I went to Moab, Utah for four days with four friends and had an absolute blast hiking through Arches National Park. I had been to Moab when I was in eighth grade on a school trip where we camped in the park and learned about the ecosystem and have been yearning to go back ever since. Sometimes I forget how beautiful the USA is and this trip did more than a sufficient job of reminding me what a blessing it is to grow up and live in this country. What is particularly great about Moab (and the National Park system in general) is that you can do a lot with a limited budget and adventurous spirit.
We left Boulder, Colorado early in the morning on a Saturday and stopped in Glenwood Springs (in Colorado) to hike the Hanging Lake trail before cruising straight to Moab. If you haven’t done the Hanging Lake hike before, you must. Right now. It is one of my favorite hikes in Colorado and never fails to shock me with what lies at the end of the hike. After taking the marked exit on the highway, you double-back the opposite direction for about three miles before coming to the parking lot. We arrive there at 10 am and there was plenty of parking spots, but by the time we returned around noon, the lot plus more was full and there was a long line of cars waiting for a spot to open. I highly recommend getting there as early as possible for parking purposes and the fact that there will be fewer people on the trail and at the top. You can always bike from Glenwood to the trailhead (my mom and friends did this years ago). As for the trail itself, its only a little over two miles roundtrip, however, it is all incline on the way up. You need to be in decent shape to tackle this one. That being said, I saw people of all ages and abilities on the trail; some prepared people with hiking boots or running shoes and others in Ugg boots (Please don’t do this. I had no clue how that girl was going to make it to the top). On the day we went, there was still a fair amount of snow and ice on the trail which made it extra challenging and entertaining on the way down as I fell numerous times right on my arse, as did some of my friends. Bruises build character. There is a very clearly marked trail, however, it is rocky and very steep the higher you get. I did this hike several years ago for a dear family friends birthday and it was just as I remembered! When you get to the top of the hike, soak in the beauty of the lake and make sure to climb up to the top of the waterfall where there is another hidden waterfall. Hiking is one of my favorite things to do as it is a physical and mental challenge with the added bonus of so much visual stimulation from the sites.
After our pit stop at Hanging Lake, we drove straight into Moab, only stopping to take the obligatory photo at the “Leaving Colorado” sign. Our friends recommended that we take an alternative, more scenic route into Moab which we did and was fabulous! You take the exit off the highway marked as Cisco, or 128 and follow the signs to Moab. It is a lot of winding roads through canyons, but absolutely worth it and highly recommended. I was taken aback by how beautiful it was the whole time. We decided to stay in hotel (well motel…we are poor college students) this trip as we threw it together last-minute and thought it fitted the needs of the group better than camping. However, camping in Arches National Park is an experience not to be missed and the option I will be choosing next time I go back. Our hotel was conveniently located only a mile away from the park and only a ten minute ride into the town of Moab.
The first night we ate at The Blu Pig which fitted our needs, but left a lot to be desired. Its typical bar food with big burgers and wings, however, after being on the road all day, any food would have tasted good. We started the next day bright and early (earlier than intended thanks to a fire alarm early in the morning…thanks motel) and arrived at the visitor center when it opened at eight in the morning. After talking with the very helpful park rangers and getting some maps, we decided that our true first day would be a day of small hikes and view points. The fee for the entrance of the park is only ten dollars for seven days, however if you arrive before 8 in the morning or after 4:30 in the afternoon, you don’t have to pay. True story. I highly recommend getting there early as you possibly can because there is massive traffic getting into the park the later the day goes on. This park is a huge destination for families with small children who typically come later in the morning, so the early you go the more you can avoid the hustle and bustle.
After stopping at several gorgeous view points, we did a short hike to the Windows then continued through the desert to the less visited arches. At our second stop on the hike, we took a morning break and did an abdominal workout with our newly made Dutch friend. What I loved about this trip was the variety of people we interacted with. It was so much fun to briefly get to know people. As a photographer, I naturally offered to take lots of photos for couples and families. Nothing is worse than using a selfie for a family holiday card, it hurts my soul. Plus everyone is so appreciative of the offer which makes my day a little more bright!
