I was super excited for this next installment of our tour through the National Parks of Utah. The 160-mile drive from Capitol Reef to the OK RV Park in Moab, Utah crossed a massive valley and took us right past Goblin State Park. Time did not permit a stop, but I’ll gladly come back to explore those hoodoos in the future.
Our goal on this trip was to see and touch the most photographed Arches in the world and hike through Canyonlands National Park.
the famous one
After settling into town we drove the Jeep over to Arches National Park and hiked the three-mile trail to Delicate Arch. It’s the most famous of all the arches and emblazes the Utah license plate.
Despite the crowds and the cold breeze, we cuddled up and experience the grandeur of this sandstone wonder.
Once again, our paths crossed with friend Kathi who shared our amazement at these massive arches.
If you’re short on time and want to get a taste for Utah’s National Parks, Arches is a great choice – since many of the 2000 sandstone bridges and arches can be viewed from a car window.
It’s getting better all the time
Arches cousin, Canyonlands National Park, covers 337,598 acres of wilderness and is the least visited national park in Utah. The Colorado River has carved this area into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves.
Early one morning we loaded our day packs and drove 40 miles south to the entrance of the Needles district. (I told you it was massive!) Because the National Park trail systems are not dog-friendly, we are always limited by time knowing that Penny is back in the RV alone. Our comfort level to leave her alone hovers between 8-10 hours so we chose to explore the 11-mile Chesler/Joint Trail which takes about six hours to hike (including numerous photo stops).
Honestly, this spectacular hike was full of surprises. First, it crosses large slick rocks dotted with massive red rock formations that look like large McDonald’s hamburgers.
Next, it meanders through canyon walls which led us to the Chesler Park trail.
It felt like I was stepping into a museum tour as our trail circumnavigated hundreds of towering Needles. The terrain constantly switched from sandy grasslands to outcroppings of smooth sandstone and eventually led us to the biggest surprise of our day –
The Joint Trail.
As we approached The Joint it looked like the trail would dead-end into a giant wall of granite. The closer we got a narrow (4-foot-wide) crevice appeared with barely enough sunlight passing through to guide us.
The coolness of the winding fracture dried our sweaty backs and had us laughing with delight at this hidden surprise. We exited into an expansive Needle-filled valley pausing dozens of times to capture the grandeur through our camera lens’. What an amazing hike!
Next, we explored Dead Horse Creek State Park which is adjacent to The Canyonlands and famous for this photo taken 2000 feet above a gooseneck of the Colorado River.
The legend of the name stems from the 1800s when cowboys would chase wild mustangs onto this narrow point which provided a natural corral to capture them.
One of our days was drizzly and cold so we attempted to drive our Jeep down the narrow unpaved single lane Shafer Trail in order to drive the White Rim Trail around (and below) the Island in the Sky mesa.
This was a bad idea.
After one mile of nail-biting as John navigated the muddy road, we turned around not wanting to risk sliding off the cliff.
We explored the town of Moab which teemed with crowds of people and all things touristy. Not our favorite thing to do but occasionally you have to eat!
John got to mountain bike the famous Slick Rock Trail and you can watch his video here.
Penny enjoyed the rodeo one afternoon – conveniently located within walking distance of our campground.
The only accident that occurred on this entire road trip was when I backed up the Jeep at a trailhead and didn’t see a large rock in my blind spot. It bent the tire guard that protects the wheel and only required brute strength tugging to pop it back into place. (This has been a cheap year for us repair wise, unlike last year’s fiasco!)
We LOVED this area and certainly will return to explore again but it was time to drive to our final destination; Monument Valley.