Tuesday, 10-June – Moab Valley RV Resort to Arches National Park
Trip miles: 50 miles
Route taken: US-191 N → Park Road → US-191 S → UT-128 → US-191 S
Average Gas mileage: 27.5mpg
Weather: warm (58F) and calm in the morning, hot (95F) with some breeze in the afternoon at 4025 ft.
Elevation: 4025ft to 4829ft
- hiking to Delicate Arch and around the primitive Loop
- The Windows Arches
- driving north along the Colorado River on Scenic Byway UT-128
Another early day to hike the 3-mile Delicate Arch Primitive Loop. Even arriving at 7:15 there were lots of people already on the trail. This morning felt like today would be even hotter than yesterday and there was very little shade on this trail. By 9:30 we had stopped at all the formations accessible from the road to Delicate Arch. We were early enough to still get a parking spot near the Delicate Arch trailhead but when we left at noon we made one car in the long waiting line very happy. We drove down to see the Windows formations, getting a parking spot there before the lines started. The view from the back of the unique Windows formations is definitely worth taking the time to hike the short and easy trails to see. We could see how the Parade of Elephants got its name but the Garden of Eden formation escaped us. There was not much shade on those trails and we were getting hungry. Except for the picnic area much further up the road near Devil's Garden the only other shady picnic spots we knew about were back at the Visitor Center. We left the remaining viewpoint stops for tomorrow and drove straight back to the Visitor Center. After a relaxing lunch and a nice chat with an Ohio family the hot weather seemed to be a good time for an air-conditioned drive northbound on UT-128, following the Colorado River through the canyon it has cut near Moab.
The river was very high today - right up to its banks - due to some rain further north in the mountains. Near Moab the wetland area was a little flooded but there was apparently no danger of a flood since the rains had ended. The 15 miles we drove, just to the La Sal Loop Road, are mostly managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The other side of the Colorado River is managed by Arches National Park. There are picturesque, but primitive, little campgrounds every few miles in the BLM Colorado Riverway Recreational Area section. There is no water available (other than from the Colorado) so these spots are especially nice for self-contained campers. However, there were many tents there as well. At mile 14 is the Castle Creek Winery and the historic (and famous to some) Red Cliffs Lodge. The historic lodge was originally a working cattle ranch owned by George White. He promoted the Moab area to movie people in Hollywood and in 1939 the first movie, Stagecoach, starring John Wayne was filmed in the area. There is still a ranch associated with the lodge, mostly to offer horseback riding for guests.
RECOMMENDATION: For an even more refreshing escape from the afternoon sun in Arches and Moab, drive the La Sal Mountain Loop all the way around and back to Moab along UT-128, La Sal Loop Road and US-191. Although the concentration of formations is not as dense as in the National Park this scenic drive has some interesting sights and a chance to cool off at the higher elevations of the Manti-LaSal National Forest.
It was still hot and had clouded over. Maybe a shower might feel good? We relaxed for the rest of the day and visited the little Swammy park again to eat our dinner. At sunset we watched a few small bats doing their part to reduce the insect population above the campground.
Delicate Arch Primitive Loop – This 3-mile hike has a small elevation change of about 480 ft., most of which is up a large slickrock incline. Just before the arch comes into sight the trail works its way across a narrow ledge. There is an unnamed arch above where the trail starts across the ledge. Climbing over a little more slickrock at the end of the ledge we saw the arch and a huge slickrock bowl below us. And a lot of people! They were climbing everywhere, taking crazy photos and celebrating as if they had just climbed Mt. Everest. Did I mention how interesting the people-watching is in National Parks?
The Windows – This is a 1 mile loop trail with a gentle slope leading to views of three arches, North and South Window and Turret Arch. We returned to the parking lot via the slightly longer primitive loop to see the two windows from the other side, where they look like a pair of eyeglasses. At the bottom end of the same parking loop we walked the short trail to sit in the cool shade under the Double Arch. The second arch can not be seen from the parking area. It comes into view about halfway along the trail and is best viewed from under the first, larger arch.