Visiting 2 National Parks from Moab, Utah: A Desert Lover’s Paradise

After our quick stop at Capitol Reef National Park, we motored on to Moab, Utah. The plan for Moab was to boondock on BLM land and visit the two national parks near Moab: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.

Sign on the way in…showing all we had to look forward to

To this day, Moab remains one of our favorite spots. It is a cool little town right on the Colorado River. With two national parks within a short drive, it’s truly a paradise if you love exploring the desert. We stayed for only 4 days in Moab because we were on a timeline to get to Denver (more about that in upcoming posts). Wish we could have stayed longer!

Biking along the Colorado in Moab
Mother/daughter pic

Our Boondocking Spot

We had researched on Campendium ahead of time and found where we wanted to stay – it was close to the main highway and would give us easy access to both downtown Moab and the national parks. When we got there, the forest road was much more crowded than we are used to! Part of what we love about boondocking is the solitude, but sometimes, that isn’t a realistic expectation…especially in a place as popular as Moab!

We weren’t sure about the road conditions further down the road, so we pulled off in a large, flat dirt area where several other RVs were parked. Depending on how things look, sometimes we will take the chance and drive our RV pretty far back on the forest roads. But with all of the other RVs around + the poor conditions of the roads, we stayed put near the front. I’m glad we did, too. I later went on a run and there were no places further down the road that a big RV like ours could have fit. 

Mass grave for the Calico critters? This is the kind of fun she has at our boondocking spots in the desert

I don’t have many comments on this boondocking spot other than it was just fine. It was more crowded than we are used to, with cars driving by often. Behind the RV (and you can kind of see it in the picture below) was Arches National Park, and with binoculars, we could see a couple of the arches FROM our camper. Talk about amazing, right?! Also, for anyone who hasn’t spent much time in the desert: it is very dusty. Add blowing winds on top of that, and just don’t expect anything to stay clean. Low expectations here help.

The Fox amongst other RVs boondocking in Moab

Our decision to boondock near the front came with some unexpected benefits. Moab is where we met two new sets of friends: The Fitzgerald’s and The Schroeder’s! We’ve kept in touch with both of these families and it was so nice for us all to sit around a fire and discuss the ups and downs of life on the road. Thank you, Moab, for bringing us together! 

Another view of our boondocking spot. Snow capped La Sal mountains in the distance..YAS

Arches National Park

Our first order of business was to visit Arches National Park, which was about 30 minutes down the road from our boondocking spot. Arches is known for…dun dun dun….it’s arches! There are over 2,000 natural sandstone arches throughout the park. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the more famous ones in pictures, particularly delicate arch. We actually didn’t end up seeing this arch because after a full day of exploring, the hike required to go see it was more than Calla could handle (no nap, no hike!) so we will have to come back to see it.

We did see plenty of other beautiful arches. The park is just striking in general: so many interesting red-rock formations, buttes, balancing rocks, etc. Maybe this picture gives you an idea?

Loving the scenery at Arches

Arches was our first introduction to “National Parks can be very crowded”. We’d been pretty spoiled in our journey thus far. We didn’t start hitting National Parks until January…so not really a prime time of year. We visited Arches and Canyonlands in Mid-May (perfect weather, BTW) so it was the beginning of busy season, although I’m sure it was hardly anything compared to the crowds in the summer. We’ve since hit Yellowstone in peak season, and the crowds at Arches pale in comparison. But we still had to wait for about 30 mins at the entrance of Arches just to get into the park.

Beautiful scenery…and traffic. You can see Balanced Rock in the middle!

Once inside the park, we drove to a couple of the famous arches in the Windows section and hiked around. The views were stunning. I was in awe of the natural stone formations! This park had me wishing I had better photography skills. No doubt you could get some amazing photos if you knew what you were doing! The park is open 24 hours a day and is popular for dark sky photography. 

Tim and Calla heading up to Double Arch – the tallest arch in the park
Hangin’ Out – Mostly wanted this pic to show the scale of the arch
View from one of the arches (I forget which!)
Part of the “Garden of Eden” at Arches NP

We also had a picnic lunch at Arches and had to sit on some random rocks. I felt that Arches was lacking in visitor amenities. There were only pit toilets, and the lines were long. No picnic tables that we could find. The number of visitors to the National Parks keeps rising, and I don’t think they’ve quite made the improvements that they need to to accommodate all of the new traffic. 

Nature’s picnic table
Tim and Calla heading to The Windows
View from the arch

I ended up coming back to Arches with my new friend Sarah, and we watched the sun set from double arch, which was amazing. I have some pictures but they don’t do it any justice! We also saw a rattlesnake very close to us on the rocks! 

Arches was a beautiful national park that I’d love to return to. I think we saw the highlights but I’d like to explore it on a deeper level with some long hikes!

Canyonlands National Park

Ahhh, Canyonlands. This park had us wishing for more! I feel like a broken record, saying that same thing about so many of the places we’ve been to. But one day does not do these parks justice, and that’s all the time we had at Canyonlands.

We spent a day at the park, doing our usual: hiking and picnicking! Canyonlands was about an hour’s drive from our boondocking spot. On our drive there, some of the locals crossed the road.

Open pasture. A fact of life in the West

We explored the Island in the Sky area of the park. There is another entrance, called The Needles, which we heard is actually more scenic, but it was too far away from where we were staying (at least a few hours, I believe). 

Family pic at Canyonlands. It’s aptly named, no?

Our first stop was at Mesa Arch…because we hadn’t already seen enough arches at Arches National Park! This one was totally different, though, because the views from the arch were ASTOUNDING. You looked down right into the Canyonlands landscape, which is so unique. We had to go visit this arch separately as Calla was asleep in the car.

View from Mesa Arch
Taking in the views
Another picture from Mesa Arch. So hard to capture the depth of the landscape there. Amazing.

After visiting Mesa Arch, we took a hike around Grand View point. We’d highly recommend this hike – tons of beautiful views and gave you a sense of the utter vastness of this landscape. You walk along the canyon edge and to the edge of the Island in the Sky mesa. We would have loved to hike down into the canyon…again, another visit! 

The views go on for miles
Canyon views on 3 sides of the mesa – so unique
Another tourist for scale
PIcnic with the La Sal mountains in the background (tallest peak 12,000+ feet)

So there you have it. A peek into our 4 days in Moab – a little town in Utah that will always hold a special place in our hearts due to the amazing scenery + amazing people we met there. 

Date Visited: May 2018

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