- Thursday, May 13:
- Drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Frisco, Colorado
- Pick up our friend Mikayla from Denver International Airport
- Stay at The Snowshoe Motel, get a voucher for free beignets
- Friday, May 14:
- Cash in for our free beignets (and gumbo!) at The Lost Cajun, go for brief hike in the forest/foothills around Frisco
- Drive from Frisco, Colorado to Moab, Utah
- Pick Maddie up from Canyonlands Regional Airfield
- Set up camp at Ken’s Lake Campground
- Saturday, May 15:
- Hike and explore Mill Creek Trail (1.8 miles each way, plus dicking-around mileage)
- Change and go for a wine tasting at Castle Creek Winery
- Sunday, May 16:
- Explore the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands Nt’l Park
- Grand View Point (1.0 mile each way)
- Mesa Arch
- Upheaval Dome (2.0 miles each way)
- Murphy Point Trail (1.7 miles each way)
- Explore the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands Nt’l Park
- Monday, May 17:
- Hike Devil’s Garden in Arches Nt’l Park (7.9 miles)
- Pick Brooklyn up from Canyonlands Regional Airfield and get dinner at the Moab Food Truck Park
- Sunset at Delicate Arch in Arches Nt’l Park (1.5 miles each way)
- Tuesday, May 18:
- Float trip with Moab Adventure Company
- Sunset at Dead Horse State Park
- Wednesday, May 19:
- Hike to Tower Arch in Arches Nt’l Park (1.7 miles each way)
- Return to Delicate Arch in Arches Nt’l Park (1.5 miles each way)
- Drive the La Sal Mountain Loop State Scenic Backway
- Thursday, May 20:
- Hike Elephant Hill to Squaw Flat, Big Springs, Squaw Canyon Loop (12.5 miles) in The Needles District of Canyonlands Nt’l Park
- Friday, May 21:
- Drop Maddie and Mikayla off at Canyonlands Regional Airfield
- Drive from Moab, Utah to Tulsa, Oklahoma
There’s no better way to kick off the summer than a week in the desert! Maddie and Anna figured out the exact days they would both be free from school and work, invited all interested parties to come along, and set off to explore some of the best that Southeastern Utah has to offer. It’s hard to come to Moab and not see amazing things that make you feel like you’re on another planet, but we’re here to tell you some of things we think you really can’t miss AND how to make the most of your trip.
Step One: Where will you stay? Moab is literally surrounded by BLM campsites. If being the closest to the action is most important to you, look for sites on HW 128, headed toward Castle Valley. These sites are north of Moab, so you don’t have to drive through the town to get to Arches and Canyonlands Nt’l Parks. However, they are first-come, first-serve. We wanted to be able to guarantee our spot before arrival. We also knew we wanted to spend time in the Needles District, which is an hour’s drive south of Moab. For these reasons, Ken’s Lake Campground was the perfect home-away-from-home (even when the wind was so strong that it broke BOTH of our tents!).
Step Two: The National Parks. You could easily spend years exploring Moab without ever stepping foot in Arches or Canyonlands National Parks. But you wouldn’t. We spent two days in each park and absolutely still have unfinished business in both. Our number one recommendation for Arches–get up before the sun. Even with the new timed entry program, Arches National Park sees a lot of people every day. We started our Devil’s Garden hike at 6:30 am and were one of maybe five cars in the parking lot. By the time we finished the loop around 10, there was a line of cars out the parking lot and down the road. Other ways to avoid the crowds in ANP: get off the beaten trail (Tower Arch is 8+ miles down a gravel road; needless to say, we didn’t have to share with many other hikers) and take advantage of lulls in the crowd (we braved the heat and exposure to hike to Delicate Arch at 2pm and were rewarded with having the most crowded place in the park to ourselves). Our number one recommendation for Canyonlands National Park is getting off the pavement. Even in Island in the Sky, which is the most visited district in the park, hiking to Murphy’s Point was far less crowded than Grand View and just as spectacular. The Needles district was our favorite adventure from our trip. As previously learned in GCNP, we believe that you can’t just view a canyon from the top. There’s no better feeling than being amongst it. The Needles is also far more isolated and rugged. Maddie worked to combine trails and maximize our experience/mileage in the district but even with careful planning and signage, it was a little difficult to navigate (pro of being raised by Glen Petersen–you learn to be really good at reading maps, even in the age of phone navigation). Don’t forget your maps on the trail!
