travel

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Moab, UT

Arches National Park

Windows Loop and Double Arch

Difficulty: Easy

To get there: Drive 9.2 miles up the Arches Entrance Road and take the first right after Balanced Rock into the Windows Section of the park.  Follow this road until the end (2.7 miles) to the circle for Windows trail. North Window, South Window, and Turrett Arch are on the right side of the parking lot and Double Arch is on the other side.

Distance: 1 mile loop for the Windows and 0.5 miles (total) out and back for Double Arch. Both are leisurely trails.

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North Window
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South Window
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Turrett Arch
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Double Arch

Delicate Arch

Difficulty: Moderate. It is a steadily uphill trail with no shade coverage.

To get there: Drive 11.5 miles up from the Arches Entrance Road.  Turn right at the Delicate Arch turnoff. The trailhead and parking lot are on the left side of the road.

Distance: It is 3 miles (total) out and back to get up close and personal, but there is another parking lot you can drive to so that you can admire it from a distance.

This is one of the most popular and iconic hikes in Arches National Park.  We just made it for sunset (left the parking lot at 6:30 pm for 7:30 pm sunset) with about 15 minutes to spare for getting a spot and getting out my camera. I wish we had gotten there a little earlier to get more of the orange glow I got in one of the pictures below. There were a lot of people there, which was understandable when I saw the arch in person.  Everyone was very respectful and stayed on the perimeter of the scene, but would run in and out from under the arch to take pictures.  You will also see Wolfe Ranch, a homestead built by a disabled Civil War Vet that he inhabited from 1888 until 1910, and Ute Petroglyphs.

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Devil’s Garden– includes Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch, Landscape Arch, Black Arch Overlook, Partition Arch, Navajo Arch, Dark Angel and Double O Arch

Difficulty:

  • Easy to Landscape Arch
  • A little more difficult to Double O Arch. One climb up some slickrock, but it wasn’t too bad. I read some complaints about heights, but I didn’t notice much.
  • Long trail with some scrambling and slickrock on Primitive Trail.

To get there: Drive 19 miles up the Arches Entrance Road; this will be all the way at the end of the main road.  There are only 150 parking spaces, which were all taken when we got there.

Distance: 

  • 1.6 miles to Landscape Arch and back
  • 4.2 miles to Double O Arch and back
  • 7.5 mile loop all through Devil’s Garden on Primitive Trail
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Devil’s Garden Map

This hike allows you to see up to six arches. The first trail takes you to Landscape Arch.  You have the option to either turn back or go to Double O Arch. You get a great view of the fins and get to look out onto Black Arch. From Double O Arch, you can continue on to the Primitive Trail to do a loop.  As you can see, there a bunch of spur trails you can choose to do.  We only did Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch for the spur trails.

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Landscape Arch
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A little past Landscape Arch. There is slick rock and a little bit of a scramble to get up.
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The Fins
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Double O Arch
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Looping back on Primitive Trail

Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch

Difficulty: Easy

How to get there: Drive 6.3 miles past the Island in the Sky Visitor Center and turn left into the parking lot.

Distance: 0.6 mile leisurely loop

I’ve heard this is a good hike to do right before sunset.  The sun comes up right behind the arch and illuminates the inside of it. I heard it gets very crowded and everyone huddles around the arch.

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Grand View Point Overlook

Difficulty: Easy

How to get there: Drive 12 miles past the Island in the Sky Visitor Center all the way to the end of the main road.  You will pass Mesa Arch to get here.

Distance: 2 miles (total) out and back

This trail walks along the rim of the canyon.  You have the same view for about a half mile and then you’re able to see out from both sides of the mesa.  You get a good view of White Rim Road from this overlook.

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Fun trick: send a picture like this to your mom

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Outside of the parks

Corona and Bowtie Arch

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

How to get there: Turn off Hwy 191 onto Potash Road (about 4 miles north of Moab before Arches National Park). Follow the north side of the Colorado River for about 10 miles. The parking lot will be on the right hand side.

Distance: 3 miles (total) out and back

This was my favorite hike of the trip.  I found both Bowtie and Corona arch to be impressive and loved that I could bring Louie along! We brought snacks and ate under Corona Arch.

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Start of the trail

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Corona Arch
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Tough part of the trail for dogs
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Bowtie Arch

Poison Spider Trail

How to get there: This trail is on the same road as Corona and Bowtie Arch. Turn off Hwy 191 onto Potash Road (about 4 miles north of Moab before Arches National Park). Follow the north side of the Colorado River for about 6.2 miles. The parking lot will be on the right hand side.

