This is the other National Park within spittin' distance (or at least part of it is), and one I prefer to Arches due to a lot fewer bodies to contend with, and slightly cooler temps. This park covers an enormous amount of ground with the closest and most-visited unit being Island in the Sky - about 32 miles from Moab. Needles, about 75 miles south, offers terrific hiking but not much for the casual visitor, and remote Horseshoe Canyon unit is 100 miles (32 of dirt road) and a 7-mile RT trek to the most valuable pictograph panels in the country. In between are countless primitive backcountry acres and slots for experienced backpackers and technical canyoneers.
Scenic-drivers, day-hikers, campers, bikers, distance-trekkers. shutterbugs: there's something here for everyone so see my Canyonlands pages for more information.
This is a nice day trip from Moab. One of three section in Canyonlands National Park. The entry fee is $10 and the access road is an in and out drive. It has a small visitor center at the beginning. It is a wonderful drive with deep canyons to the right and left. Quite a few short day hikes that take you to the rim for great views. The highlight is at the end of the road and a trail out to the island in the sky.
There more difficult hikes to the canyon floor and the white rim trail. It would be a steep downhill and of course a steep up hill to get back out.
Definitely worth the drive!
From the parking lot, walk the trail that leads to the slab with the dinosaur tracks. Work your way up to the cliff above. Along that wall and on a few fallen slabs are some very nice Petroglyphs.
Just north of Moab driving out on route 191, look for Potash Road just after the Colorado River. Turn left on Potash and about one mile down the road you will see cliffs right to the edge of the road. There may be some rock climbers there as well.
Many cars stop here. There are many to be seen. There is a pull off across the road. Be careful.
There are dinosaur tracks and fossils all over Moab. One of the easiest to access is the few tracks on a slab at the Poison Spider access off of Potash Road. They are visible from the parking area but the short steep hike up is worth it. You can stand right at the base of the slab and be eye to foot print!
The white color in the tracks is from people putting plaster in the track to make a cast. This is now against the law because not only is it unattractive, plaster seeps into the porous sandstone and when the cast is removed, it can take away part of the track.
This is a 5-star, must-do for hikers!! We did it on an overcast morning that we'd hoped would clear off but no go; due to grey clouds and flat lighting, my photos are just dismal compared to how incredible this trail really is. Nature's gothic cathedral of soaring sandstone towers - the highest, Titan, topping out at 900 feet - glow fiery red at sunset and I'd hoped to catch them against a deep blue autumn sky...rats. But we still loved ever minute.
The trail is 4.4 miles RT with 670-ft elevation gain and drops down into a couple of ravines, across a few washes, along some narrow (but not scary) ledges, and ascends the bases of three, spire-studded rock fins. You eventually emerge onto a long, high ledge with killer vistas of the Colorado River Basin.
Overcast skies, while annoying, turned out to be the least of our complications: we hit the top just in time to see dark clouds and lighting sweeping our direction. What with high, open spots being really lousy places to be in a thunderstorm - not to mention those gullies/washes to cross - we scrambled off our perch and made tracks for safe ground. The good news? Made it to the car minutes before the clouds opened and chalked up another good reason for a return trip to Moab. DO THIS ONE!
Note: Vault toilets but no water at the trailhead so bring plenty along. The route is largely exposed and scorching in summer; morning climbs will be cooler. Do not do this one with rain in the forecast. The towers are also a hot spot for rock climbers.
Extra note: Citibank shot a commercial here very shortly after our trip. The first brief shots were done at Dead Horse St. Park but the remainder is a pinnacle of Fisher Towers called Corkscrew Summit of Ancient Art. The woman on top is world-reknown traditional climber Katie Brown, and her companion is Alex Honnold; probably the best solo free climber on the planet. Yes, the climb was real and the tilted rock she's standing on is not solidly anchored: it moves. Yikes. You can see the commercial here.