Step Three: Other things to see and do. Moab is an adventurer’s dream; we truly only scratched the surface and CERTAINLY didn’t bring enough gear to do the desert justice. Some of our favorite experiences in the area were outside the parks. Maddie heard about Mill Creek from a local on her flight, and it was the perfect introduction to the area. In addition to getting our feet wet in the waterfall, we explored the cliffs and found a naturally-occurring rock tunnel. Castle Creek winery is possibly one of the oddest places we’ve ever been, but where else could we live out our Moira Rose fantasies? Dead Horse Point left us all speechless with an unmatched sunset. We got to see petroglyphs and pictographs that reminded us of the original stewards of the land. And, of course, no trip to Moab is complete without time dedicated to the Colorado and Green Rivers, which have shaped the landscape, sustained life for millennia, and continue to anchor the area’s natural and cultural history. Avery, our rafting guide, also just happened to be a fellow John Wesley Powell fan (he literally had JWP merch). All in all, if you’re spending time in Moab, don’t forget to explore all the area has to offer outside the national parks.
Step Four: Safety first (or fourth). We are so fortunate to be able to recreate in wild spaces, but we can only do so when we remember that they are wild. spaces. Bring a lot of water wherever you go. If you think you have enough water, bring a little more, just in case. Any time you have an opportunity–in town, at the park Visitor Centers, and at Lions Park at Junction 191 and 128 –refill your water bottles. In addition to being hot and dry, (classic desert), most of the hikes we took in Moab were really exposed. Which leads us to safety tip number two: sunscreen. We packed sunscreen on our hikes to reapply throughout the day. Anna and Maddie both tend to tan instead of burn, but our sweet, sweet friend Mikayla was not so lucky. So, we also packed an extra shirt to cover her shoulders when needed and bought spray-on aloe to use anytime the sun won. Even in the car, the sun was incessant. Anna’s right shoulder ended up way darker than her left because of the open sunroof. As always, we want to recommend asking the rangers for recommendations and safety tips before going out on any trails. We also learned how important it is to bring and be able to understand your map in the backcountry.
Once again, we were unable to avoid a few absolute clusters. Firstly, both of our tents broke because of the gust-level winds. Maddie fixed (?) hers with duct tape and hair clips before ultimately throwing it away on our last morning. Anna didn’t realize hers was broken until she tried to set it up to use for Articulation Bootcamp, but both tents have since been replaced and upgraded. Anna’s check engine light also decided to turn on for a little while, just to keep the gang on their toes. Maddie got temporarily stranded on a cliff face that she tried to climb upfront, instead of taking the trail (which, while she was clinging to the rock, several older adults traversed the actual path with ease). Possibly most disappointing about the unsuccessful rock climb is that she actually got about a foot from the top before getting stuck, and then had to backtrack with Anna trying to coach from the top. Anna threw up profusely the second to last evening at camp, which tragically had to be cleaned up with plastic spoons. And, just like in GCNP, our perfect weather came to a close on our last morning, when we were woken up to buffeting winds and rain at 4am. Instead of trying to go back to sleep, we decided to just pack up, throw away Maddie’s tent, and leave town a few hours ahead of schedule. This worked fine for Anna and Brooklyn, who were driving, but it meant that Mikayla and Maddie had to sit outside at the Airfield until it opened. Thank goodness Olivia Rodrigo had just released her debut album that day.
- Devil’s Garden: a nice lil primitive trek, plus SO! MANY! ARCHES!
- Ladders on the trail in the Needles
- Finding our own naturally-occurring City Museum at Mill Creek
- Getting to fan girl about JWP and learning about female explorers and cow bandits from Avery (the one that got away)
- Maddie surprising Anna by bringing a graduation cap on the trail because Anna skipped her make-up graduation ceremony to come explore the desert
- Meeting a river god (we think) while hammocking and cooling off in the Colorado river
- Seeing a sunset proposal at Delicate Arch and taking swigs from our Fireball flasks to celebrate (because shooters are illegal in Utah). Fireball, once again, we are begging you to sponsor us.
- Watching the most perfect sunset and seeing the stars slowly come out at Dead Horse Point (and realizing Mikayla and Brooklyn have the same eye prescription–soulmates)