Arches National Park is another example of the amazing and otherworldly landscapes found on the Colorado Plateau. It is one of the largest concentrations of natural arch formations in the world. The orange sandstone formations, jutting up from the land, are the result of millions of years of erosion and weathering. We got a backcountry permit so that we could camp overnight inside of the park. We hiked out a rustic path that followed a natural gas pipeline that crosses the park and then across some slick rock until we found a nice camping spot on top of the rocks. On one side we had a view of the snowcapped La Sal Mountains. After a very peaceful night’s sleep, we hiked back to our car and drove to the Devil’s Garden Trailhead. (In Arches, like most of the national parks, the distances are huge and you have to drive from point to point.) We did a great 3 hour hike through Devil’s Garden which took us past many arches, including the 306 foot long Landscape Arch. Since it was a Saturday, the park was packed and we had trouble finding a picnic spot. We ended up stopping in a pull-out on the side of the road and setting up our chairs and picnicking there facing some amazing rocks with our backs to the road. When we inquired about camping on Saturday night, everything was full of course. We ended up finding a private campground that basically let people camp in a big open muddy field next to the Colorado River. It turned out to be a pretty decent (and warm) spot.
On Sunday, we went to the Islands in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park (about 30 miles from Moab.) This park also has some wild rock formations, carved out by the Green and Colorado Rivers. I think the main draw is the access to 4-wheel roads that take you down in to the canyon. We chose to stay at the top, and do the scenic drive, which took us to some pretty spectacular sights. One of the sites, the Upheaval Dome, is an area of gray rocks that have been pushed out of the earth. We don’t know what the cause was, but scientists have several theories including a meteorite impact, volcanic activity or a salt eruption.
We slept in Green River again, at the Sleepy Hollow Motel, an old-fashioned motel with furniture from the 70’s/80’s. The scenery around Moab was amazing, but it was a little frustrating fighting the crowds. I guess we’re used to having our run of the place now…but summer and California are coming.