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Oct. 2008 Trip Report: Beginner’s Guide to Arches, Canyonlands, and Moab

Oct. 2008 Trip Report: Beginner’s Guide to Arches, Canyonlands, and Moab

Old Oct 14th, 2008, 07:14 PM
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Oct. 2008 Trip Report: Beginner’s Guide to Arches, Canyonlands, and Moab

I first remember reading about Arches and Canyonlands in National Geographics my grandfather left lying around his house. I was mesmerized by the pictures, but had only the vaguest of notions about where in Utah these parks were, or whether they were even in Utah. School, work, and travel to other locations intervened through the years, and I’d separately relegated Arches and Canyonlands to that mental List of Places I Intend to Go Sometime. Well, that sometime finally rolled around. Having read rave review of the Moab area in the fodors.com travel forum and seeing my work schedule clearing for the first few weeks in October, I got the urge to finally find out what the hoopla was all about. I immediately sought guidance here:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...1&tid=35157676

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...1&tid=35159150

Big thanks to Dayle, spirobulldog, WhereAreWe, dutch, myer, katyslc, StantonHyde, and many others whose made great suggestions. Our tentative itinerary flying in and out of Salt Lake City was to rent a car, drive to Moab, stay five nights at the Desert Hills B&B (which was the only place we could find five consecutive nights on such late notice), and do/see most or all of the following:

ARCHES hikes:
1. Delicate Arch
2. Devil's Garden Loop
3. Fiery Furnace

CANYONLANDS:
4. Island in the Sky drive
5. Chesler Park hike

MOAB area:

6. Corona Arch hike
7. Either canyoneering with Desert Highlights or scenic flight with
Slickrockair

MOAB restaurants to try:

1. Desert Bistro
2. Center Cafe
3. Moab Diner
4. Jailhouse Cafe
5. Eklecticafe
6. Miguel's Baja Café

A surprisingly early onslaught of winter weather intervened to force multiple alterations to our intinerary. What follows, as time permits, is our trip report.
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Old Oct 14th, 2008, 07:28 PM
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MR, I'm glad your back and am waiting to read your report. It has been cold here and my garden has succumbed to the killer frost.
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Old Oct 15th, 2008, 04:59 PM
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MRand,

Oh, were you there last weekend? A friend at work said it got super windy and cold, but didn't snow or rain. They mountain biked anyway.

Can't wait to hear about your trip!
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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 08:38 AM
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I'm not MRand but I was in Arches Thursday when the wind came up mid-day (when I was doing the Double O arch walk). It was windy at least thru Saturday when I left but hadn't rained or snowed in the Moab area (it probably did up at La Sal). Kayenta overnight on Saturday got below freezing.

I had a question that I know Dayle can answer...I didn't do the Delicate Arch hike because of the wind..some one returning back on Tursday recommended against it. How does the ledge at the end compare to the ledges on the Double O hike? Scarier? More or less exposure? I think Double O was my limit.
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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 08:53 AM
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MRand, I am anxiously awaiting your TR. Leaving for that area this Sunday.

How was the lodging? What activities did you end up doing? Restaurant recs?

Thanks!
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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 11:35 AM
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I guess no one cares to read my trip report but I'll recommend for lodging AND dining in Moab the Red Cliffs Lodge. I didn't care for Zax.

If you want to see any of the other details or have questions I'll be happy to answer them.

I went to Grand Staircase Escalante, Capitol Reef, Arches, the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands, and did a number of sidetrips.
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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 01:22 PM
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m,

unitl Rand gets back here to continue....yes I read your report and you really covered some miles! Glad you had a good time, but too bad about the wind. It does get windy sometimes when fronts are going through!

No, don't worry about hiking Delicate Arch. It's not as difficult and Double O. The "ledge" is a very short distance and only drops off on one side. Little kids do it every day. You are not walking on the fins like on Double O.

