Back in September, I traveled to Utah for a long weekend to visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The breathtaking beauty, stunning scenery, and eclectic local restaurants all made for an incredible experience. If you're planning a trip to this beautiful region of the country, here are some of my favorite things to eat, do, and see.
The Food Tank: This vegan food truck made all my dreams come true. It's a hidden gem in Moab that proved surprisingly difficult to find, but it was worth the hassle. The menu included a variety of delicious vegan options, and I had a lovely conversation with the owner. My dinner, which consisted of the roasted beet salad (topped with fig balsamic, cashew cheese, and micro greens), was incredible.
Eklecticafe: I stopped here for lunch after a busy morning in Arches National Park, and I thoroughly enjoyed my simple plate of scrambled eggs, potatoes, and gluten-free toast. I loved this quirky cafe's great selection of gluten-free meals and desserts, and the hippie, eklectic vibe (seeeeee what I did there?) was really fun.
Peace Tree Juice Cafe: I dined here on more than one occasion because I was obsessed with their quinoa bowl, which came with avocado, brussels sprouts, sauteed spinach, and tahini. So simple, but so good. They also offered a long list of fresh juices and smoothies. The Autumn Rush, made with apple, ginger, and carrot, felt like a ~*fall explosion*~ in my mouth.
Love Muffin Cafe: Whenever I travel, I try to seek out a gluten-free bakery...and Love Muffin Cafe was a great find. I had the tastiest gluten-free apple carrot muffin here, along with the best breakfast of my life. If you go here, get the potatas bravas! Potatoes tossed in a caramelized sauce of onion, garlic, tomato, spinach, and feta, with two eggs on top...y'all. It was heaven on a plate.
It was extremely hot when I visited Moab (in the high 90s), so I mostly stuck to short, simple hikes that didn't require excessive physical exertion. I saw a ton of incredible sights, though! I'll also list some of the noteworthy hikes I didn't get a chance to complete.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
North of Moab, bordered by the Colorado River, lies Arches National Park. This gorgeous, red-tinted landscape is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. It's unlike anything else on the planet. Arches contains the highest density of natural arches in the world (yup, it's named approprateiyl), and it's home to a variety of unique geological formations (spires, rocks, and fins).
- Skyline Arch: This is an extremely short hike, but the rock span at the end of the trail is beautiful. Definitely worth visiting because it's so easy to access. (0.4 miles)
- Sand Dune Arch: This was one of my favorite rock formations in Arches. You have to wiggle through a narrow slot canyon to reach it, and there are plenty of spots to explore along the way. (0.8 miles)
- The Windows: The North Window and South Window arches are fantastic to photograph, and the views are breathtaking. This is a great section of the park to visit because you can find many well known formations here. (1 mile)
- Landscape Arch: This is the largest arch on the planet. Pretty cool, huh? (2 miles)
- Park Avenue Trailhead: This is one of the first major attractions you hit when you enter Arches. The Three Gossips, the Courthouse Towers, Queen Nefertiti and Queen Victoria Rock, the Organ, and the Tower of Babel are all visible from the trailhead. The view is absolutely stunning. (1.8 miles)
- Delicate Arch: This hike was incredible. I got started at 8am because the afternoon heat was brutal, and it took about 2.5 hours to complete. People always rave about this arch, and now I know why. (3 miles uphill)
- Fiery Furnace: This hike is a natural labyrinth of narrow passages between huge sandstone walls. First time visitors are encouraged to complete the hike with a ranger because there's no established trail. I didn't complete this one, but it gets incredible reviews. (2 miles)
- Devils Garden: This hike allows you to see six natural arches. Many reviews say this is the best hike in Arches! I didn't complete this one, but if you have the time and the resources, you definitely should. (7.8 miles)
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
This national park is a colorful maze of canyons, mesas, and buttes. It's divided into three distinct districts: Islands in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. I spent most of my time in Islands in the Sky. I drove through The Needles because I wanted to see the sandstone spires, but I skipped The Maze since it's the least accessible district.
EASY HIKES (ISLANDS IN THE SKY)
- Mesa Arch: This is one of the most popular landmarks in Islands in the Sky. The arch dangles on the mesa's edge, and the view is stunning. (0.7 miles)
- Whale Rock: It's quite a short hike to this bizarre dome/crater formation, but the view from the top is fantastic. (1 mile)
- Shafer Canyon Overlook: This view is INSANE, you guys. The sheer drop to the valley below is slightly terrifying (if you're afraid of heights, beware). It's truly astonishing, though. There aren't enough adjectives to describe the raw beauty of this viewpoint. (0.3 miles)
- Grand View Point: If you're looking for an easy walk around the canyon rim with a gorgeous view, this is where you want to be. (1.8 miles)
DIFFICULT HIKES (ISLANDS IN THE SKY/THE NEEDLES)
- Aztec Butte: This hike is quite unique. It climbs a steep slope to a dome-shaped butte that rises above the mesa. A loop around the top of Aztec Butte provides fantastic views into Taylor Canyon. This hike is located in Islands in the Sky. (1.8 miles uphill)
- Druid Arch: This is a long, light trafficked, desolate hike in The Needles with incredible scenery. It can be difficult to navigate, and there's a bit of rock scrambling involved, so come prepared. (10.4 miles)
DEAD HORSE STATE PARK
Located on the edge of Canyonlands National Park, at the end of a mesa 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, Dead Horse State Parks sits high and mighty. The park might have a questionable name, but the views are unbeatable. The landscape of Dead Horse is ever-changing, with canyons, vertical cliffs, and an extreme desert environment. I loved all three parks that I visited, but this was my favorite one.
Rent a 4WD. If you opt to go at your own pace with a rental car instead of hopping on a bus tour, make sure the vehicle is 4WD. This is really important if you want to go off-road.
Bring plenty of water. If you visit during the summer months, bring more water than you think you'll need. The heat in Moab is merciless. I actually bought a cheap cooler, filled it with ice in the mornings, and packed it full with water, juice, and snacks.
Preparation is key. Since I didn't complete any super long, strenuous hikes, I didn't need much besides hiking shoes and a daypack filled with water, snacks, a whistle, a compass, a knife, and a flashlight. Pro tip: If you rent a car, stop at your nearest Walmart and buy a big, cheap cooler. Fill the cooler with ice each morning and pack drinks and refrigerated snacks (like veggies, deli meat, and fruit). Let's be real - Nothing ruins a good time like hanger. Clothing depends largely on the season. In colder weather, you'll want fleece-lined leggings and an insulated jacket. During the summer, sweat-wicking fabric is great. If you plan on camping, you'll need more than the standard gear listed above. You can find a complete list here.
Be aware that you won't have cell phone service. While driving around Arches, I'd suddenly get service in random spots around the park. Dead Horse was the same way. However, Canyonlands was a dead zone. Keep this is mind, especially if you're planning on using your phone for directions. Download maps before entering the park, and jot down any important information in the note section on your phone.
Don't forget to look up at the stars. The stars in Moab were unlike anything I've ever seen before. They practically sparkled...like a glittery bath bomb had exploded in the sky. It was incredible, and my hour spent stargazing is one of my favorite memories from my trip. You know how they say, "Stop and smell the roses"? Well, stop and look at the stars. You'll be happy you did.