At the same stop, we also took the very short trek through a canyon to the Sand Dune Arch. It was a nice sandy spot in a canyon where families were building sand castles. I climbed (barefoot) through and up rocks to stop on top of the arch. There was no sign that said I couldn’t do that, but I used a lot of caution while doing so. I did come down with two bloody toes, but hey, it was worth it. I foresee in the future the park regulating the access to climbing as it will eventually take a toll on the rocks.
One thing about visiting Arches National Park that cannot be emphasized more is the FACT that you have to drink an obscene amount of water throughout the day. The park recommends a gallon a day, but I drank more and still probably should have chugged another liter. There are water pumps at certain stops throughout the park, but please bring lots of water in your car. Along with several people throughout the park, I brought a Camelbak which worked out perfectly.
We also stopped at Double Arch and scuttled up the rocks to sit in the center of the arch. It was a very short walk on a marked and stable path from a parking lot and do-able for anyone. If you have a fear of heights, this one would give you a scare! It’s always good to remember that going up is much easier than coming down. We headed back into town early afternoon and the boys rested, while the girls went outside to get some more Vitamin D and swim around in the pool. It was bliss. We then headed into town and did some shopping! If you like jewelry, house decorations and other hand-crafted items, I highly recommend going to Hogan’s, right on the main street. I bought a few pieces for family that are one of a kind and handmade on a Reservation nearby. For dinner we went to Pasta Jay’s and chowed down on some massive bowls of delicious pasta. It was the perfect way to end the day and I highly recommend the restaurant to singles, couples, groups and families. There was not wait (even though it was packed) and the pasta dishes were authentic and satisfying. We hit the bed early that night as we planned on waking up extra early the next day to hike Delicate Arch.
The Delicate Arch is perhaps the most famous arch and hike in the park and is popular with everyone. It is the most busy in the evening for sunset and fairly popular in the morning for sunrise. They park recommends not doing it during the day (especially in the summer) as it is insanely hot and you will get dehydrated fast. The park marks it as a difficult trail and states that you should bring at least one liter ow water with you because there truly is not shade anywhere after the sun is up. If you don’t wish to do this hike, but still want to see the arch, you can go to a viewpoint and take it in from the distance and comfort of you car. We arrived at Delicate Arch around 5:30 am and were the first people in the parking lot (which is small and fills up very fast). It is about a 20-30 minute drive from the entrance of the park, so I would plan the time accordingly. The stars were out and I was the only one out of my group with a headlamp, which is much-needed. It takes about an hour (maybe a little more depending on pace and fitness) to get to the arch. The path itself is almost all uphill with lots of steep incline, climbing on slabs of rock and near the end, a precarious walk on a small ledge before the arch reveals itself. It was very windy at the top (nothing delicate about that wind) and we hunkered down as we waited for sunrise. Groups of people slowly started arriving, but not too many. As we waited for the sun to rise, we just sat in silence taking it all in. Moab is beautiful at all times of the day with no bad angle or view. After watching the sunrise, we explored around, eventually making it past a canyon and onto the ledge of a cliff where we got another beautiful perspective of the arch. After eating breakfast, doing some yoga and enjoying the glory of the morning, we packed up and headed down. One of the best mornings I have had in a while and a memory I will hold onto for a while.
We decided to go to Devil’s Garden that has eight arches on an eight mile hike, as we tried the day before, but the parking lot was too full. By this point, all of us were exhausted and a little cranky, so only walked to two of the arches before heading back to the car.
After returning to our hotel, my friends all decided to take a nap in our cold air-conditioned room while I went outside to swim and hang out. I was outside in and by the pool for almost four hours and loved it! Sunscreen regularly is very much required, but the sun feels so good! The sun disappears around 5 everyday, but it is still light until around 7. We went into town again, wrote some postcards, I ate some gelato and we all took it easy. Later that night we got into some really intense card game battles that were super competitive and a great way to spend our last evening. The next morning, we packed up said goodbye to Moab and drove straight back to Boulder, only stopping to get gas.
Overall, this trip was a huge success and just a lot of fun and much-needed break from school. It’s only about a six-hour drive from Boulder and the perfect extended weekend getaway. I am now exhausted and still finding sand in my clothes, shoes and ears. Let me know if you have ever visited Arches National Park, Moab and your experience!