Splore runs adaptive whitewater rafting programs out of Moab, Utah for people with disabilities and special needs. Their trips are FANTASTIC! The staff is awesome, they make great food and best of all, they are just amazing when it comes to taking care of people, no matter their ability level. Seriously, if you want to get out and go on a rafting trip in beautiful, southern Utah, check out www.splore.org.
Three miles round trip. A lot of people in July during 100 degree heat didn't make it to the arch for a lack of water and shade. You can view Delicate Arch from the lower parking lot or do the hike. 480 feet of elevation gain - seemed like a lot more.
You will need to go to the Wolfe Ranch parking lot to start your journey. Be careful because there are a few areas close to the arch that have drop offs.
The 52 foot arch has a great backdrop with the La Sal Mountains. I like the Utah license plates with the Delicate Arch displayed.
You can view the delicate Arch from the lower parking lot if you don't want to do the hike. The arch looks very small from that vantage point.
Make sure and ask the Rangers any questions you may have. Also, make sure and get a park guide so you know where you are going and what there is to see. I always tell people who visit our National Parks to start out at the Visitor's Center. You can find a lot about how the park was made and some history too.
Allergic to the Great Outdoors? Go to New York - you'll be miserable here. Everyone else? This could be the best vacation you ever had. Proximity to the Colorado and Green Rivers, acres of slickrock, countless towers and slot canyons, and miles and miles of both paved and off-road paths make more big fun for adventure travelers than anyplace I've ever been. Add in the most drop-dead gorgeous scenery anywhere and you've got yourself one 10-star experience. Providing gear, tours, training and advice for slickrock bikers and 4-wheelers, canyoneers, rock-climbers, kayakers, bladers and rafters is what the good folks of Moab do best so whether for solo or group endeavors, they have exactly what you need.
The excellent Moab website is the best place to start: tons of great information there. The locals are your next best, once you hit town, as being able to spend their leisure time doing all of the above is often the very reason they chose to call Moab home.
My only caution would be not running off to your first big encounter with the landscapes alone - especially not if you're a novice. The high desert, while beautiful, is not to be taken lightly. Falls, dehydration, sunstroke, near-drownings, frostbite and a host of other nasties are good ways to ruin your day - and your trip - so go make sure you have the right gear, find a buddy, keep an eye on the sky, and heed all posted warnings. At the very least, always, always tell someone where you're going and when you're expected to return if heading off the beaten paths.
Sadly, this is one of the more vandalized sites on the route but I'm giving it special mention because it's near the mouth of a pretty box canyon that's worth a side wander. The petroglyphs are easy to get to: just a stroll from the parking area and behind a protective fence. The canyon is also a peaceful, primitive (no water) camping area with 8 walk-in sites scattered along the creek near the mouth to a large pothole pool at the rear. Cool, shady and quiet, it's a nice alternative to busy N.P. grounds and fills early:
After a look at the petroglyphs, just jump on the trail and follow it along - being careful not to disturb any campers - a short distance to the pothole and back. If you're lucky and there has been a recent rain, you might catch a waterfall cascading into the pool. Along the way you'll see vines of the lovely-but-poisonous white moonflowers (Datura or jimsonweed) that give the canyon its name.
Special mention: if you should happen to be a flutist, I'm told that this canyon has some pretty awesome acoustics so bring along your instrument!
This is the best of all the "Rock Art Tour" stops but also the one that involves the most work. High up in a rock alcove overlooking Hwy 191 is a very old and very rare panel of Barrier-style pictographs. Some of the first images of this type to be studied were in the canyon of that name (now called Horseshoe Canyon) out in a detached section of Canyonlands National Park; you can read more about a great hike to those in my Canyonlands pages. Pictographs from this era often date between 2000-9000 years old and no one really knows what they mean but many theories suspect that they were shamanistic in nature and symbolistic of death and rebirth or transformation into animal spirits. These are especially interesting because later prehistoric people superimposed white shields, and even later Fremont and Ute cultures pecked outlines around the old figures and added animals, reptiles and post-16th century figures on horseback.
