Scenic drives with friends – Moab, Utah

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I am so much enjoying flipping through my Moab pictures as I write this post, reliving recent wonderful times with friends.  While there, we were grateful to be offered a ride into the backcountry where high clearance vehicles were required.  Our friends Dave and Sue kindly drove us into some spectacular scenery in their Jeep (named Rocky) that they had enjoyed previously.  Onion Creek Road, located off of highway 128, was our destination.  The road winds through a narrow valley, crossing Onion Creek approximately 30 times (according to the official score tabulated by Sue and myself).

Rocky at his first creek crossing, about 28 more to go!

Hoodoos high up on the cliffs

Source of the sulfur smell that gave Onion Creek its name

A ribbon of red dirt forms Hogback Ridge

A “wow” moment, you have to see this in person to get the full effect

Sue looked like an ant walking through The Narrows

Onion Creek Salt Diapir

The contrast of colors and textures in the diverse formations was amazing.  And if you’re into geology, this link gives more detail about these fabulous formations.

After several hours of gawking at the jaw-dropping scenery, we topped off our day with some wine tasting at Castle Valley Winery.

Doc Harry and Chris, whom we met during our Viking River Cruise last October, arrived in Moab a few days later.  This time we played host and took them on a scenic drive that did not require a high clearance vehicle.  Forty-four mile long highway 128 is also known as the “River Road”, for it runs along the Colorado River with 2,000-foot red rock cliffs rising on both sides.  We had driven it several times before, and taking Harry and Chris was a great excuse to revisit this gorgeous scenery that we never tire of.  The river corridor offers a spectacular view of world-class climbing destination Fisher Towers, and Professor Valley where several movies have been filmed.

High sheer sandstone walls of the gorge

Fisher Towers in the shadow of La Sal Mountains

Steve, Chris and Harry at Professor Valley

Fisher Towers is a mecca for rock climbers, and there were a few of them when we arrived

Colorado River and the Richardson Amphitheater viewed from behind Red Lodge

Green trees contrasting against red hills

Capping our day with a happy hour and dinner at the Henderson’s

On days when everyone was doing their own things, Steve and I did one last hike on the Portal Overlook Trail.  The day was overcast and windy, but we still enjoyed the sweeping views of Moab Valley, the south portal of the Colorado River, a glimpse of Arches National Park and the distant La Sal Mountains.  This trail mirrors the Stairmaster Trail on the eastern side of the river, but is more exposed, with sheer drops up to several hundred feet.  Another gem of a hike in this area!

Pancakes lined the trail

Across the river is the Stairmaster Trail that runs along the anticline

Straight down about 980′

There were several warnings for bikers along the exposed trail

Looking north, the Colorado River enters Moab Valley, with Arches NP in the background

Yet another warning for bikers to be extra careful on the trail

One final look at Moab Valley from above

With our friends also camped at Portal RV Resort, we enjoyed several happy hours and scrumptious dinners:

Shrimp boil, courtesy of Dave and Sue

A colorful vegetarian dish prepared by me

A final meal together before we all go our own ways 🙂

And with that, we bid goodbye to Moab as we move on to new explorations and adventures!


Next up:  Nine Mile Canyon


Now where were we? Oh yeah – Moab, UT!

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It’s been several weeks since I returned from the Philippines, and just like my previous visit I came home coughing and sick, with about a week required to deal with jet lag.  But I had a grand time with family, former high school classmates, coworkers and friends in the sweltering heat and humidity.  I survived that journey, and I’m sure glad to be back home!

So where were we?  Oh yeah, having a blast with friends in Moab a few weeks ago!

We stayed in Moab for two weeks, exploring and hiking trails we had missed during our first visit.  Although it’s been a few weeks, the photos I took then are bringing it all back to me now…

Beautiful freestanding Delicate Arch sits on the edge of a natural sandstone bowl, as seen through Frame Arch

We revisited Arches National Park to see a few new-to-us arches, and to get up close to Delicate Arch which is a widely recognized symbol of Utah.  It’s described as “the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area.”  Although sunset is said to be the best time to photograph it, we are morning people so we hiked out to it at sunrise before the crowds arrived.

