Favorite trails in Utah's National Parks?
August 9, 2010 3:49 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite trails in Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park?

Day loops are preferred, but if you think something is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING please don't hesitate to suggest it.

I am travelling out to Utah soon and will be hitting up arches and canyonlands for a day or two each without much of an agenda at this point.

Any restaurants that we must stop at in southeastern/eastern Utah? Any ruins / sights / cultural points of interest that are must see nearby? Any campgrounds that get wholehearted recommendations?

posted by ztdavis to Travel & Transportation around Utah (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
One of the best hikes I ever took was just the "simple" touristy one that ended at Delicate Arch. Make your way (carefully) around the basin on which it sits to get your picture taken under it.

There's also a pretty magnificent arch right off the highway (on the eastern side of the road, I believe) on the way to Canyonlands.

I camped in the KOA in Moab, and it was exactly perfect for what we needed, which was a place to park and pitch the tent, eat, and wash clothes. Not sure if it is still there, but if so, I recommend it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:02 PM on August 9, 2010

The hike to delicate arch is magnificent. I've hiked extensively in national parks out west and it's one of the best-designed hikes out there.

Chesler Park in Canyonlands (needles district) is superb. If memory serves you get to go through The Narrows, which is just really cool.

Really you can't go wrong in the needles district. The hike to spanish bottom is cool but hot as hell at the bottom. Going toward Chesler park and then continuing down to devil's lane and looping back (you have to go part way on the jeep trail, which is kinda annoying) is great.

The confluence is a decent hike, but seeing the colorado and green come together with their different colors mixing is pretty great.

Like I said, pretty much anywhere you go is awesome.
posted by resiny at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2010

We did all of the easy hour to half day hikes you can drive to in Arches a couple of summers ago. Our absolute favorite was Park Avenue. Not at all hard and stunningly beautiful with lots of changes in vegetation and rocks along the way. (It helped that it had rained the week before so there were amazing flowers everywhere.)

We stayed in Moab for the week. We enjoyed the pizza at Eddie McStiff's and the free wi-fi at the public library. The library has a cool Ed Abbey collection on display.

I did an early morning hike in the Matheson Wetlands Preserve that was just lovely. They are some of the only remaining preserved wetlands on the Colorado. You never knew there could be wetlands like that in the middle of the desert.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:20 PM on August 9, 2010

Jeez, just about any trail! When I went two decades ago (yes, this info is dated), just getting a quarter mile off the park roads at almost any trailhead, especially the not so well marked ones, in Arches led to beauty and almost no people.
posted by zippy at 4:39 PM on August 9, 2010

Ok, I used to live in Moab and I could walk into Arches from my backyard. Here is what I recommend:

- Delicate is just sort of a must do. It really is worth it. The hike itself is ok, lots of tourists, but the end is just...well, you gotta do it. But, it's a short hike, and can easily be done in the morning.

- Devil's Playground, out to Dark Angel. This is my favorite Arches hike. It's at the end. The whole hike is just breathtaking. You see landscape arch along the way (once called delicate arch, in fact, and the name got switched due to some paperwork...you'll see why it makes sense to have the names the other way around). You used to get wall arch also on this hike, but sadly it fell. Dark Angel at the end is just incredible. You can also see Double O arch on this hike, which is badass, and, if you're feeling brave, you can clime on top of it.

- Fiery Furnace is of course incredible, but you have to have a guide or permit to hike it.

- If you're in Moab at night, we used to hike out to Broken arch (towards the end of the park) almost every night to see the moon rise. You can just sit up on top of the arch, slowly a light appears on the horizon, and the moon comes up over the desert and coyotes howl and it's just magical. Make sure you're cool with hiking in the dark before doing this.

You can also camp at Devil's Playground. This is high tourist season, so it will be busy. If you wanna camp, I'd find some BLM land (I love Onion Creek) or a state park (Horse Thief is a good one) to camp at.

There's also lots of great local trails in town. Mill Canyon is my favorite. You'd have to ask some locals for directions because it's a bit complicated...but basically you can hike through this gorgeous canyon and find incredible swimming holes with water falls and clean water and it's just. fucking. amazing. We called them the cowboy jacuzzis. You can also take the hike up Potash road, just outside of town, where the best dinosaur tracks are.

When hiking in Arches, timing is key. It's fucking hot as hell and crowded this time of year. If I were you and wanted to, say, hike Devil's Playground, which is probably a 5 hour hike, I would make sure to start just before sunrise...like light enough to see, but without the sun fully out. You'll get to see the sunrise across the desert, there won't be as many people and it will be cooler.

I've talked about one of my Canyonlands adventures here before. Obviously, the lookout on Island in the Sky is breathtaking, easy to drive to, etc. Not much for a hike. If you want to look out over the canyons, Island in the Sky is fantastic.

If you want to get down into the canyons and only have a day, the Needles has a lot of awesome, gorgeous trails, along with all sorts of ruins and petroglyphs. I really like Big Spring Canyon, Squaw Canyon and Druid Arch.

There's lots of good no-fire camping in canyonlands, or camping with fire outside the park either at a state park or blm land. Just keep in mind that there's really no water or gas down by canyonlands and it's about an hour from Moab.

Also, as I learned the very, very hard way, there are lots of herds of free range cattle in the canyonlands area. If you can, try not to hit one with your car.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:46 PM on August 9, 2010 [9 favorites]

Eat breakfast (or lunch, which is probably also good--we were always out hiking then) at Eklecticafé in Moab, which is a great little hippie breakfast joint (you can get omelets with meat or scrambled tofu; it's that kind of a place--and great coffee and bread, which comes from a local bakery--we tried to buy them out of one kind of bread we loved, but they'd only sell us two loaves). If you have money, eat at the Center Café there. I had dinner there four years ago and am still salivating about it.

I also love the hike to Delicate Arch in Arches and the hike out to the confluence in Canyonlands. They're basic, yes, and not very long, but both very worth it. I've done most of the dayhikes in Arches, and none of them are bad. I've only just dipped my toes in to Island in the Sky in Canyonlands, but I hope to get back and explore more. That whole region is one of my favorite parts of the world, and, as others have said, you really can't go wrong there.
posted by newrambler at 4:47 PM on August 9, 2010

I'm also fond of Courthouse Wash in Arches NP. I agree that pretty much anywhere in the Needles at Canyonlands is great. There are a lot of ancestral publoan ruins in the park - granaries, petroglyphs, etc - many of which are very accessible by short dayhikes.

Newspaper Rock is a site near Canyonlands - if your drive takes you past it it's worth a stop - remarkable piece of ancient rock art.

Should you get to Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument (worth the trip!) you should go to Boulder Utah and eat at the Hell's Backbone Grill - and hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail too - nice reward of waterfall into a swimable pool at the end. Lots of slot canyons maybe 30 miles outside of the town of Escalante.

You don't mention Zion but it's my favorite of all the Utah parks - spent a week there this summer -I won't bother listing trails since you aren't going but it's stunningly beautiful and worth a trip all on its own.
posted by leslies at 4:55 PM on August 9, 2010

The ranger-led Fiery Furnace hike was one of the highlights of our time in Arches. Register (and pay $10) at the visitor center when you get there, it's worth it! Our hike was mid-day, but a lot of it was in the shade.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 5:47 PM on August 9, 2010

I'm not sure how to get there, but I'd love to check out the wave. (previously)
posted by alms at 5:58 PM on August 9, 2010

Another vote for Chesler Park and the Joint Trail.
posted by Dr. Send at 8:40 PM on August 9, 2010

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