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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 01:48 PM
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Thanks, Dayle. I look forward to coming back again, I knew there was a storm on the way and it wasn't all that bad, I just wasn't comfortable being exposed in the wind.
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Old Oct 17th, 2008, 05:11 PM
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m,

Don't worry about wind, just lightening!

MRand, where are you? We want to hear about your trip!
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 09:29 AM
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Sorry for the delay folks -- just making up workwise for the days we took off and I haven't gotten back to this board as quickly as I hoped.

BayouGal - here's the short and sweet version: The Desert Hills B&B turned out to be a great accommodation - I highly recommend it. In addition to excellent breakfasts at the B&B, we very much enjoyed Desert Bistro (dinner), Moab Brewery (dinner), Moab Diner (breakfast), and Miguel's Baja Cafe (2 dinners). We eventually were able to do all of our planned activities listed above, including canyoneering with Desert Highlights (absolutely fantastic), except Chesler Park and Slickrockair flight. Details to follow . . .
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 10:48 AM
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Thurs., Oct. 2 (Salt Lake to Moab, Delicate Arch)

We landed at Salt Lake City airport at about 12:30 p.m., picked up our Thrifty rental car — a Dodge Durango, and were on the road to Moab by 1:15. The otherwise friendly clerk at the Thrifty counter offered us an “upgrade” to the Durango for an extra $12 a day, but when we declined, she immediately told us she would give us the Durango at the lower rate for a smaller car we’d previously reserved through Expedia anyway, because it was not available. Odd that she didn't let us know our car was unavailable right off the bat.

Since spending at lot of time in Salt Lake City on business in the late 1980s, I’ve had a special appreciation for the city. However, we expected deep blue skies and were disappointed to be greeted on arrival by a high hazy overcast. With our ambitious four-day itinerary, I really wanted to do at least one thing on our list, maybe Dead Horse Point or Delicate Arch, if we could make it to Moab before sundown. So we didn’t linger in the city, but headed east a few miles on I-215 to its junction with I-15 South for the first leg of our journey to Moab.

The trip from Salt Lake to Moab is about 240 miles, according to Google Maps. The drive conveniently breaks down into four segments:

1. freeway on I-15 from Salt Lake through Orem and Provo to Spanish Fork (with spectacular views to the east of the Wasatch range including Mount Timpanogos, Cascade Mountain, and Provo Peak);
2. U.S. 6 from Spanish Fork, past Wastach Wind’s giant wind turbines at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon, into and through the mountain passes (where the leaves were already changing) to Price, Utah;
3. U.S. 6 / 191 alongside the Book Cliffs from Price to Green River;
4. a final stretch on I-70 and then U.S. 191 along the Moab fault past Arches National Park into Moab itself.

We’re always interested in finding good, characteristic local eateries on our travels. My plans to make Moab before dark, unfortunately, disqualified us from any lengthy meal stops along the way and forced us to settle for a drive-thru fast food burger and Coke in Spanish Fork. Nevertheless, we had received in this forum helpful recommendations from Fodorites for food stops along the way that I pass along for future reference to others who may take this trip:

Price, UT:

- Farlaino’s (American road food)
- Greek Streak (Greek)
- El Salto (Mexican)
- Los Dos Amigos (Mexican)

Green River, UT:

- Ray’s Tavern (excellent hamburgers)
- Ben’s Café (Mexican/green chili)
- Vitteri’s (melon stand)

The most spectacular portion of the drive for us was the Price/Green River/U.S. 191 cutoff off of I-70 stretch. After we emerged from the mountain passes, the austere Book Cliffs escarpment shot up dramatically from the plain to dominate the eastern horizon. The range, visually capped by pyramid-shaped Mt. Elliott closer to Green River, is apparently one of the prime locations in the world for the study of “sequence stratiagraphy,” which Wikipedia defines as “a relatively new branch of geology that attempts to link relative sea-level changes to sedimentary deposits”:

http://strata.geol.sc.edu/BoocliffsI...ofaciesBC.html

If we’d had more time, I was also interested in stopping by the cold-water Crystal Geyser on the Green River near Green River:

www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~glennon/crystalgeyser

The geyser’s eruptions appear to be sporadic enough that witnessing an eruption would simply be fortuitous, but I’d like to hear from our Fodorite Utahan friends whether this stop would ever be worthwhile on a more leisurely schedule.

