Arches National Park & Surrounding Areas
July 2003


Beth and I were married on July 4, 2003, and for our first "little" honeymoon, we travelled to Moab, Utah, at the end of July for a few days exploring the region. We spent one day hiking the highest peak in the La Sal Mountains, big Mount Peale. We spent the remaining days touring the national parks in the area, mainly Arches National Park. We also made a day trip to Canyonlands National Park, to Deadhorse State Park, and up the road from Moab into the Colorado River canyon northeast of town.

I won't mince words here. This is the most amazingly beautiful and varied place on the planet! We spent just a few days up here. We could easily spend 20 years. There is so much to see, to explore, to do, that you'd never get tired. What a remarkable part of the world!

Most of the photos below are from our Arches National Park tour. We didn't do any huge hikes while in the park, instead focusing on the "main" hikes, including one up to the signature arch of the park, Delicate Arch. We did some other short hikes to other arches, and drove the road to about as far as one can. It was more of a driving tour than a hiking tour. The hot weather (100 degrees-plus) didn't help, but the conditions were spectacular nonetheless.

Delicate Arch is a "must-do". The hike is mainly up slickrock, where the way is cairned since no trail really exists. There's a small stretch of clambering through rock piles, then you round a bend and there it is, magnificent Delicate Arch, just standing there, all delicate. The one-way hike is moderate, maybe just under two miles. The arch is much larger than you'd think. See our photos below for an idea, especially where we're standing beneath the arch. After pawing around the arch itself we retreated into some shade of a nearby cliff to relax and enjoy the scenery. There were many people here, which was not surprising, but it did not detract from the experience. It was a good crowd.

We also made some short hikes to other arches, including to a pair in what I think is called the Parade of Elephants. I honestly don't recall the names of these arches. These hikes were short. We had a full, long day up in the park and enjoyed every minute of it. This is definitely a "go-back-to" park.

One of the other days was spent at Deadhorse State Park, looking over the spectacular canyons. This would be a national park anywhere else in the country. Here, it's overshadowed by its neighbors. But it is stunning. Notably, Hollywood often uses Deadhorse State Park when it needs "Grand Canyon" images since it's easier to get right up to the lip of the canyon in a vehicle, and it's not as crowded.

We also drove south to the Canyonlands National Park south entrance. We knew any long hikes were out of the question due to time, but we wanted to explore and spend time in the area. A neat place to stop along the way is Newspaper Rock, a rock with many petroglyphs (photo below). We did some short rim hikes in Canyonlands, nothing lengthy. The land is so varied, every corner revealing something new and fascinating to explore. We said we'd go maybe a mile, but it was so compelling to keep going and explore.

We had an interesting drive out. Well, we couldn't at first. A big monsoon storm dumped a lot of rain and created a flash flood that took out about 200 feet of the highway leading in and out of the park entrance (near Newspaper Rock). We stayed for a few hours at a small cafe/bar, where the proprietor would fill us in via his scanner. He was real nice and said we could crash in his parking lot that night if need be (there is no hotel). We thought we might have to. After a few hours, around dusk, we decided to give it a try. We got to where the road was washed out. Well, it wasn't really washed out. However, it was covered for about 200 feet in every bit of organic and inorganic crud you could think of: logs, branches, dirt, mud, rocks, everything. The water was no longer flowing, but getting a bulldozer to shove all this stuff aside might not happen for a few hours (probably not until the next day). I put my truck into 4-wheel low and was able to "thread the needle", so to speak, worming my way around the worst of the slash piles, and really only needing to get up over some logs at worst. It wasn't easy but we made it. So we drove up the grade to the top of the hill, where a park ranger had stationed herself to tell people coming in the road was closed. We were the first to exit in about 5 hours, and naturally, she wanted a report from us. We told her what we saw. Meanwhile, a guy in a low-set sports car with maybe 2 inches of clearance was insistent on being let through. He had a French accent and was being a weenie. I guess her word wasn't good enough, but when we said he'd get stuck in two seconds (and he saw all the crud on our truck), he seemed to finally "get it". We rolled into Moab after dark.

Photos (Click to enlarge)

Newspaper Rock, Canyonlands

I think this... part of the...

...parade of elephants...'s pretty

Deadhorse State Park

Deadhorse State Park

On the hike to Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Me underneath Delicate Arch

Me too, says Beth

Ute Petroglyphs

Skyline Arch

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(c) 2010 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.