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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!