As we got closer to Moab, it became clear that we were in a close race with the sun if we planned to see anything on this afternoon. The overcast sky had given way to sunshine for the Price to Green River drive, but a solid front of clouds far to the west threatened both to block the sunset and, even more dismaying, some completely unanticipated bad weather for our weekend. We opted at the last minute, therefore, for a quick late afternoon/early evening hike to catch the fading sunlight on Delicate Arch, rather than gambling on a grayed-out view from Dead Horse Point.

This actually turned out to be a good decision. When we stopped at the Arches visitor center, we checked -- as suggested in this forum -- with the park rangers on reservations for the highly-recommended Fiery Furnace hike. We were in luck, as the next day (Friday morning) hike was booked, but two spots remained for the afternoon hike. This worked well, because we very much wanted to hike the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop the following morning and save the Fiery Furnace hike, both in Arches, for the afternoon. This would keep us on schedule to see Canyonlands/Island in the sky on Saturday, hike the Chesler Park Loop in Canyonlands/Needles on Sunday, and save Monday for either a canyoneering trip with Desert Highlights or a scenic flight with Slickrockair. Alas, the best laid plans . . .
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 11:57 AM
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MRand,

You got me on the crystal geyser! I've never even heard of it. Even those of us who live here, have a LONG list of places left to visit. Mine includes the Grand Gallery, more slot canyons around Escalante, and Nine Mile Canyon. Now I'll have to stop sometime to see about this crystal geyser!
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 12:08 PM
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Thanks, MRand!

We leave in the morning! I'm getting so excited. With the beauty of the area, I know we cannot make any mistakes. Whatever we are able to do will be great!

Thanks again for short and sweet!
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 01:43 PM
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Great report so far, MRand.

Bookmarking for our next Utah trip. . .

What's this about "ledges" on the Delicate Arch hike???
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 05:04 PM
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According to the trail description there is a 200-yard "rock ledge" before you enter the Delicate Arch bowl. The person in the Visitor Center said most of it is wide enough for two people, but there is a section only one person wide. The one-person section is cut against into a wall (so you can lean against the wall). I think I put up pbase's photo on my trip report. So far a few posters have said it isn't so bad but I'm interested in feedback from slight acrophobes who have done Double O. Anxiously awaiting MRand's report!
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 06:10 AM
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Let me stress. I only do easy.

There was nothing difficult or scary about the Delicate Arch hike.

The piece near the end is not as narrow even as those photos appear.

It's all uphill going and in elevation you want to make sure you drink water, walk at your own pace and stop as often as you need to.

There is no place where you will be blocking others if you stop to rest.

Don't miss it.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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Thurs., Oct. 2 (Arches National Park & Delicate Arch hike, cont'd)

Arches National Park, for those who have never been, is about 1/5 the size of nearby Canyonlands National Park. ( www.nps.gov/arch ) The main entrance to Arches is only about 5 miles northeast of Moab. Despite its (comparatively) compact size, as we were about to learn, Arches has an amazing number of geologic wonders — and not just hundreds of arches — packed into the park. There are five major sections of the park which can be seen or easily accessed from the single, paved, two-lane road that winds north from the park entrance. These sections are, from south heading to north:

1. the COURTHOUSE TOWERS / PETRIFIED DUNES / GREAT WALL section (including Balanced Rock)is the first 9 miles of the drive into the park, which to me resembles a miniature Monument Valley

2. a short side road (heading 2½ miles to the east) to the WINDOWS section that includes views of or short hikes to Turret Arch, the North and South Windows (large arches), Double Arch, Cove Arch, and others

3. the WOLFE RANCH / DELICATE ARCH area, 2½ miles further north along the main park road and accessed by a short road running east off the main road

4. the FIERY FURNACE area of giant fantastical rock fins and spires, which is about another 2½ miles north along the main road

5. the DEVIL’S GARDEN area of equally amazing arches (including Landscape, now-collapsed Wall, and Double O Arches) and massive rock fins. This is where the main park road ends about 3 miles north of the Fiery Furnace.

