Monday, June 4, 2012

Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks including a few state parks

Picture gallery: Moab and Torrey album.

We visited one of the most natural and beautiful places in the world - Arches and Canyonlands. Nature does not stop amazing you at each and every point in these parks! We were there for 5 full days, visiting 3 national parks and a few must-visit state parks, driving around 1000 miles. We landed in Salt Lake City late night. Drove around 45 miles to Orem which is on the way to Moab, to reduce the driving time next day. We reached Moab next day before noon, driving around 200 miles. Arches National Park was a wonderland ($10 per vehicle fee valid for 7 days. Credit cards accepted).

1. Our first trail: Park Avenue which is a moderately easy 2-mile roundtrip trail. Beautiful and grand views on the trail. It took us around an hour for the trail, clicking pictures like crazy and enjoying the beauty :)
2. Next we drove around Balanced Rock and then the Windows area. We did not do much walking after Park Avenue since we wanted to conserve our energy for the next exciting thing - the strenuous Fiery Furnace tour booked at 4pm.
3. Fiery Furnace is around 20-25 minutes from the entrance. The tour cannot be done by yourself unless you have a hiker's permit since it is easy to get lost in that maze of huge rocky structures. The tour is mostly done twice a day: 10am and 4pm. The park ranger (Rob) for our tour was awesome. He told us all about the geology and vegetation of that place. The tour involved rock scrambling, jumping from one rock to the other and various other such tricks. There was a 7-8 years boy in our group and it was easy for him. Most people had difficulties during various parts of the tour. It was an adventurous 3-hour+ tour.
4. Next we drove to the Delicate Area Viewpoint for sunset views. The lower view point is easy 100 yards but the upper view point is rocky, uphill 0.5 mile to top of the nearby ridge. Totally worth it!
5. The next day morning we started with Devil's Garden area. We did the 1-mile one-way easy trail to Landscape Arch, with couple easy side trails: Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches. Then we decided to walk further up the trail to Double O Arch. It was a difficult 2-mile trail with many short elevation changes, rocky footing and exposure to heights. We also did the side trips to Novajo and Partition arches on the way. Once we were at Double O Arch, we thought to do the 2.2-mile primitive loop to Landscape Arch instead of going back the same route. It was a very difficult low route through fins; short section of smooth slickrock, slippery when wet and rock scrambling. It was total of 7.2 miles and it took us almost 3 hours. Even after being a runner, this long distance trail felt difficult but rewarding.
6. Next we did the easy 0.3 mile trail to Sand Dune arch and 1.3-mile easy trail to Broken Arch. My husband climbed the Sand Dune arch barefoot which was real difficult to climb. Then we both walked to Broken Arch and climbed it. It was a little difficult but the views were rewarding. We spent some peaceful time up there since not many people try to climb up these arches.
7. We next went towards the Windows loop. We did the complete loop of 1-mile for view of both north and south window arches side-by-side. It was a little more strenuous than the easy trail to North Window, South Window and Turret Arch.
8. Right across from the Windows arch was the spectacular must-see Double Arch. It was a very easy 0.3-mile trail. Needless to say, my husband climbed that one too. People afraid of heights should not climb these arches.
9. Last but not the least, we went to Delicate Arch for sunset views. This was a 3-mile round trip trail with elevation gain of 480 feet and no shade. It was a trail on open slick rock with exposure to heights. It was beautiful up there at sunset.

The only famous arch that we missed was Tower Arch which is a moderately difficult 3.4-mile roundtrip trail in remote sections of Klondike bluff. Overall, 1.5 days are sufficient for the park if you are a "on-the-go" person else you can always skip the difficult trails and do the easy ones, if you have limited time in the park.

Tips: 1. Book the Fiery Furnace tour much in advance. They sell out fast. We booked the 4pm tour around a month ago. It was summers when we were there (Memorial day weekend)and it was perfect weather.
2. Don't forget to stop by the visitor center and collect your ticket for Fiery Furnace tour, even if you have booked online.
3. There is no eating place inside. So carry food with you.
4. It can get pretty hot inside. Always good to carry water cooler and water camel-back. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
5. Carry something for the head/hair. It can get really windy in Arches and Canyonlands. When we were there, there were winds at 50-60 mph.

Next day, we went to Canyonlands National Park, Island in the sky ($10 per vehicle fee valid for 7 days. Credit cards accepted) – a gorgeous place, 25 miles from Arches. Awesome canyon views everywhere. Stop at Visitor center for better understanding of the trails since the information map does not have everything. We stopped at all the overlook points' sign we saw. We started with Shafer Canyon Overlook with super amazing views. Next, we went to Mesa Arch - a short 0.5 mile easy roundtrip trail.

