Bird’s-eye view of arches and canyons – Moab, UT

2016-04-23-UT-1200572.jpgOne activity that always gets Steve’s blood flowing is airplane tours.   Since he stopped flying several years ago so we could pursue our travels, he has missed it but he always jumps at a chance to watch a pro when we take an air tour.  So I knew there would be no argument from him when I commented about how cool it would be to see the arches and canyons we had been visiting from the air.

We booked the Arches and Canyonlands tour through Redwing Aviation at Moab airport. On our tour day, winds were particularly high, over 40mph, and we knew it would be a bumpy ride.  However, the pilots were ready to go so we could hardly back out.  After all, we had been through many bumps during our flying years!

Moab Plane Tour
Off we go into the wild (and windy) blue yonder

Capturing the arches, fins and other intriguing rock formations below as the plane jumped around was very challenging.  But in hindsight I think keeping busy taking pictures alleviated any motion sickness we may have felt.  The other couple with us didn’t fare so well; the poor woman was sick throughout the flight and she got no pictures, relying on her husband to get them all – and he was looking a bit green himself!

We first flew over Arches NP, then Canyonlands NP during our hour and fifteen minute flight.  We gained a new perspective of both Parks’ awe-inspiring landscape, and seeing the geology of the area from above really showed how large areas were created in their own unique ways.

Because of the bouncy ride my aerial photos are not the best.  I included some pictures taken at ground level to show how some formations looked from both perspectives.

Arches National Park
Approaching Arches NP
Devils Garden
This section of fins is called the Devils Garden

According to geologists, Arches National Park  lies atop an underground salt bed that is responsible for the sandstone arches, spires, balanced rocks, fins and eroded monoliths.

Arches National Park
A closer view of the massive fins in the Devil’s Garden

To show the sheer walls of just one of those sandstone fins, here’s Steve gawking at Private Arch up-close:

Private Arch
Private Arch – one of several arches within Devil’s Garden
Tower Arch
Tower Arch within Klondike Bluffs
Tower Arch is impressive from the ground
Windows Arch
At the Windows area, trails can be seen leading to the Spectacles and the Turrett
Here’s little ol’ me at North and South Windows – AKA the Spectacles

When we headed over Canyonlands NP, it felt like we were looking down at another planet with all its interesting patterns and textures:

Long Canyon
John and Pam drove us out here through Long Canyon in their Jeep

Canyonlands is home to a scenic mosaic of mesas, plateaus, and canyons with profound geologic and archeological significance.  Its centerpiece is the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers.

The Y-shaped river system dissects the park into three equally enchanting and distinct sections:

confluence of the Green River and Colorado River
Confluence of the Green River and Colorado River.  On the right is the Needles district, in the top middle of the “Y” is the Island in the Sky district and at the lower left is the Maze district

To the west of the rivers is known as the Maze – rugged, remote and the least accessible. And because of its remoteness the Maze made a great hideout for the notorious Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch.  It has been called one of the most remote and unreachable regions in the U.S.  You don’t want to get lost out here!

Chocolate Drops
Chocolate drops and maze canyons

From the air one can see a tangled web of dry stream beds and passages between spires, knobs and canyons described as the “30-square-mile puzzle in sandstone”:

The Maze District
What an amazing maze!

In the southeast corner are spires, pinnacles, and grabens that formed the Needles district. The dominant landforms are the “needles”, rock pinnacles banded in red and white that stand upright in a tangled formation:

Needles District, Canyonlandss
The Needles district

Island in the Sky is the highest and northernmost section of Canyonlands.  As the most accessible, we visited here twice – first with John and Pam, and then with our friends Vic and Pam.

Dead Horse Point Overlook
Dead Horse Point overlook and along the rim is where we hiked
Monument Basin, Canyonlands NP
Looking down at Monument Basin

On the ground, an enigmatic 1.6 mile-wide circular depression known as Upheaval Dome can be viewed by taking a short hike from an overlook:

Upheaval Dome

Canyonlands is a wild and rugged showcase of sedimentary geology.

For a geologic explanation of Canyonlands NP, click here.

To learn why there are so many arches in Arches NP, click here.

Moab, Utah
The hub of all outdoor adventures in the area – Moab

After what seemed like endless jarring and bumping around, we were glad to get back on the ground.  Steve said the turbulence was light to moderate, but it seemed pretty severe to me!  Despite the feeling of discomfort during the flight, it was worth it and we enjoyed our new perspective of this amazing place.

Lowes Travels
Steve was a happy passenger, despite a slightly upset tummy!




  1. Fantastic tour!!! Thank you for taking me in the air via commuter… much smoother ride. Really enjoyed the labels on the photos highlighting the sites. Great job showcasing the stunning land 🙂

  2. The photos are great, Mona Liza! I think I would have been a tad sick also…I don’t do well in rough air. The landscape is amazing!

  3. Thanks for the “birds-eye view” of Arches, hehe! Very fun to see the formations from far above that we’ve explored hiking. I’m glad you did the flight for me, though, because I don’t like turbulence.

  4. How cool that we got both views…above and then on the ground! Great way to present the blog:) I’m glad you took the plane ride so we could see these wonders from above, especially The Maze, which we will never seen.

  5. What a different perspective, one we’ll never see as Dave has motion sickness issues and doesn’t fly well.

  6. Dame, you really made the best out of your stay there. I know I’m guilty of it too, but the things people willingly go through to get their travel fix. Ahihihi 😀

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