Arches is compact enough that elderly or physically impaired visitors could observe much of its beauty from the paved main or side roads, or on short walks from those roads. But as with any of the national parks, to gain a deep appreciation of what it has to offer, you must if at all possible park your car and get out on the trails.

While at the visitor center reserving the last two places on the ranger-guided Fiery Furnace hike the next afternoon, we thought there was just enough sunlight left, if we hurried, to drive and make the hike to the “symbol” of Utah — Delicate Arch. However, we didn’t realize that the speed limit on the main park road is only about 25 or 30 mph and passing is prohibited. Fortunately, traffic was light and we pressed the outer boundaries of the speed limit, so to speak. The drive from the visitor center to the Delicate Arch trail parking area, nevertheless, took about 30 minutes. As we parked and exited the car in the cool Utah air, the sun was about to dive behind that cloud front that had been so ominously approaching from the west.

We walked past the restored Wolfe Ranch cabins, which would better be described as two one-room mud and log hovels. The “ranch,” in a scenario much like the movie Dances with Wolves, was established in the late 1800s by an disaffected Ohio Civil War veteran named John Wesley Wolfe. He lived what must have been an incredibly hard, lonely life here for several decades. What could you do here all day, other than simply try to survive? How many visitors would your ever see? My wife’s appropriate comment: “Can . . . you . . . imagine?” Apparently, one of his children’s families came west to join him, but were so shocked by the primitive conditions that after several years they forced him to return to Ohio.

Delicate Arch can be viewed one of two ways — from “above” by an easy hike via the Delicate Arch Trail (~ 45 minutes, 1.5 miles one way, with an elevation gain of 500 feet, almost entirely up the (gradual) side of a rock dome or shelf), or from “below” by driving another mile past the Delicate Arch Trail parking area to the Arch’s viewing area, which requires only a walk of a few hundred feet from the parking area. The Trail hike allows you to view the arch up close, while the drive to the Viewing Area provides a panorama of the arch on the rock shelf above you from a distance between ½ to a mile away.

Some posters here have wondered about vertical exposure on the Delicate Arch Trail. NO ONE should deprive themselves of this hike due to fear of heights. There is only one place along the trial that involves exposure, and I’d be more concerned about falling off a wide city street sidewalk into oncoming traffic (which I’ve never done) than any risk here. This final part of the hike opens into a huge natural rock amphitheater where the arch is magnificently perched on a high rock “stage,” with the La Sal Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop to the whole scene. Disappointingly, we were 15 minutes too late to catch the setting sunlight on the arch, as the sun was now completely hidden behind the approaching cloud bank. The entire view, stunning nonetheless, was cast in a deep shadow.

Now a small human drama played out in the amphitheater. Several descriptions I’ve read of Delicate Arch have alluded to an unspoken rule that if you want your picture taken by or under the arch, then get it snapped and move on out of the way. When we arrived, perhaps 50 or so people were respectfully arrayed around the edge of the natural bowl — a group of photographers with their tripods set up here, some European couples there, a group of Aspen schoolchildren and their chaperones across the bowl, all eager to take their own pictures of the arch. A young woman sat at the left base of the arch on a large rock pedestal while her husband/boyfriend snapped pictures. After about 5 or 10 minutes, as if they were the only ones around, the young woman and her companion had not changed position. Others began whistling or yelling for them to move. The couple seemed completely oblivious to the crowd, and people began to grow restless and even angry for them to move. Finally, a man from another foreign couple sitting near us got up, marched down into the bowl, and engaged the couple in what appeared to be a polite, but direct and animated conversation. While I was initially surprised and irritated at the incomprehension (or perhaps outright rudeness) of the couple on the arch, the whole scene turned a little ugly as many of the spectators quickly acquired a mob mentality, of sorts. After they were confronted, the couple retreated, in increments, to loud catcalls and applause from the “audience" each time they moved further away. This was the first of three similar incidents we witnessed on the trip.

