Two Great National Parks in Canyon Country

Trip Start May 29, 2009
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Trip End Oct 03, 2009


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Flag of United States  , Utah
Monday, September 21, 2009

We visited Arches National Park about 21 years ago with our kids, so we thought that half a day in the park would be sufficient. We stopped at the visitor center for our passport stamps and orientation video before proceeding along the park scenic drive

We headed towards the trailhead for the 3 mile round trip hike to Delicate Arch, something we had not done on the previous visit.  This is a steep hike over "slick rock" (sandstone), and along some serious rock ledges.  The trail is marked with rock cairns. The arch itself is hidden during the hike and approach.  All of a sudden you walk past a rock wall and see it.  You quickly realize why it is the most photographed arch in the park.

From there we drove to the Devils Garden area to enjoy our picnic lunch beneath the sandstone fins. It was difficult to find a parking spot as this is the busy season at Arches, since July and August are just too hot. We then drove down to the Windows area to hike to the two Windows Arches, Turret Arch, and Double Arch (Jim's favorite).  Double Arch is the one in the original Indiana Jones movie.

It was already well into the afternoon, so we left Arches and drove the 33 miles north to Canyonlands National Park.  This park is divided into 3 distinct areas by the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Although there are arches in this park the real story of Canyonlands is the canyons carved by those rivers.  There are also many unique formations of layered sandstone and sedimentary rocks.  Since there are no bridges over either river, the three districts (Island in the Sky, Needles, and Mazes) of Canyonlands are quite different and separate.

We had entered Island in the Sky, a large ridge overlooking the Colorado and Green River valleys and canyons.  When we were here 21 years ago with the kids, the visitor center was housed in a small trailer.  We found a small but modern visitor center, where we got our Island District passport stamp and a trail map.  It was already 4:00, but we pushed ourselves a little bit to drive the scenic road and view all of the overlooks.  We managed to hike to the first overlook for Upheaval Dome, a unique geological formation over a salt dome. We also hiked to Mesa Arch to see it just at sunset.  Our total walking for the day was a little over 6 miles.

By the time we left Canyonlands it was after 7:30 pm.  We decided it was a good night for dinner out.  We opted for the Moab Microbrewery just across the street from our RV park.  It was a good dinner with a very refreshing pitcher of beer.
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