Distance: I read that this is a 13 mile trail, however we only did a short hike to the petroglyphs.  We also tried to find the dinosaur tracks, but these weren’t well marked, so we couldn’t find them. Hug the rock closest to the river for the petroglyphs.  I believe you do the same thing for the dinosaur tracks, but go further down.

We stopped here on our way to Corona Arch and Bowtie Arch.  We were also allowed to bring Louie here.

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Petroglyphs

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Slickrock Mountain Bike Trail

Difficulty: Extremely difficult

How to get there: From south of Moab on U.S. 191 turn right at first traffic light onto 400 East. Proceed for 1 mile to Dave’s Corner Market and Millcreek Drive. Make a right onto Millcreek Drive and proceed for ½ mile to stop sign. Go straight at stop sign onto the Sand Flats Road that continues up a hill for 2 ½ miles to the entrance booth.  We rented bikes and rode them up to the entrance booth; it is all uphill and one of my friends turned around because of how difficult it was to get there.  I recommend renting a bike rack or using a truck to drive up to the bike trail, especially if you aren’t used to the altitude.

Distance: 2.3 mile practice loop or 12 miles for the real deal

I saw a few dogs on this trail, but there was no shade coverage and obviously a lot of mountain bikes.  I’ve never been mountain biking before, but I’m pretty sure this was not the best place to learn.  Even the 2.3 mile practice loop was very difficult. It was an experience to say the least.IMG_1057


Where we stayed

Purple Sage Flats– This had 2 beds, a full bathroom, a family room, a fully equipped kitchen, a grill, a hot tub, and bike storage. It is dog friendly with a pet deposit.  We loved that we were able to walk to downtown and cook our own food, especially since most the food in Moab was just OK.


Favorite place we ate

Desert Bistro– Our friend wanted to get something he wouldn’t typically get living in the northeast.  It was expensive, but worth it if you want one big night out. We ordered:

  • Baked bacon wrapped dates stuffed with chevre, drizzled with pomegranate molasses
  • Rabbit, figs, house-made onion jam & chevre in phyllo with lingonberry honey
  • Duck Confit wrapped in risotto & breaded in panko with coriander & cilantro, served over duck stock reduction with shallots, garlic, ancho chile & habanero, accompanied by arugula tossed with black beans, Anasazi beans, toasted speck & citrus-ancho dressing
  • One of the entree specials, which was bacon-wrapped bison with a glaze, roasted vegetables, and mashed potatoes

Know before you go

  • Go to Arches and Canyonlands before you to go Zion
    • The hikes in these 2 parks are a warm-up for Zion. I found Arches and Canyonlands hikes to be much more easy and accessible than those at Zion.
  • Arches and Canyonlands are better for biking and off-roading.  Zion is better for hiking.
  • There is a lot more to the town in Moab than Zion. We liked walking around Moab at night to get ice cream and souvenirs.
  • We tried to bar hop, but forgot about the law in Utah that requires you to buy food any time you get a drink
    • Speaking of alcohol, there are no happy hour drink specials
    • All draft beers are 4% alcohol or less. Buy canned beer at restaurants if this bothers you.
  • There are new fees for national parks. It costs $25 per vehicle to enter, so if you know you’ll be going into the parks for at least 4 days or you will be going to another national park in the country at some point in the year, buy the $80 year-long pass for all parks
  • Camping permits in the parks cost $25 per night, but camping on BLM land is free

Sample Itinerary

  • Day 1: Travel day. Hike up to Delicate Arch for sunset. If you get there early enough, you can easily do the Windows, Double Arch, and Delicate Arch in the same day.
  • Day 2: Drive up to Island in the Sky and hit Mesa Arch and Grand View Point Overlook.  These are short hikes, so you can also check out Dead Horse Point State Park (dog friendly). We didn’t go to this since there was a $15 entry fee and we had already bought a national parks pass.  We didn’t do False Kiva trail, but that would be a good one to add to this day as well.
  • Day 3: Explore Devil’s Garden.
  • Day 4: Adventure Day- Go mountain biking, rent an ATV or jeep, go skydiving, or get a tour via plane just to name a few.
  • Day 5: Corona and Bowtie Arch with a stop at Poison Spider Trail.  This is perfect for the last day if you brought your dog and need a dog-friendly hike after check out.

Things I wish I’d done

  • Camped 1 night
  • False Kiva Trail in Canyonlands
  • The Needles part of Canyonlands
  • Fiery Furnace in Arches (the permits were sold out when we got there, but you can get them up to 7 days in advance)
  • Rented an ATV instead of mountain biking
  • Stopped at Klondike Buffs on our way out of town to see the dinosaur tracks
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Awesome sunset at our friend’s campsite just outside of Canyonlands Island in the Sky entrance

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