Our turn to be tour guides – Moab, UT

After catching a ride over Moab’s famous red rock fins and being chauffeured on dirt roads by friends, it was our turn to be tour guides for our BFF’s from California.  Vic and Pam made a road trip to Moab to hang out with us for a few days, and since we’d explored the area prior to their arrival we were confident we could show them around.

Just down the road from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and surrounded by stunning scenery, Moab offers so many outdoor activities that it was only a matter of prioritizing the “must-see” items on their list.

Like many tour guides, we met our guests early to beat the crowds – especially since it was Centennial Week (here are the free national park entrance dates for 2016).  Arriving early allowed us to get good parking spots and to avoid some of the obnoxious folks who seem to think they own the place.

Arches National Park

Pam, Vic and Steve at the Park Avenue viewpoint in Arches NP

First up was a visit to Arches National Park.  It has the largest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world, 2,000 and counting.  Complementing the arches are mind-blowing arrays of towering spires, fins and balanced rocks.  This was our friends’ first visit to the park, and we gladly took them on an end-to-end scenic drive.  After all, this is definitely a place we never get tired of!

Arches National Park

Approaching Courthouse Towers

Salt Valley- Arches NP

Free-standing fins formed by erosion created a scenic backdrop at Salt Valley

We drove to several of the most accessible arches, and hiked among others as we continued along the scenic route:

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch – the one on Utah’s license plates

Windows Arch

At Windows Arch

Landscape Arch

A friendly conversation near Landscape Arch, which at 306′ long is the longest natural rock arch in the park

Our next destination was Canyonlands National Park.  This park is so huge and diverse that it’s carved naturally into three districts; Island in the Sky, The Maze and The Needles.  We took the scenic route into Island in the Sky, which is the most accessible and easiest to visit from Moab.

Canyonlands

We viewed multiple canyons stretching across the horizon, about a hundred miles distant. Being a clear day, we caught a glimpse of the Needles and Maze districts in the distance. What a fantastic place to enjoy with our friends!

Canyonlands

Each viewpoint afforded us different perspectives of the stunning landscape, and capturing their scale in photos is totally impossible.

Monument Basin

Vertical fractures in the sandstone have caused these rocks to erode into step-sided walls, columns and pinnacles

Island in the Sky is a broad mesa wedged between the Colorado River and Green River, both of which have deep, excavated canyons.

Canyonlands

Taking in an almost incomprehensible vista

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Close to the mesa’s edge is White Rim, a continuous sandstone bench 1,200′ below.  It’s a hard layer of white sandstone that forms a sharply-defined rim above the lower level canyons.  Another 1,000′ beneath that rim are the Colorado and Green rivers.  The views are quite striking:

Green River

The meandering of the Green River in the distance

We ended our day at Dead Horse Point State Park, watching the sun cast shadows into the canyons and onto the La Sal mountains:

Dead Horse Point State Point

The late afternoon sun casts my shadow as three weary travelers enjoy the view

On our way home we captured a pink cast over the La Sal mountains:

La Sal Mountains

One of the must-do activities for Vic and Pam was a rafting trip on the Colorado River.  We arrived on a chilly morning to float along a 13-mile stretch that paralleled scenic Hwy 128.

Colorado River

Colorado River on a gray day

We cruised past Fisher Tower and Castle Valley as our guide Richard gave a geography lesson and entertained us with stories about the river.  He told us about a 60-pound redbone hound dog named Blender that lived on a ranch alongside the river.  Blender sat on the shore and watched the river all day, and when he spotted a raft of tourists floating by he would jump in the water and swim to the raft, hoping to get a snack for his efforts.

Rafting the Colorado River

The happy rafters

Amphitheater

On a short hike by the river, Richard educated us about Moab’s Monument Valley

Moab's Monument Valley

Moab’s Monument Valley

On another day we completed two hikes on the list, Negro Bill Canyon and Corona Arch.

The boys went on their own to hike the 4-mile Negro Bill Canyon Trail.  According to Steve, the trail winds along a stream and through an oasis of Cottonwood and Willow trees that are cut off from the desert above by towering sandstone cliffs.  The reward at the end of their hike was the sixth-largest natural bridge in the U.S., Morning Glory Natural Bridge which spans 243′.

They stopped to watch folks rappelling down behind the bridge:

Morning Glory Arch

Hanging out at the bridge

Steve got a great butterfly capture during their journey:

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While the boys hiked, Pam and I went into Moab for a little shopping and breakfast at the local cafe, Love Muffin.  I had a healthy (and pricey) breakfast – warm Quinoa!

Warm Quinoa

Organic Rainbow Quinoa served warm with agave, fresh fruit, almonds and almond milk

Finally, we drove to Corona Arch and hiked over slickrock to see the awesome formations and landscape:

Corona Arch

Slickrock landscape

Corona is a partial free-standing arch connected to a sandstone cliff on one side, while the other end stands freely upon the slickrock:

Corona Arch

Steve and Vic under the 140′ x 105′ foot opening of Corona Arch

Bowtie Arch

Bowtie Arch was an added treat on our hike

Best Buds

Best buds take a break

We tried to make sure Vic and Pam’s short visit was fun without being too harried.  With so much to see and do in the Moab area, the choices can be overwhelming on a short visit. Regardless, it was great to see them again and we enjoyed spending time together and being their tour guides.

 

Next up:  Arches and canyons from a birds-eye view