Early Thursday morning, June 24 we leave our hotel in the Park City area and begin our journey to Moab. It is a long trip but filled with great scenery. We take US 6 to US 191 for close to four hours driving along the Price River through Price Canyon and some small towns that look to be charming. It is truly “priceless” and the highway serves as a cutoff from I 70 to SLC so it is well traveled and busy. This is our first time in the Moab area and our plans include visting Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park. It will be a busy three days with multiple hikes planned. The temperatures have declined from previous days where Moab experienced highs in the low 100’s and now expected highs in the 80’s.
We arrive mid-morning and check into the fairly new Hoodoo Moab Curio by Hilton. We had booked these rooms at the employee rate a year ago so we were quite fortunate to stay at this beautiful hotel. After getting situated we walk over to the Jailhouse Cafe for some breakfast on the patio and before heading out for our first adventure, we get coffee from Moab Coffee Roasters. Both places are very homey and great stops in a charming downtown area close to our hotel.
Our first stop is Dead Horse Point. I won’t tell the legend of Dead Horse Point but it worthy of reading on why it is named Dead Horse Point. We had planned on a ranger led full moon hike that evening only to discover that it has been canceled due to cloudy conditions. Dead Horse has separate trails for mountain bikers and hikers and is often a destination stop for those who mountain bike. The park is high desert on a plateau with scenic views of the Colorado River and reminds me of the Grand Canyon. We park at the Visitors’ Center and begin an 8+ mile loop hike with multiple side trails to multiple overlooks. The vast majority of our hike is alone without any others to be seen. We gain some 2500 feet elevation over the entire hike so it was a workout in the heat of the day but it was very special with some amazing views. The Big Horn Overlook side hike is not to be missed. All the overlooks are incredible with Dead Horse Point being the busiest due to the park road leading to the viewpoint.
Dead Horse Point is located on the way to Canyonlands National Park so before returning to Moab for the evening we drive to the Visitors’ Center and get our tourist patches and a map for planning our upcoming hikes. We head to the Hoodoo Curio for some soaking in the jacuzzi before heading over to Moab Brewery. I have enjoyed some of Moab Brewery’s craft beers but must admit I was disappointed since the restaurant/brewery appears to be tired and in need of some upgrades. Of course the Dead Horse Ale is a must after being at the state park. We retire for the evening due to wanting to get to Arches before sunrise.
Next stop is an early morning trip to Arches National Park. Our plan is to see as much as we can before the crowds become overwhelming. At sunrise we have completed several hikes to some of the various arches close to the entrance area. The parking areas fill up rapidly. Our first hikes include double arch, the north and south window. We were fairly fortunate to not be around a whole bunch of tourists. We drive over the Delicate Arch area and immediately know that we will not be hiking to the arch as the line of people stretches for a very long way. Instead we go the viewpoint area and hike up to see the arch from a distance. This area is crowded but there were places to park. It is only around 7:30 yet the sheer numbers of visitors is overwhelming.
We head to the Devil’s Garden area to see the many arches in the area. We had planned to hike the Primitive Trail Loop but reading reviews on how “dangerous” it was we were hesitant. At the Devil’s Garden Trailhead, we join the throngs of people and hike our way to multiple arches with the most popular being Landscape Arch. Our journey evolved and our hesitation was about to change as our sense of adventure returned.
The further we go, we get further from the throngs. We end up at Double O arch and discover that we had already hiked across what was said to be a very dangerous and narrow “fin” without even knowing it.
We talked to some hikers who had been on the Primitive Trail and they convinced us that it was just fine and we should go ahead and finish the loop. Granted it was very warm and we had limited water by our normal standards but we went for it with no regrets.
It was great to be alone and completely away from tourists. We view some spectacular back country without any distractions. The solitude is magical. Our hike ends up totaling seven miles and around 800 feet of elevation gains. It was a rugged hike but if you get there, it is the one hike you might want to do so don’t be scared off by reading the reviews on the Primitive Trail Loop. This old man finished like a champion and never felt in any danger. Of course we do have great hiking shoes that provide excellent traction and support.
