Moab, Canyonlands and Arches

On our recent 16 day camping trip through Utah, Arizona and Colorado, Moab was one of our favorite stops. We stayed in a campground on the edge of town with easy access to the town and both National Parks.

I wrote about our visit to Moab, Canyonlands and Arches for Mom It Forward on August 1, 2013 for the second of three posts on our trip. The first one covered the Grand Canyon. With easy access to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and a multitude of outdoor activities, Moab is the perfect destination for adventurers and families alike.


This small town has a young, outdoor, modern hippy vibe and provides a great jumping off point to explore two distinctly different National Parks. With good restaurants and cafes and great shops, Moab is a fun place to walk around and just settle into the area. From town you can take rafting trips on the Colorado and Green Rivers, mountain bike, take jeep tours of the surrounding canyons, zip-line or embark on some serious canyoneering. We took a half day rafting trip on the Colorado River through Red River Adventures, which was the perfect length to experience the river with young kids.

River rafting

Canyonlands National Park

Cut into four distinct and different regions by the Colorado and Green Rivers, Canyonlands offers hiking, canyoneering and camping at all ability levels. Established as a National Park in 1964, large portions of its 527 square miles remain undisturbed, with unpaved roads and primitive trails.

Island in the Sky district is at the north of the park and provides birds eye views of the river canyons. From Great View Point Overlook you can see the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers below the White Rim. Also along the road you are able to see Upheaval Dome, which is not in fact a dome, but a crater. One of the kids said that the canyons look like a giant fell down and made a body print in the Earth.

Canyonlands Grand View

The Needles district is accessed via the town of Monticello to the East of the park. Named for the colorful spires, it is a great location for hiking and backpacking trips. We will be visiting the Needles on our next trip.

The Maze on the west side of the park is the least accessible and remote part of the park. Bordered by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, this district is a great location for experienced hikers and canyoneers to go where few others have gone.

Horseshoe Canyon, west of the Island and accessed from the Highway 24, provides hiking to the Great Gallery, a well preserved rock art panel.

Camping is available inside the park.


Arches National Park

Arches began as a National Monument in 1929 and was redesignated in 1971 to a National Park. It houses over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. This park has many arches that can be viewed and or accessed by short hikes, making it very family friendly.

As you drive through the park the first area you come to is Courthouse Towers, large sandstone towers. Our first stop was Balanced Rock, which can be easily viewed from the parking lot or accessed closer via a short trail.

Balancing Rock

If you only have a short time in the park a great place to see several arches and windows is in the Window Section. We hiked up to Double Arch and then took the Windows Trail to view North Window, South Window and Turret Arch. One other stop a little farther down the road is the Delicate Arch viewpoint. This is the famous arch you see on Utah license plates. There is a three mile hike to Delicate Arch if you have the time.

Double Arch

For people with more time, continue down the park road and visit Fiery Furnace and Devils Garden. Easy hikes to Sand Dune Arch and Skyline Arch are available. Longer and more strenuous hikes provide access to Landscape and Double O Arches. In addition, there are ranger guided hikes in Fiery Furnace. Unfortunately we were not able to travel into this part of the park, but these are definitely on my list for next time.

Camping is available within the park.

South Window

Dead Horse Point State Park

A short side trip on the way to Island in the Sky will lead you to Dead Horse Point State Park. It is worth the 1-2 hour detour to see the view point and hear the story of cowboys trapping wild horses on this remote and narrow bluff. There is also a campground in this park.

We are already planning a trip back to Moab, Arches and Canyonlands. There is so much to see and do in this diverse area of the country.

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1 Comment

  1. susan l says:

    I’ve kayaked the Yampa river where it converged into the Green River at Echo Rock and Whirlpool Canyon (named by J. Wesley Powell) and it’s fun to see where the Green river and Colorado River converge. Would love to live in the Southwest again.

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