Moab: a hot, dry desert region in eastern Utah. It is a place of archeological wonder, and one in which people travel from around the globe to observe the landscape carved millions of years ago. Two weeks ago, we spent a few days in Moab biking and exploring the area’s parks. While we did enjoy our visit to Moab, we are glad to be back in the mountains of Colorado. Read on to unearth more about our Moab Adventure!
Moab Adventure ~ Day 1: We arrived in Moab around 12:30 PM and set off on our bikes shortly thereafter, a great start to our Moab Adventure. The weather was about 90 degrees with mild wind. We started at the Lions Park Trailhead parking lot and ventured onto the Goose Island Trail heading east. The paved path in this section runs directly alongside the Colorado River and leads to multiple campgrounds. The path is fairly flat and provides gorgeous views in every direction.
Soaring high into the sky, jutting along the bank of the Colorado River (and on the other side of the bike path and road) are solid walls of red stone that stretch as far as the eye can see. Some parts of the walls have markings resembling dripping lines of paint, while other sections have enormous hollows carved into them. In one spot, we had noticed people collecting spring water from Matrimony Springs, a cutout in the wall.
We continued biking on the Goose Island Trail until the path ended, which is about 2.5 miles before you need to ride along the shoulder of the highway. We then reversed course and headed back towards the parking lot where we jumped onto the Moab Canyon Pathway leading up to the entrance of Arches National Park (this part of the path runs alongside U.S. Highway 191). The entrance to the park is about 3 miles from the trailhead and is almost entirely uphill.
Once we had reached the park’s entrance, we were already exhausted because of the heat. We always have ample water and energy snacks with us, but our bodies are not acclimated to biking in that hot of a climate. Upon returning to the trailhead, we decided to head to dinner and then onto the hotel. After a delicious dinner and shower, we headed back into Arches National Park at dusk to snap a few more photos. What a great way to cap off day one of our Moab Adventure!
Moab Adventure ~ Day 2: We started our bike ride much earlier in an attempt to beat the heat. From the same trailhead as the day prior, we biked again on the Moab Canyon Pathway leading to the entrance of the park. But this time, we continued the journey past that point, gaining an elevation of over 600 feet. It was a long, continuous steep hill without reprieve, which was, by far, the most difficult bike ride that I have ever done.
At several points, I wanted to turn around. My thigh muscles screamed, my lungs burned for oxygen and my heart felt like it was going to burst. But instead of giving up, I stopped frequently to rest. And by frequently, I mean every few minutes. 🙂 It took a very long time to bike a very short distance. I eyed every woman who had passed, and they were all bigger and taller than myself (i.e. more powerful legs), so I was proud that I was able to do it with my stubby, little legs.
Eventually, we came upon a cattle guard on the trail, which was the point where we had made the decision to turn around. Naturally, the ride down was heavenly…with one exception. It was at that point that the winds had begun. Once we had reached the bottom, we decided to quickly complete the same bike trail from the day prior as well, totaling our biking miles for that day at 16 miles. I realize that is not very many miles at all, but considering the elevation of that blasted hill, it felt like I had biked fifty miles. I was exhausted, and we still had a full day ahead of us in Arches National Park.
When we were done biking, and back at the Tahoe, the wind had swept in with full gusto. And to explain just how windy it actually was, a gust swept into me as I was getting off from my bike and it knocked me over like I was piece of yarn. Thankfully, I only acquired a small bruise on my leg, but more importantly, my bike was okay! While Larry was putting the bikes on the rack, I sat in the Tahoe imaging how our day in the park was going to be with the heat, wind and sand…the temperature had already reached 90 degrees.
After a quick picnic consisting of fruit, yogurt and homemade wild salmon jerky, we entered Arches National Park. Our first stop was at Park Avenue to observe the towering sandstone formations from the observation deck. Each side of Park Avenue is lined with towers and spires, one of which reminded me of the headdress worn by Nefertiti. We then moved on to the Courthouse Viewpoint to see Three Gossips, The Organ and the Courthouse Towers.
The next big stop was the Double Arch, but we first made the small hike up to the Windows and Turret Arch. North Window is the first and most prominent arch. Larry was hoping for an opportunity to take a photo or two without any humans showing up in the picture, but that never came to fruition. South Window is equally picturesque and far less trafficked than North Window. Double Arch is viewable from Turret Arch, but once you hike over to Double Arch, you begin to appreciate just how massive the arch formation actually is. The arch span is roughly 148 feet wide by 104 feet tall, which is the tallest arch in the park.
Back in the Tahoe, we then drove over to the lower Delicate Arch viewpoint and made our way down a short path to view Delicate Arch. From the lower viewpoint, the arch is perched high above. Afterward, we headed over to the Upper Delicate Arch Trailhead, but chose not hike up to view the arch. That would have taken at least two hours out and back, and we did not have the time or energy for it at that point in the day.
We had wandered around the park for over four hours. At about 5:00 p.m., I told Larry that I was done with the heat, wind and sand for the day. However, he had convinced me to go on one more trek to see the Sand Dune Arch, which was the most interesting and unusual arch of them all. Initially, you walk inside a very narrow gap (three feet wide at the most), nestled between massive rock walls, which open into a sandy oasis where a large, single tree thrives. There is nothing surrounding the tree other than sand and rock walls. The entire scene reminded me of something from “The Mummy” movies with Brendan Fraser.
