Ken's Journal
No. 4 - Summer 2004

Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, Moab UT - 07/21 - 07/25/2004
Days 25-29 on the road. Part I.

  Moab UT bills itself as the center of all outdoor activity in the Southwest. It may well be - using Moab as a base, you can rent a 4x4 Jeep and go off-roading, you can rent a mountain bike and ride the trails in the area, you can take a trail ride by horse or 4-wheeler, you can take a raft down the Colorado River, you can rent a kayak for the river, you can tube the Colorado, you can hike hundreds of miles of trails, you can climb a cliff and you can hire a guide or a group tour for any of these activities. Moab also offers some 45 restaurants, 16 motels and 4 campgrounds. The Colorado River is just to the north of the city.

Moab is also the base for accessing Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Arches is a couple miles north of the city and Canyonlands is to the west of the city. Canyonlands is split into three distinct archeological and management units by the Colorado River and the Green River, which joins the Colorado deep in the park. These rivers form a huge "Y" shape. The unit in between the two legs of the "Y" is called Island in the Sky and is the most accessible of the three units. Island in the Sky is a broad level mesa some 1,200 feet above a continuous sandstone bench called White Rim. Some 1,000 feet below White Rim are the Green and Colorado rivers. The access to Island in the Sky is 32 miles from Moab. The park unit to the east of the "Y" is The Needles, a landscape of rock spires, arches and canyons. The predominant features are The Needles themselves - hundreds of rock pinnacles and spires. The Needles access is 74 miles from Moab. To the west of the "Y" is The Maze. The Maze only accessible by 4x4 and then only by passing through part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The closest access in Glen Canyon is 124 miles from Moab. I didn't make it to The Needles or to The Maze - I simply didn't have the time.


The main road in Arches is an 18 mile, paved scenic drive. From this road you can see many of the major features but to see them all, you have to hike a bit. Seven of the arches can be seen with a 7 mile round trip hike from the end of the scenic drive through what is called the Devil's Garden. In addition to the paved scenic road, there is 20 miles of 4wd trails and 10 miles of 2wd trails. (4wd trails are only suitable for 4 wheel drive, high clearance vehicles. 2wd trails are suitable for 2 wheel drive, high clearance vehicles - basically, SUVs without 4wd.)

Almost as soon as you get in the park, the striking formations start. These are un-named.
This is Courthouse Towers, about two miles from the entrance to the park. There is a one mile trail running between these formations called Park Avenue. 
The Three Gossips - just to the north of the Courthouse Towers.
On the right, Sheep Rock, just to the north of the Three Gossips.  Why so named, I have no clue. Archeologists who have examined the rocky debris at the base of this and the formation to the left suggest this may have once been a double arch. The center pedestal would have been attached to the small fin in the middle.

Balanced Rock. One of the most famous features of the park. I suppose this is because it's only a couple steps from the road. There are far more spectacular balanced rocks in the area.
Hoodoos on the way into the Devil's Garden.  


More strange formations on the way into Devil's Garden. 

My token dead tree. I always include a dead tree in my journals.


Landscape Arch, spanning 306 feet and arguably, the most graceful arch in the park. There used to be a trail that took hikers up under this arch. In 1991, hikers in the area thought they heard cracks of thunder from distant clouds. Hikers under the arch heard loud cracking and popping noises overhead. They fled the area as they were pelted with small rocks tumbling from the arch. Minutes later, a 60 foot long slab of rock broke away from the arch and fell to the ground. (No one was injured.) 180 tons of rock had dropped from what is now the narrowest part of the arch. The park service has chosen to leave the trail to the arch closed even today.


Next, more around Moab - Part II.


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