Delicate Arch

Depicted on Utah vehicle license plates, Delicate Arch is 60′ tall

We then continued our explorations, checking out Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch, all of which we hiked in one big loop.

Sand Dune Arch

The base of Sand Dune Arch is covered by wind-driven sand and is hidden within a slot canyon created by two massive, adjacent sandstone fins

Broken Arch

Broken Arch is not really broken, although it is wearing a bit thin at the top with a crack running through the middle of the span

Tapestry Arch

Tapestry Arch shares a sandstone fin with two “proto-arches”

The La Sal mountains were covered in snow during our visit, a gorgeous contrast to the nearby formations

Here is more information on the other popular arches we visited at Arches NP.

The small resort town of Moab is surrounded by stunning red rock landscapes, making it a huge playground for outdoor enthusiasts.  We tackled as many hikes and activities as we could during our stay.

Rock climbers along Potash Road

Hidden Valley Trail

A thunderstorm with hail made us turn around during our first attempt on this trail a couple of years ago.  The first part of the hike is a steep uphill climb, then at the top we reached a low divide to the valley as it traversed between awesome towering cliffs.  We were rewarded with scenic views, solitude, and a fine rock art panel.

Hidden Valley was a beautiful surprise

Looking down at a rock wilderness

Overlooking the south end of Moab

Colorful lichens brightened some of the rocks

Long Bow Arch

One of the many trails along Potash Road, this trek is known for the dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs that can be seen along the way.  Wildflowers had already started showing off blooms while we were there.

Tracks of theropod dinosaurs left behind some 190 million years ago

Petroglyphs on the walls

Long Bow Arch

Long Bow Arch has a span of 60′

La Sal mountains peek through gigantic sandstone fins

Jeep Arch Trail

This trail is also accessed from Potash Road and leads to a photogenic, jeep-shaped arch situated in a large sandstone cul-de-sac.  On our way in we followed the trail along the canyon ridge, then climbed high above the side of the wash.  On the way back we wandered through the canyon bottom for some variety.  The views here are wonderful and impressive, with multi-hued sandstone walls lining both sides of the canyon.

The trail begins with a walk through a large culvert

Can I climb up there?

Steve “driving” the Jeep Arch, although he didn’t think it looked like a jeep at all

Pondering how to get to the bottom of the canyon

Water in the desert canyon – we really enjoyed this route less taken

Water marks on the canyon floor

In sandy areas we got a whiff of fragrant yellow Desert Holly flowers

Stair Master Trail

This trail lived up to its name, gaining over 900′ in the first mile on slick rock.  After catching our breath at the top, the reward was excellent views of the Colorado River, Moab Valley, La Sal mountains and even part of Arches NP in the distance.

Window Arch in Arches NP was visible from this trail

Looking down at the Colorado River and towering cliffs along Potash Road

We had some fun with friends Dave and Sue during this hike.  We could see our RV park from the summit, so Steve called them to see if they could spot us with their binoculars.  After we waved frantically like a couple of maniacs, they finally did see us!

Portal RV Resort was waaaaaaaay down there!

Zooming in on Dave and Sue as they zoomed in on us

The trail runs along a ledge of purplish sandstone on an anticline rising next to the Colorado River.  It forms the cliffs that define the western side of Moab Valley, and also a gnarly jeep trail for “extreme jeepers”.

The trail runs parallel to the Moab Rim Jeep Trail

The guy in the pickup didn’t do so well!

Taking it all in – Moab Valley and the La Sal mountains in the background

Heading back down the Stairmaster Trail – this one didn’t disappoint!


Next Up:  Enjoying Moab sights with friends