A short while later, we finally headed back to the hotel. We were salty and coated with sand on every exposed body part. It had been a fantastic day, but we both were exhausted and ready to eat, rest and get ready for the next day’s adventures.Click here to view the Moab Adventure Photo Gallery
Moab Adventure ~ Day 3: No biking, unfortunately. Why? The wind was already blasting at full force right away in the morning. Instead, we headed to Canyonlands National Park, where we had a very clear agenda of each trail/viewpoint to stop at. Each of us had a slight headache that came and went all day, which we suspect was from overexertion in the heat the day prior.
We entered Canyonlands National Park at the Island in the Sky District. The park is divided into 4 distinct districts: 1) Island in the Sky (most visited district in the park and is accessed north of Moab 2) The Needles (accessed south of Moab) 3) The Maze (very remote and is accessed from the north side of the park; backcountry navigation and knowledge is a must) 4) The Rivers (self-explanatory).
Starting at the Shafer Canyon Overlook, we gazed into the red rock canyon below, although it can be further explored with a 4-wheel drive vehicle down not he canyon floor. Our second stop was a hike to the Mesa Arch, which is a short and relatively easy trek. Properly framed, the Mesa allows you to view the canyons below along with the La Sal Mountains in the distance.
Next up on the agenda was Whale Rock, atop of which you are able to view the park in its entirety. This hike involves navigating around and climbing upon boulders and large flat labs of rock, which had reminded me of stamped concrete. The trail is identified by carefully placed cairns (i.e. rock piles). You are not supposed to touch them, add rocks to them or build your own. So naturally, people were doing just that.
Next, we traveled up to the first overlook area at Upheaval Dome. This is an unusual sight to behold, as the ground within the cavern is layered with greenish blue salt found nowhere else within the park. People were chiming in with their theories about how this phenomenon had occurred; Larry also shared his theory. Currently, two scientific theories have been proposed to explain it: 1) the salt was forced up from the ground from the weight of the overlying rocks 2) erosion from a meteor.
Next stop was the Green River Overlook, which provides views of the Green River just prior to its confluence with the Colorado River. Oddly enough, the headwaters of the Colorado River are out our back door in Rocky Mountain National Park. And we have also been near the source of the Green River in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, which is to the east of Grand Teton National Park. Both of these rivers have had a significant influence upon the topography of the western lands.
The last stop took us to the Grand View Point Overlook, the southernmost point in the Island in the Sky District of the park. The overlook provides views of both Monument Basin and Junction Butte. Once we had completed all of the trails/viewpoints, I told Larry that I was done with rocks for the day. And, I was done with the heat, along with the sand and rocks pelting my face and legs.
I told Larry about a kid I overheard telling his mother, “It’s just a bunch of stupid rocks!” I had to laugh, because toward the end of the day, I had begun to share that sentiment; I just could not express anymore interest in them. Although, everywhere we had walked in the parks, my eyes were usually glued to the ground searching for fossils or remnants of prior civilizations that had become uncovered beneath the sand.
Upon leaving Canyonlands National Park, we proceeded to Dead Horse Point State Park. The history/legend of Dead Horse Point State Park is not a pleasant one. In the 1800’s, wild horses roamed the area in vast populations. The cowboys had managed to corral all of them and then selected the ones they wanted, while leaving the others to die of thirst. The Colorado River was within the remaining horse’s sight, but they were unable to reach it…how terribly heartbreaking and disturbing.
After Larry snapped his photos of the Colorado River, we then went to the dinosaur museum, Moab Giants, situated down the road from the entrance of Dead Horse Point State Park. We both had been very excited to explore this museum, part of which has an outdoor venue to explore. However, when we stepped out of the Tahoe, a mega blast of wind blew in, pelting us, yet again, with rocks and sand. We had both looked at one another and climbed back into the Tahoe. We were both ready for a shower and a good dinner.Click here to view the Moab Adventure Photo Gallery
FINAL THOUGHTS: When we planned our Moab Adventure, we had wanted to kayak on the Colorado River. However, a local guide service told us that the current would be too strong to kayak up the river. On day one of our trip, we might have been able to paddle up river; however, with the crazy winds thereafter, it definitely would have been a mighty challenge. As such, we were not too disappointed that we had left the kayak at home.
It is always fun to go somewhere and see something new. Do I desire to go back to Moab? You probably already know the answer. Would Larry be up for another Moab Adventure? Well…his answer is likely the opposite of mine. There are still so many other places that we have yet to explore.
Where is our next big adventure? Kalispell, Montana & Glacier National Park ~ July 9th – 18th: Our first trip to this area. We will be staying at a beachfront Bed & Breakfast on the shores of Flathead Lake. We plan to kayak and stand up paddleboard on Flathead Lake for a few days, hike and kayak in Glacier National Park and enjoy a long bike ride on the Great Northern Rails to Trails bike path. Stay tuned!