Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands

Daniel and I absolutely adore Southern Utah. We’ve each traveled here for weeks in the past, and it still never feels like enough time to absorb all the natural wonders of the state. This trip was no different; we’re already eager to return again.

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En route to Moab from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we first stopped at Capitol Reef National Park, enjoying one of the area’s classic hikes along the Rim Overlook Trail to Navajo Knobs. The path climbs 1,600 feet (~500 meters) above the valley and Visitor Center, providing crystal-clear 360-degree views of the park and beyond. The tilted sedimentary rock layers are almost disorienting, as if the whole world is slightly askew.

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We returned to Moab and Arches National Park for a second time this month. Without Daniel’s family in tow, we hiked every inch of trail in Arches, including a morning trek in the Devil’s Garden area and a short hike up to iconic Delicate Arch.

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We saved my favorite park for last. Canyonlands is divided into three sections: Island in the Sky, the most-visited area, in the north; the less-visited Needles, with their unreal Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires, in the east; and the Maze, accessible only by 4WD vehicle, in the west. We enjoyed a brief driving tour of Island in the Sky’s numerous vistas, but I was eager to return to the Needles, one of my favorite destinations.

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The Needles offer a hiker’s Choose Your Own Adventure, with over 60 miles of interconnecting trails winding through canyons, slickrock, and arroyos. In addition to the stunning scenery, there is no one around – largely thanks to the lack of roadside attractions and the relatively long drive from Moab (around an hour and 20 minutes). We spent our days creating our own hiking loops, covering much of the Chesler Park, Druid Arch, Squaw Canyon, and Lost Canyon areas. As usual, we found great free camping on BLM land just outside the park entrance.

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Free camping at Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District, off Lock Hart Rd

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We’re out of Utah now, having spent the past few nights in Durango and Albuquerque, where we attended a wedding and visited my extended family. It’s a mad dash back to the Northwest now; we leave for Turkey in less than two weeks!

4 Comments

  1. I can’t believe you got all those shots in Arches without people in them! I know how empty Canyonlands is down in the Needles, but WOW, you got the Arches timing right! Gorgeous photos as always! I’ve started to set my sights on this little micro class C RV that Coachmen has just started making (we’d do the van but we envision a lot of winter camping and want good insulation, a real bathroom, and more space to hang out in bad weather), and I’m pretty sure that corner of Utah is the first place we’ll go whenever we acquire our adventure mobile. We’re hoping lots of people buy the model of RV we’re eyeing this year while they’re new, and then in like two years decide they need more space and sell their slightly used models for cheap. 😉

    • Haha, there were plenty of people at Arches during our visit — maybe I’m just patient for the right photo ops 🙂 I really like those Class C “micro” RVs! The van has been great for chasing sunshine, but we would want something more substantial with a bit of indoor space if we were doing an “endless winter” year. Late model used is the way to go — here’s hoping there are some good ones in a couple years!

  2. PitkinDreaming

    June 4, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Oh you are inspiring some serious wanderlust for me! We lived in Colorado for several years and took advantage of the mud seasons to visit Moab for float trips, but I’ve not been in years and sadly live in the Midwest now.
    In the last few years, we’ve gotten serious about saving and aim to retire to a life similar to yours and see all the national parks! Until then, I’ll live vicariously through your beautiful shots 🙂

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