Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Armed with a stellar weather forecast, we drove 12 hours through California, Nevada, and Utah to the Red Cliffs Resort 14 miles outside of Moab, Utah. The small town of Moab sits in an ideal location near 2 national parks, the Colorado river, and miles of slickrock terrain. It is home to about any sport with plenty of accommodations and adventure planning companies. Due to the very hot temps during the summer (average temperature in June is 110 degrees), it is a great vacation spot in the fall, winter, and spring. Because it is still officially off-season, we got a screamin’ good deal at the luxury Red Cliffs Lodge that sits right on the Colorado River. The stay was clean, nice, and the staff friendly and helpful.
Day 1 – Slickrock Mountain Biking
Early morning we hit the famous, scenic, and difficult Slickrock Trail. We then rode the Moab Brand Trail System including the Rockin’ and Circle O portions. The trail system is for all ability levels with fun, slickrock sections.
We then headed to Dead Horse State Park and the often photographed viewpoint of the Colorado River. It is also the setting of many movies, including Tom Cruise’s intense opening scene from the movie Mission Impossible: 2. The Intrepid single track trail system in the park takes off from the Dead Horse Visitor Center. It is easy, very scenic, and fun. Do it.
The day completed with a 3 mile round trip hike to Corona Arch. This is a really cool hike that is a must do for every kid between the ages of 8 and 90 (at least I think). The trail sports a cable, ladder, hand and foot holds cut out in the rock and then rewards the hiker with the immense natural structure of Corona Arch. Do it.
Day 2 – Arches National Park
After getting a game plan for the day from the knowledgeable ranger at the Arches National Park Visitor Center, our goal was to hike and visit most everything in the park. Basically, we started with the Devil’s Garden Loop Trail at the north end of the park that passes by numerous arches and has fun climbing opportunities. Do it. Next area we explored was Klondike Bluffs located at the end of a 7 mile dirt road. We worked our way down the park stopping along the way for short hikes to spectacular arches and finished the day viewing Delicate Arch at sunset. This plan worked beautifully to beat crowds and enjoy the best lighting.
Arches is the perfect national park for all ages and very family friendly with dozens of short easy hikes with little elevation gain and unparalleled natural beauty.
Day 3 – Canyonlands National Park
Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are close in proximity, but are very different environments. I loved the stark contrast from looking up to incredible rock formations in Arches, to gazing down at the immense views of the Colorado and the Green Rivers in Canyonlands. We again took the helpful ranger’s advice from the Canyonlands Visitor Center for our visit to the Island in the Sky District of the park. There are 3 separate districts to visit in Canyonlands. Our first stop was Mesa Arch, one of my favorite stops. One day I would love to come back to this arch at sunrise. We again stopped and hiked at almost every important site along the drive in the park.
At the day’s end we headed to downtown Moab to walk the streets and eat dinner . At the Information Center in Moab, which has an incredible setup, Buck’s Grill was highly recommended. Buck’s Grill was a unique dining experience with a surprising menu, hormone-free and healthy food choices. I was very happy. The elk stew, buffalo meatloaf, and baby back ribs are just the best. The service, atmosphere, and reasonable prices make this eatery a must do.
Early morning before our drive home, we finished this memorable vacation with a drive to the famous Castle Rock in Castle Valley. The Red Cliffs Lodge where we stayed, has a really large and nice museum dedicated to movies that have been filmed in the Moab area, namely Castle Valley. It has tons of memorabilia and photos that are nicely displayed.
So how do you top a vacation this cool? Plan the next one to Capitol Reef National Park, of course.