We planned a bit of a detour for our route home to Missouri from Oregon so we could fit in a couple of other national parks that were high on our list: Arches and Canyonlands. It added several hours to an already long drive (I think making the trip 32 hours rather than 28), but it was definitely worth it.
Departing Oregon we made it as far as Boise on the first day, driving through the very beautiful Columbia Gorge. Unfortunately, the weather was cool and damp, so we weren’t able to take a hike break as we’d hoped, but it was a very pretty drive and a place we’d like to return to. On day 2, we stopped during the afternoon at a park in Salt Lake City and enjoyed a nice hour-long hike. It was only a bit out of the way and did have a $5 per car fee but was worth it to stretch our legs in the pretty space. We also stopped at a state-run liquor store in the area to buy wine, remembering Utah’s strange liquor laws from past trips.
With the long stop in Salt Lake City, it was well after dark by the time we arrived in Moab, though it was early enough for our microwaved leftovers dinner in our motel room. Safe travel during COVID! Motels with microwaves became our preferred accommodations in places where we weren’t staying long enough to get an Airbnb.
Arches National Park
We gave ourselves three nights with two full days in Moab to see the two national parks and decided to start with Arches. The entrance to Arches is very close to the town of Moab and we were able to drive to the far end of the park, called Devil’s Garden, in about an hour from our motel. We decided not to leave too early in the morning since it was a November weekday and the temperature would rise as the day went on. You can’t count on having 60-degree sunny days this time of year, but luckily we did!
Leaving mid-morning, we made our first stop in the park at the Balancing Rock area, figuring it would get busier as the day went on. It was a cool photogenic and feature.
Then we went on to the picnic area at Devil’s Garden for an early lunch. Arches is a pretty small park compared to many we visited this leg, but it is spectacularly beautiful. We had a lot of fun on our picnic joined by hopeful birds waiting for us to clear out from the table so they could look for crumbs.
After our picnic, we drove over to the Devil’s Garden trailhead for the short hike to the Landscape Arch. I had looked into the six-mile Devil’s Garden loop, which is a good length for us, but the warnings on the park website about traversing the primitive part of the trail made me a little nervous, and we were thinking of doing a long hike in Canyonlands already (though we’ve done back-to-back long hikes before). However, by the time we got to the Landscape Arch, we were having such a great time and the path forward up the rock formations seemed so inviting that we decided to press onward.
Chad said we could turn around at any time and we set a goal of the Double O Arch one mile ahead. There, we had the choice to walk two miles back or four miles ahead to complete the loop. We were feeling good and Chad had enough cell signal earlier in the hike to download an offline map, so since we had plenty of water on us, we pressed on.
It was a great hike and especially isolated after the Double O Arch. We did have to retrace our steps a couple of times to get back on the trail, but Chad’s backcountry app helped with that. There were also a couple of moments we needed our courage to scramble across a steep formation, but we managed very well. It was a great hike.
On our way back out of the park we stopped for the 3-mile Delicate Arch trail, a three-mile out and back hike that is one of the park’s must-do, especially because the Delicate Arch is so iconic. It required a fair bit uphill walking to reach the end, but the view was great and the late afternoon was a great time to be there (though a little crowded; we had to use our masks a fair bit).
By the time we finished that hike we’d done nearly 10 miles on the day with a lot of climbing, so I was spent. We went back into town to pick up take out for our weekly date night (unfortunately, we couldn’t find outdoor seating in November in Moab). But we were already in love with Arches, so decided to come back again on our final morning on our way out of town. That day we did Park Avenue Trail, named for the big formations that resemble skyscrapers. It was a lovely Saturday morning hike – chilly at that time of day, but not at all crowded, and a great way to end our trip before driving the rest of the way back to Missouri.
Canyonlands National Park
We spent our second full day in the Isle in the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park, a slightly longer drive than Arches but the closest part of Canyonlands to Moab. We again drove all the way to the end straight off the bat mid-morning to start with a picnic in the White Rim picnic area. We lucked into a great private all on its own with a great canyon view – best picnic spot in all our national parks this leg. After lunch we drove a short bit to the trailhead of the very acclaimed Grand Viewpoint Overlook Trail. It was crowded already by noon, but not too hard to spread out and we used our masks when needed. It was a great introduction to Canyonlands, which is quite majestic with its canyon views.
Then we drove back toward the front of the park and stopped briefly for a hike to the Mesa Arch. Also crowded, but nice. Finally, a little before 2 p.m., we were back near the front for our long hike of the day, the Neck Spring loop trail. Though the distance was just under 6 miles, there was a fair bit of up and down hiking, even when down in the canyon, and toward the end we had to climb up the canyon wall, which even required some hands-over-foot climbing (not my favorite). Early in the hike we achieved our 250-mile hiking goal for Leg 6, which we marked with a 2-5-0 selfie.
We hiked the trail clockwise, as recommended, which was good advice, because going down the wall we climbed up seems like it would be much more treacherous. When we finally emerged at the road near where we parked, we were treated to another gorgeous canyon view (which others had stopped their cars to get out and see, but was all the more satisfying after hiking 5+ miles). It was a great day in Canyonlands and we’d really love to come back and explore the other two sections of the park.
We had such a wonderful time in Moab at the two parks. It was also a very cost-effective vacation portion of the trip. Our motel room, which was impressively clean and fairly large, was only $50 a night. November, of course, is the off season, but Moab is just 16 hours from Missouri and I think would make an excellent affordable family vacation for people from home. I do love a good value accommodation! We didn’t get to experience much of the town of Moab due to the pandemic, but it seemed cute. It was a great end to our pandemic-revised Leg 6.
Inn America Boise, ID – Ok stay. This place was fine. The room was clean enough, but there wasn’t a microwave in the room. However, we were able to use the one in the breakfast area.
Bowen Motel Moab, UT – Great motel for national park visits. We stayed for three nights visiting Arches and Canyonlands. The room was very clean and really large for a motel like this. We were able to get a ground floor room and could park right in front of the door, which was convenient. It was good to have the microwave and refrigerator in the room and the wifi worked well. I’d definitely stay here again – it was a really great place for the price.
Chaparral Motor Inn Burlington, CO – Good for an overnight off I-70. We wanted a place near I-70 for an overnight during a drive from UT to MO. Good place, very clean, all on the first floor. The front desk staff was very eager-to-please and professional. Great Thai place just up the road for takeout! The photos show microwaves in the rooms, so we were surprised not to have one. They offered to track one down from another room, but we decided to get takeout instead.