Last weekend, Kevin and I decided that we were going to venture down to Moab. We started researching all the various things we could do and ultimately decided on spending two days exploring Arches National Park. Although we have lived in Utah together for over a year (and I’ve been here almost two years), we really haven’t visited any of the cool places nearby.
Moab was great for a weekend trip because it was only about a 3 hour drive. We’ve done many 13-hour road trips back to Oregon to visit family so this seemed like nothing! I found a cheap hotel on booking.com (through Trivago) and was a little nervous about it since it was a cross between a hotel and motel, but had great reviews. It was by far the cleanest hotel I have ever stayed in. I would highly recommend checking out Big Horn Lodge if you want somewhere affordable and clean. It’s also right in downtown Moab so we were within walking distance of the brewery we wanted to eat at, as well as a diner where we ate breakfast one morning.
Arches Day 1
On Saturday, we left at 6am, drove to Moab, and ate breakfast at the Moab Diner since a few people recommended it. Great food, really cute little restaurant, filled to the brim with the most obnoxious families on the face of the Earth. You know when you walk around someplace and you see a bunch of poorly behaved children and you think to yourself, my kids will never behave like that. Well, if you end up having kids and they are little angels, this place will make you feel like the best parent in the world. Better news is, if you have kids that are little devils in public, you’ll fit right in here!
Then we headed over to Arches and realized that we probably should have gotten there early because it took us 30 minutes waiting in line in our car for us to finally buy our pass and get into the park. Which was fine, since we were playing Pokemon Go and watching people’s little devil children run wild in between the cars. Over to our left, there was also a huge sandy hill that people were climbing up and then attempting to slide down on. Some of them had little boards, like they were sledding. Every once in awhile, someone would fall flat on their face and we would simultaneously cheer and groan (because who wants a face full of sand, but it was funny!).
We looked over our little map and decided to attempt the most difficult hike on day 1:
Devil’s Garden Trail
7.2 miles round trip, includes Double O Arch, Landscape Arch, Dark Angel, Private Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch, Navajo Arch and Partition Arch (not in that order).
First, we had to play the little game where you drive in a circle around the parking lot and try to snag someone’s parking space. It took us one and a half loops around before we grabbed one. And then we made our first critical mistake. Although it was sunny outside, it was also very cold and windy, so naturally we didn’t think we needed that much sunscreen.
Wrong wrong wrong. If you remember anything from this blog post, remember this:
Put on a shit-ton of sunscreen and then bring that bottle with you to reapply later.
The desert is not messing around.
The hike was fantastic, though, and luckily we didn’t notice how sunburnt we were until we were almost done. Ignorance is bliss. We decided to go against the grain and walk the loop backwards, thus avoiding most of the crowd. This was a great idea, except that it meant we had to walk through about two miles of loose sand. I had to stop a few times to dump sand out of my Nikes. Although normal tennis shoes will suffice for Arches, I would recommend wearing hiking boots simply because they keep out the majority of the sand.
I would not recommend doing this hike with your children (or spouse) if they are afraid of heights or are reluctant to climb on slick rock or walk across beautiful rock fins that are basically cliffs on either side. Or if they will complain about their shoes being filled with sand.
This hike is great if you hate people. Most people will walk the 1.6 miles to Landscape Arch. Some will walk the 4.2 miles to Double O Arch, but not as many. Taking the loop backward, we were able to avoid most of the crowds and just enjoy the beautiful scenery (while not noticing that we were being burned by the sun). We finished the hike in about five hours. We took very few breaks, but you could easily make a day out of it and bring a picnic lunch.
We headed home, checked in to our hotel, and ate a fantastic dinner at the Moab Brewery. They had surprisingly amazing beer. We’d recommend the Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale. And then we passed out at 8:30pm in separate beds. Because we were sunburnt and couldn’t let our skin be anywhere near another person.
Arches Day 2
We woke up at 7:30 and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Moab Grill. Although our hotel didn’t offer complimentary breakfast, this restaurant is literally connected to the hotel and reminds us of the small-town homey diners in Eastern Oregon.
Then we went to the nearest grocery store and bought a sixteen gallon tub of Aloe Vera, and found a cute little store that sold long-sleeved touristy t-shirts. Yes, the sunburns were that bad.