These were unfortunately not the last hands to add their mark: in the 1980's, vandals tried to remove the figures with cleaning fluid and wire brushes, dimming and scarring the once-bright images. The site has been repaired as well as possible but the original colors can never be restored. Faint to begin with (I pushed the contrast on 2 photos for visibility), they all but disappear in sunlight so are best shot in the early morning when the panel is in shade.
Parking is in a lot on 191 north of Moab, on the righthand side, abt. 1/2 mile after crossing the Colorado River. Walk across Courthouse Wash on the footbridge, and then uphill to the panel at the base of the cliffs. Look closely at photo 4 and you'll see a tiny white dot, just right of the big boulder in the center: that's the shirt of a photographer we climbed up with, and the approximate location.
We were having a post-hike brew at Woody's and noticed a creek just below the patio with a paved trail running alongside; hmmm, let's take a look? Turns out it was a stretch of several-mile Mill Creek Parkway: a local beautification/recreation project that provides a traffic-free route from various point A's to point B's around town. Families with wee tots can use the trail to get to the musical playground/picnic area at Rotary Park or for a safe, low-key pedal on a bike from one of the rentals around Moab. It's also nice for blading, jogging, dog-walking or an after-dinner stroll.
Campers at cool, shady Up The Creek Campground (seasonal - small tents only) can jump on the the parkway for a short amble to downtown restaurants and shopping, and several hotels and inns border the creek as well.
The website lists all the fun stuff to see along the way. It's a work in progress so expect more paving (some sections are still dirt) and activities as they raise the $$ to make that happen.
I'll give this one a mention 'cause it's a cheap and easy way for non-hikers or people not visiting the national park to see an arch. It's on a dirt road spur off of Potash Road on the tour (see link for the brochure below) and there's a small panel of petroglyphs below and to the left of the jug handle. To see them well without binoculars you have to make the climb or look with the zoom function of your camera.
Ancient hunter-gatherers and later indigenous peoples carved (pertroglyph) or painted (pictograph) images of animals, people and mystical shapes into desert-varnished rock faces and sheltered alcoves in this area. They are too often referred to as "rock art"; a term I find misleading as archeologists believe they are far from purely decorative.
Some think they were a form of worship while others believe they could be records of important historical or astronomical events. Or all of the above. So while none of them really know for sure what the squiggles, footprints, animals and otherworldly anthropomorphic (human) forms mean, they have a rough idea how old they are and which groups of people carved them by the age of other artifacts found nearby and specific attributes of the images themselves. For instance, bows and arrows first appeared in this region around 500 A.D, and horses not until after the Spanish brought them in the mid 1500's. Sometimes the age of the surface they've been etched into is a clue, and older figures are darker than more recent additions. More recent images are sometimes superimposed over older ones, too.
Moab has a number of these which don't involve long hikes to see, and a nice road tour of where to find them. While not all of them will be accessible to folks unwilling or unable to make a climb, others are located right beside a road or just a short, easy stroll away. You can download the brochure for the tour from the link below, and I'll cover a couple of my favorites in separate tips.
Moab has a terrific info center where you can get the skinny on road conditions, hotels, restaurants, trails and park info, and pick up brochures for things to do in the area. It also has a gift shop and interpretive displays. If you're unsure about weather before hitting the trails, this should be your first stop!
The "Discover Moab" website I'm including here is also a GREAT resource for planning your trip: probably one of the best tourism sites I've seen. It has a ton of well-organized information, and brochures you can download before you go.
Wonderful place to stay in Moab. Spacious rooms, just right for our family of 5. I was impressed...more
The Lodge is located about 14 miles from Moab and its lights. This backdrop was used in several...more
A very nice and stylish (Gecko theme) hotel in the centre of Moab. Big, clean and very comfortable...more