Arches or Canyonlands?
March 1, 2018 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Which would be best for me and my mobility impaired mother?

Hi there!

I'm planning an awesome road trip to Iowa from Los Angeles with my mother to visit some family and we are planning on visiting some parks on the way. We are operating on a timeline, though, and are forced to decide between Canyonlands and Arches. Which one would you take your 65 year old mother who can walk short distances on relatively level ground? Which would give us the best views and experiences accessible by car?

Thanks in advance for your input!
posted by lilies.lilies to Travel & Transportation around Moab, UT (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Canyonlands - specifically the Islands in the Sky section. There are more places to pull the car over and walk a short distance over a mostly level walkway and get to a great view. Also, Dead Horse Point state park ($10 per car) is very close and worth a short stop before going into the national park. It is a parking lot next to an overlook and has benches around for rests.
posted by soelo at 8:18 AM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh I was going to say Arches. In my memory, there is really quite a lot visible by car.
posted by salvia at 8:31 AM on March 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


I went to both last year! I would recommend Arches without hesitation.

The main difference was that at Canyonlands, you are on top of the formations looking down; and at Arches you are at ground level looking up at the formations. This was a Big Deal for my heights-fearing husband. This also means that the interesting stuff - the formations - are much easier to see at Arches...even if you're just driving through in your car. There are plenty of short hikes with level ground with Big Rewarding Views.

Balanced Rock is a great hike. So is the Windows hike.

That being said, the hike out to THE ARCH (the one that everyone has in mind when they think of Arches) is moderate to strenuous. There is a viewing area nearby that has a parking lot and a shorter hike if you really have to see THE ARCH.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:42 AM on March 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


I would say Arches, but do stop at Dead Horse Point as well for the great view of Canyonlands. Also, if you have the time to spare, take the scenic highway routes through Utah (12, 24, 128) for some amazing views from the car. Some of the best driving I've ever done, scenery -wise.
posted by Jaclyn at 9:09 AM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Arches is extremely drivable. There is a single road that winds through the entire park, with many arches and amazing views viewable from the road. You will not be able to see Delicate Arch (The Arch) from the road, and while not a strenuous hike, it is definitely not a hike I would recommend to someone who can only walk short distances on level ground. It involves a long hike up a bumpy salt flat and then on a ledge.

Canyonlands is far more remote than Arches. It has a couple easily drivable areas (the view over Island in the Sky, as mentioned), but that's about it. Most of the park is only accessible via quite strenuous and rural hikes. Canyonlands is much less accessible and much farther away from Moab (no water in Canyonlands, little cell reception, far fewer hikers and tourists, especially this time of year), so if something should happen to your mother like a fall, help will be much much harder than in Arches.

The other thing is simply that, while I love Canyonlands for its remoteness and, when I lived in Moab, spent many days wandering alone through its utter vastness, Arches is the far more iconic park, and the arches are really quite something to see. If I had one chance to go to one of them, it would be Arches.

Enjoy. It's the most beautiful and strange part of the lower 48.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:24 AM on March 1, 2018


I hope you're planning on Zion as well, which has a shuttle bus that goes through the main canyon and several easy paved walks from the bus stops.
posted by Dashy at 9:37 AM on March 1, 2018


Arches in the morning, Dead Horse State Park for sunset.

As others have mentioned, you won't see Delicate Arch, but if you click on the Visitor Guide from this page, you can see on the map how many of the viewpoints are right on the road or just a short paved walk from the road. Fiery Furnace viewpoint was one of my favorite views in all of Utah.

At Dead Horse State Park, you won't believe how much there is to see just from the parking lot. It's out of this world.
posted by lampoil at 9:39 AM on March 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've spent a ton of time at both, in cars, backcountry camping, biking, etc. Of the two, Canyonlands is my favorite, and The Maze is the best part, but is basically inaccessible by car. Island In The Sky has amazing expansive views, but it's not a place to see cool rock formations up close unless you hike or bike, and even then, it's expansive views, huge cliffs, that kind of thing - not arches.

In a car without being able to do a strenuous hike, I'd go to Arches over Canyonlands, hands-down. There are several very easy, flat hikes on established paths rather than trails, and lots to see from the car up fairly close.
posted by The World Famous at 11:36 AM on March 1, 2018


Response by poster: Thanks for all the wonderful advice! Yes, we are spending two days going to Zion and it looks like we will spend the next day in Arches. Then we are taking the 128 through Castle Valley (I'm a Westworld fan) on to Colorado.
posted by lilies.lilies at 12:29 PM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Arches, without hesitation. Seconding Dead Horse Point at sunset. Had my wedding ceremony at Arches and my 82-year-old grandmother (and a couple other seniors) navigated Sunset Arch without a problem. Delicate Arch is tougher to get to and I wouldn't recommend that for someone with mobility issues. If you have time, they do guided walks through the park service, but avoid Fiery Furnace - that is a strenuous hike, even for the average person.

On preview - Arches is gorgeous and you won't be disappointed :)
posted by onecircleaday at 12:32 PM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's $15 now for Deadhorse.
posted by notned at 1:05 PM on March 1, 2018


Since I see you're driving to Colorado next...I'd like to recommend Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Easy walking, concrete paths, should work really well if you're driving through.
posted by fyrebelley at 10:37 PM on March 1, 2018


Yes, for Fiery Furnace I just meant the overlook, which is a short walk from the road as you can see on the map, not to go into the formation itself.
posted by lampoil at 6:00 PM on March 3, 2018


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