we could hike to the Delicate Arch. It was a good choice for us to go early because it meant we beat the crowds, beat the heat, and we got into the park free yet again because we were in before 7am. The hike itself is 3 miles round trip and leads to an arch. There are sections where you hike up rock without a real trail which reminded me of a baby version of Mount Ida in the Rocky Mountains. The hike wasn’t bad at all and we ate our breakfast at the top as we enjoyed the Delicate Arch.
It really was a lovely sight and there weren’t that many people at the top that we had plenty of room and plenty of time to take pictures without other people photobombing us. We both decided to not get too close to the arch so we appreciated it from a few hundred feet away. On our way back down we took the five minute trail detour to see some petroglyphs from the Ute Native American tribe somewhere between 1600 and 1800. I’m not sure why they don’t have a better time frame for that but it was still neat to see. I also learned that Utah is named after the Ute people.
We totally beat the rush of people because as Gene and I were walking back down the trail, we saw a whole line of people coming up. I wish I had taken a picture of it, it looked almost like a pilgrimage of people, there were that many. So we high fived each other for being smart and spent the rest of the morning driving around Arches and stopping at all the places we hadn’t stopped at the previous night.
We did make a quick stop at the Delicate Arches viewpoint and realized, as Gene had predicted, that we made the smart choice to hike to the arch instead of just checking it out from the viewpoint. You only got a small view of the arch from the viewpoint so it wasn’t nearly as impressive or beautiful.
We checked out the Sand Dunes Arch, which was this little arch in between some giant rock walls. Only a 1/4 mile walk, the ground was covered in fine red sand and the surrounding rock meant the area was shaded and cool. A couple of kids were playing in the sand as their parents read nearby when wandered around. I thought that was a clever idea. Gene pointed out that we could still see the moon at that point and it was such a lovely sight to see the red arch, the blue sky, and the white moon all together.
We went on another short hike after that to see a different arch (I see why the park is called Arches, now) and were excited to see some of the rock chunks that fell out of the rock wall which caused the arch we see today. It was so much fun wandering around the park, hiking on short trails, and enjoying the views all with Gene. The heat didn’t stop us from being happy and appreciating the beauty around us.
Eventually we had driven in every part of the park (it’s pretty small) and while we were interested in the very back section because there were yet more beautiful arches, it was too crowded for our taste so we started to make our way back to the motel. On our way out of the park we stopped at the visitor center so I could grab myself an enamel pin (it’s the one souvenir I’ll definitely buy myself on vacation). I almost bought myself a Canyonlands pin as well but decided I better not since I hadn’t actually gone to that park yet. Turns out I never got another chance to buy one so I probably should have purchased it then but no matter, I’m taking it as a reminder that I’ll have to go back again sometime. I like my Arches pin and am happy with what I have.
We went to lunch after that at a restaurant not even one full block from our motel. Turns out we were in a great place, there were restaurants near us, even a food truck park, and it was only a 10 minute drive to Arches. Lunch was good and we hung out in town the rest of the afternoon to stay out of the intense heat. Once it was dinner time we went to Canyonlands National Park to explore that gorgeous area. We went on another short hike to another arch (who would have thought) and even got a very nice woman to take our picture.
Canyonlands is something else entirely from Arches National Park. Holy crap, this park is literally breathtaking. In my head, it’s very close to the Grand Canyon. Canyons stretch across the entire horizon, layers upon layers of them. Pictures really do not accurately capture how incredible the space is. Gene and I kept trying to take pictures but they never quite captured how our eyes were seeing it. Point is, if you haven’t been to this national park, you definitely should.
At one spot, we were gasping in wonder (okay, so maybe I was the only one gasping in wonder, but Gene was greatly enjoying it), Gene said that we were looking at a Land of Time scenery and he was spot on. I feel like I’m not describing this place well enough, and I’m probably not, so just know that I absolutely loved the views.
We stopped at a few different places, checking out the sights and going on short hikes, before deciding on a dinner and sunset spot for ourselves. We put the picnic blanket down on a somewhat flat rock that overlooked the canyons and ate more bread and cheese as the sun said goodnight. For the most part we were by ourselves, although towards the end a few other groups showed up, but that didn’t take away from the beautiful sunset.
We took our time packing up after the sunset because we wanted to stay in or near the park to see the stars once they came out. It took the stars quite a bit to come out (how I wish they’d come out at 9pm sharp) but they did after a while and we laid next to the car and looked at the galaxy. Gene attempted to count the stars at one point but I think he gave up before he even reached 10. 😉 We were lucky enough to even see one shooting star. The night sky made me want to go camping again so I’ll have to start planning that in the near future.
We drove back to the motel in the dark as we listened to This American Life podcasts and discussed what we would do in the morning before we went on our river rafting adventure. Another great day.