We lingered for another 15 minutes hiking around the periphery of the rock amphitheater as the crowd began to dissipate in the fading light. Soon, we and the group of schoolchildren and their chaperones were almost the only ones remaining. A large black raven perched itself on Delicate Arch, and almost as if trained, began “performing” for the children. It cawed and then swooped over the children’s heads to their delight, always alighting again on a rock outcropping on the arch. I remarked to my wife that it would be perfect if the raven flew through the arch. Almost on cue, it took off, soared high, and then flew precisely through the center of the space under the arch. If there had been enough sunlight, we could have gotten a spectacular picture.

We left reluctantly, but hoping there was enough light to make it to our car by dark. We were surprised that the young student group stayed behind, as they had no gear, there is no place to camp near the arch, and they obviously were going to have to hike back down in the dark. My wife had wisely packed a small flashlight that we had to use for the last fifteen minutes of our hike. As we reached our car, almost two hours to the minute after we had started, we looked up along the rock shelf behind us. Like forty or fifty fireflies, an exquisite line of small bobbing lights in groups of threes and fours wound its way down the trail towards the parking area. Their school bus awaited.

By the time we drove back out of the park to Moab, it was pitch dark. We were famished, so we stopped at the first restaurant we noticed as we drove into Moab — Desert Bistro. Since there was no wind, we chose to sit at a table outside the old two story brick house where the restaurant is located. After a long day of travel, the food and ambience was excellent, but the meal was pricey for Moab — over $100 (tip, tax, one drink, two glasses of wine, a shared appetizer, two entrees, and a shared dessert between the two of us).

We drove through Moab, not getting much of a feel for it at night, and then on three or four miles south of town to our accommodations at the Desert Hills B&B, where we were greeted by the welcoming proprietor Anna. She runs the bed and breakfast with her husband Vic:

www.deserthillsbnb.com

Because we had made our last minute reservations during the Moab high season, we reserved their Friends & Family suite — which with two bedrooms and a living room was much more space than we needed — for three nights, but then had to move to the much smaller (but still adequate) Valley View room for two nights. We were pleased with the quality and cleanliness of the accommodations, especially since our options had been so limited.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 10:55 AM
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Thanks very much for that detailed description of the Delicate Arch trail. I feel reassured (and jealous).
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 05:00 PM
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Mrand,

Excellent description of the Delicate Arch hike.

I took with a flashlight that I didn't need but came close.

On the day we got there we were psyched to get going. Before checking in to the motel we entered the park and did the hike. It was cloudy, we had been up since 4AM and were not acclimatized to the elevation but went anyway.

It didn't take me long to up the priority of a return hike. I returned under a cloudless sky two days later.

I got some fantastic photos. The sun going down making the Arch a fiery orange. The moon coming up. The snow capped mountains behind the Arch. etc, etc.

By the way. The Fiery Furnace also doesn't have anything that would stop you.

My only suggestions are to wear appropriate footwear so as to not slide and if you have a good camera, take with a padded form-fitting bag.

I don't normally hike with my camera bag but I did on the Fiery furnae. I'm glad I did as some of the place are very narrow and having your camera hanging from you neck and bouncing off the side walls isn't a good idea.

MRand. Great trip and report!!!

Now, how do we see your photos?


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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 08:17 AM
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Great report. I loved Arches Canyonlands, and Moab. It was one of my fave trips.
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