We got to Arches earlier the second day, so we didn’t have to wait as long to get into the park. We did see a little girl throw an orange out of her window while waiting in line. It almost hit an unsuspecting motorcycle gang member. He graciously picked up the orange and returned it to her. Her mom had to roll the windows up to keep her from losing the orange again.
The goal was to conquer all the short hikes on Day 2. We started at the very back of the park and worked our way back to the front. First up was Skyline Arch, a super short hike (0.4 miles). Lots more people on these shorter hikes, since basically they just have to get out of their cars and walk a few feet to take a decent photo. We tried to catch a couple of lizards on the trail, but were unsuccessful.
Next was a loop that consisted of Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, and Tapestry Arch. Probably less than 2 miles total. We only brought one water bottle and I started to get hungry about halfway through. Luckily, Kevin stopped me before I started yelling at other people’s kids. It would have been warranted though. There were clearly signs everywhere stating not to go off the damn trails.
My kids will never behave like that.
Someone remind me I said this after I’ve had kids. I may have to rescind that statement.
Next, we headed down to the Fiery Furnace overlook and had some lunch. We were unable to do the Fiery Furnace hike, because you either have to do a guided hike or get a hiking permit (which were sold out). We will definitely be doing this next time. After lunch, we did our last long hike: Delicate Arch.
This was a 3-mile round-trip hike with a steep elevation gain. Not that difficult of a hike, unless of course you like breathing normally. We pushed through the wheezing breaths and hiked as fast as we could to the top.
The crazy thing about this hike was all of the people with strollers. We watched dozens of parents pushing strollers up a steep incline on bumpy slick rock. And then, of course, they had to abandon their strollers once they got close to the top. But it was crazy!
I can see how, through the eyes of a parent, it would be better to push your stroller up this rough terrain instead of watching your toddler fall off a cliff.
Delicate Arch was one of our favorite arches. It was also, unfortunately, the most crowded. It’s the arch that you see on all the Utah license plates, so it’s kind of an icon I guess. When we go back, we’ll bring lunch on this hike and stay and enjoy the view awhile! It is a little windy though, and very high up. It was slightly terrifying watching all the people standing in the arch taking photos. From where we were sitting, it looked like they were inches from losing their footing and falling to their death.
By the time we got back, we were sweaty and our feet hurt, but we had a couple more Arches to see before we could call it a day.
The next hike would take us to Double Arch, Turret Arch, and the North and South Windows. Instead of walking to the North and South Windows and then turning around, I wanted to go behind the Windows on a longer, primitive trail.
Kevin was less than enthused.
Double Arch was beautiful and crowded. But we were entertained by a few kids screaming at their parents and frantically running down the hill when they realized they were leaving without them.
The End of Day 2
After we finished taking pictures at Double Arch, we stopped by the Garden of Eden. A viewpoint, luckily, not a hike. Garden of Eden mostly consisted of a bunch of phallic rocks pointing straight up, so we laughed really hard at the name.
We stopped at the Courthouse Towers viewpoint on the way out and saw a couple of other cool structures. The only hike we didn’t do was Park Avenue, which has no arches but takes you through a really cool part of the park. We’d rather come back and do that hike when we can be dropped off at one end and picked up at another, rather than having to walk to the end and back.
The only other hike we weren’t able to do was Tower Arch. To get there, you had to drive on an unpaved road through soft sand. It was recommended that this not be attempted after heavy rains (and it rained all night on Saturday). But next time, we’ll rent a jeep!
On the Way Home
After starting our 3 and a half hour journey back home, we realized that we both had a few blisters on our feet. Disappointing. We stopped in a town called Green River and ate dinner at a taco truck. Walking back to our car, I had a minor panic attack. I thought a man was trying to steal our car, but in fact he was sitting in his own car, which was the same exact color as mine.
We made it home by 10pm on Sunday. I felt like we had been gone for a month. We hiked a total of 20 miles in two days.
Next Trip To-Do List
Next time we go to Moab, we plan on going back to Arches and hiking Tower Arch and Fiery Furnace, as well as anything and everything else we didn’t get to see this time. We’re also going to head down to Canyonlands and potentially Dead Horse Point State Park (probably not all in the same trip).
If you’ve been to Arches or Moab and have other cool suggestions for us, comment below!
Disclaimer: all photos taken with iPhones. We are not photography professionals. Yet.