Then we drove towards Upheavel dome.
1. On the way we stopped at Green River overlook which was simply amazing.
2. Then we went for Aztec Butte, which is a 1-mile round trip and takes almost 1 hour. It has some scary height exposure and steep drops but then you get to see the 2 Granaries up on the butte. It is so rewarding to see the ancient culture in the form of these granaries, dating back to 1200 AD.
3. Next on the trip was Whale Rock – a 1-mile round trip trail with 100 feet elevation gain (around 1 hour round trip). The trail follows slick rock.
4. And then it was the Upheaval dome. The first overlook is 0.8-mile easy round trip but the second overlook of 1.8-mile round trip is quite strenuous. The views from the second overlook are more than awesome. It is probably an impact crater made by ancient meteor or probably the eroded remains of a salt plume! Rewarding but difficult trail to the second overlook. It took us around 2 hours roundtrip due to 50-60 mph winds which makes it really hard to walk on those slick rocks with height exposure.
5. Next we drove towards the Grand View Point Overlook. On the way, we did the hidden White Rim trail which is an easy 2-mile round trip trail. It is close to the picnic area, almost one-mile before the Grand View Point Overlook. It is around 11-miles from the visitor center. Turn left into the picnic area and as you drive through the picnic area, the trail head is on the right. The views were so awesome. It was super-amazing and I would highly recommend it. 6. Then was Buck Canyon Overlook.
7. Last but not the least was Grand View Point Overlook. We did the 3-mile roundtrip trail in 1.5 hours, enjoying dramatic views of the monument basin and the needles district in the distance.

We missed the Murphy point overlook which is a 3.5 mile roundtrip easy trail with great views and that is because I wanted to capture the sunset views at our next destination: Dead Horse Point State Park. It was on the way back to Arches from Canyonlands. Around 12 miles from Canyonlands, keep following the signs to the park. It's easy. The fee to the park is $10 per vehicle, credit cards accepted. We drove in the park, and reached the end point which is the Dead Horse Point. It had amazing views which looked even more gorgeous during sunset with beautiful colors. There is an easy 1-mile trail around the dead horse point, which had amazing views. Around 2 hours are good enough for this park.

Next day was the time to leave Moab and drive towards Torrey for Capitol Reef. We stopped at Goblin Valley State Park,
around 100 miles from Moab. Google maps gave us wrong directions for the park. The correct directions can be followed by following the sign boards to the Goblin Valley State Park, once you take exit for UT 24-W towards Hanksville. The fee for the park is nominal $7 per vehicle, credit cards accepted. It was so worth the visit. I have never ever seen such weird structures made by nature, totally awesome. I would strongly recommend this park for 1-2 hours. We climbed on various goblin-type structures and had fun. Excellent place for kids.

Next we drove out of the park towards Little Horse Wild Canyon, following the signs on the road. Little Horse Wild Canyon is a 8-mile loop through two canyons: Little Horse and Bell Canyon. It is a very adventurous trail with some difficult passes on the way – scrambled huge rocks to cross and tricky trails with rocky footing. Walking through those really narrow canyons was so awesome. We did not do the entire 8 mile loop but walked 2.5 miles one-way through the Little Horse Canyon and then walked back, making it a total of 5 miles. I simply loved it! Would have done the whole 8 miles, had we had more time and energy for it but walking around 2.5 miles one-way gives you a good feel of the canyons.

Around 3pm, we were out of the canyon and drove towards Capitol Reef National Park, which has much cooler temperatures than Moab. Capitol Reef was another 60 miles from the canyon and it was a very scenic route. There was no entry fee at the park entrance. We did the Grand wash trail, walking through the canyons but these canyons were not as adventurous as the Little Horse Wild Canyon.

Next we did the Hickman Bridge trail which is rated as moderate due to its 400 feet elevation change. It is strenuous at first and then moderate. At the end of the trail, you see a bridge. After seeing so many arches, I was not much impressed by the bridge. It was basically an arch.

Next, we crossed the Historic district and saw Fruita schoolhouse, Fruita orchard and Fremont petroglyphs (images drawn on the rocks by Fremont Indians between 700 AD-1200 AD). The petroglyphs are pretty amazing. Next we drove towards the visitor center and grabbed the information guides and maps. Then we proceeded towards the 16-mile scenic drive which is a couple of miles from the visitor center. The scenic drive had a self-fee pay of $7 cash or check, valid for 7 days. After the scenic drive and the long day, we decided to check-in at our hotel in Torrey for the last night of the trip. Torrey is a very small town with not many stores around. There seemed to be some good local eating places though. We went to a local Burgers and Pizza place which was great.

The last day of our trip, we had half a day and decided to do all the easy trails. We did the Goosenecks and Sunset point short trails which had panoramic views of cliffs, domes and canyons. While driving, we stopped by the "Chimney Rock" and the "Castle" for pictures. Then we drove through the scenic drive and went to Capitol Gorge trail. The drive to Capitol Gorge is an unpaved dirt road of around 2 miles with very scenic views. It is a really slow drive for those 2 miles. The trail walking required some short climb and since there was no shade and it was sunny, it got pretty warm.

It was almost 2pm by the time we were done with Capitol Gorge. We decided to stop in Torrey for lunch and then we were on the way back to Salt Lake City which was around 4.5-hour drive. What an amazing and adventurous 5-day trip it was!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely pictures. What a great place to visit! But whats more great is the fact that you remember everything you guys did there for 5 days. To recount the entire experience in writing is really tough and you always do a great job with it. It not only helps you retain memories but also helps other people to plan their trip. I feel like I was a part of the trip too after reading it. Great job!