The loop finishes back on the main trail and we rejoin the multitudes and return to the trailhead. We stop by the Visitors’ Center to get our patches on our return Moab. We spend the afternoon and evening browsing and strolling through a variety of shops, restaurants and bars, before retiring for the evening. Our lunch was at the Spoke on Center and I recommend going due to good burgers and good selection of craft beer. We were able to continue our social distancing on the patio with good service.
Saturday morning we head to Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is massive with three different areas with Island in the Sky being the easiest to access. The Maze area is extremely remote requiring four wheel drive and has no access from Moab. The Needles area is accessible about 60 miles south of Moab and that will have to be another time.
We travel over 30 miles NW of Moab to enter Canyonlands. The backup from the line of vehicles is over a mile long and I suppose I should expected there could be a wait. Our day is planned with multiple hikes and we start with Murphy’s Point. Murphy’s is a great way to start our day of hikes and the is 3.5 mile round trip hike leads us to some great views of the Green River and Candlestick Tower. Our elevation gains are 600+ feet. Very few on this trail and it is not difficult but the rewards are fabulous. We visit with several hikers at the overlook and manage to get our picture taken.
The next stop is Grand View Point for a two mile hike that has many visitors due to the road leading to the area. Even though this area is “crowded” the hike is a must for the stunning views of the canyon walls. On this hike our elevation gains are 575 feet due to some areas we climbed to add to the hike.
No time to rest and we head over to Upheaval Dome first and second overlooks. Another couple miles and several hundred feet of elevation with interesting views. We jump back in the car and drive over to Whale Rock where we get out and hike up a sandstone dome that looks like a whale for more panoramic views of Island in the Sky. Another mile and 130 feet elevation in the book.
There is little rest for the weary and on to White Rim Overlook. This hike is about two miles with 160 feet of elevation gains and just a couple other people on the trail. We are rewarded with great views of the Colorado River and canyons. This hike is must for the views of the river and canyons plus few people on a Saturday.
Our time is running short and we have saved the well known Mesa Arch hike for our last one of the day. The arch attracts huge crowds in the morning for sunrise and we are fortunate that in late afternoon there are few tourists around. We do the loop trail counterclockwise that is about .7 miles with a small elevation gain of around 70 feet.
We return to Moab for our last evening before heading to SLC Sunday morning. Having hiked about 10.5 miles today, I’m tired. We still manage to get out and walk another couple miles in Moab before returning to the Curio and just relaxing at the pool area bar for a couple drinks and some food. Not only that, I watch the Suns beat the Clippers in an ugly playoff game where neither team shot well.
We head back to SLC returning the way we came and head off to the Homewood Suites Salt Lake City Airport. We grab a shared ride and head to Kiitos Brewing for another taste of Utah craft beer. Kiitos’s Blonde Ale is fantastic and we enjoy our time before walking a couple miles downtown for some pizza at Pie Hole Pizza an eclectic place that is an undefinable hole-in-the-wall with some great tasting pizza. Fun place and good eats. We walk around and notice that there are few homeless people as we read signs that basically state that it illegal to ask for money or give money to those who ask. Overall the city seemed very clean and we would like to come back and explore. Another Lyft back to Homewood.
Our return is uneventful as we manage to get on the plane even though it is packed. Flying standby is always an adventure and the SLC airport is not the easiest place to get around. The security line went out the main door at 5:30 am and it is a long walk to the terminal. Homewood provided van service and got us to the airport.
I continue to find that I really like Utah for it beautiful outdoor areas. Of all our adventures, I would say that Arches was my least favorite due to the number of people and feeling overcrowded with tourists. There was no way that I was going to hike to Delicate Arch with hundreds of people and then stand in line to get a picture. We knew that the attendance at Arches was going to be extreme and planned accordingly but now that I have seen it, I’m ok with not returning. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind returning to the Canyonlands and visiting the Needles part of the park. Moab is a great little adventure community with excellent parks, a great public indoor pool, and a town with good food. I just might have to return.
Our week in Utah starting with the Park City area included over 40 miles of hikes with elevation gains coming close to 10k feet. My knees and hips are sore and my left lower calf area developed some pain. I’m thinking that I need a vacation from vacationing. Until next time, adventure on.