Activities, Arches National Park, Cycling, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, United States, Utah

Desert Escape Part 3: Navajo Rocks & Arches National Park

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Our first full day in Moab! After a cozy night in our cabin, we got an early start on what would be a busy, tiring day starting with a 17-mile mountain bike ride at Navajo Rocks and ending with some hiking in Arches National Park.

Navajo Rocks is my favorite mountain bike ride in Moab. Full disclosure – I am not one for extremely technical terrain and my mountain bike is really a cross-country race bike so I like to stay on the tamer side of Moab. However, I still think Navajo Rocks can appeal to a wide spectrum of riders, and just has absolutely amazing views and a variety of terrain. We parked in the main lot off of Hwy 313 (this is the same road that takes you to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park), and rode the loop clockwise. I had always traditionally biked counter-clockwise, and wow, clockwise is so much better!!

Navajo Rocks is best enjoyed with stops to soak in the views!
One of the slickrock portions of Navajo Rocks
Gotta throw a photo of my bike in here!

Once we were done with mountain biking, we headed back to the cabin for some lunch and changing for two-footed adventuring. Our first stop was in downtown at the Moab Information Center so I could get my Parks Passport stamp for the Old Spanish National Historical Trail. This is a great information center for the surrounding area, and has an amazing gift shop.

Stamp achieved, it was time to get ready for exploring in Arches National Park! The highest density of natural arches in the world is found in Arches NP – something like over 2000 of them! The area was designated a national monument in 1929 and finally got national park status in 1971. Arches is often visited as part of a tour through all the southern Utah National Parks, where there are a lot of (that’s a bucket list for me one day to go tour through all of them on one massive road trip!) – or as a quick jaunt for those in the area for mountain biking or off-roading.

I’ve been here so many times but first time taking a photo with the sign! First trip for the Adventure Dinos, too!

I’ve been to Arches National Park four or five times previously and have never, ever had to wait in line to enter. My luck ran out… 45 minutes we sat in line, patiently. 45 MINUTES! It was crazy, but I suppose that is how travel is shaping up to be in 2021. The ranger thanked me for having my ID and annual pass out and ready for her, and we were through the entrance gate in a jiffy. The park has had to implement entrance restrictions, sometimes 3-5 hours long, during the summer of 2021, and trailheads are often filling before 7:30am. Some contrast to my earlier trips in 2012, 2013, and 2017! (I’ve also always have visited in either October or April, outside of the summer travel season, to be fair.)

Our first stop was the visitor center so I could get my passport stamps. My stamp excitement wore off on Sarah, and she ended up buying a passport to start stamping which made me kinda crazy happy (I love sharing nerdy things!). There was a line to get into the visitor center, but it was not a long wait. After filling some water bottles that we consumed during our lovely wait to enter, it was time to head to Devil’s Garden for a hike.

Driving through Arches is always awesome
Before Devil’s Garden we made a quick stop at Skyline Arch, which is just a super short walk from a parking pull out which is marked.
Rock formations near Skyline Arch

Typically every time I’ve been in Arches I’ve done the sunset hike to Delicate Arch, and maybe drove through some other areas, but otherwise I’ve never really checked out other hikes. For this trip I picked out Landscape Arch, leaving it open to extending the hike to some other arches if we felt up to it. It’s the desert, so waterfalls are scarce, so chasing arches it would be! Devil’s Garden is an 18 mile drive from the entrance, and has a large parking lot (this is also where the campground is located in the park, which is a great place to stay if you can nab a spot!). The trail for hiking here loops over several miles if you do the whole thing, and there are several spurs. I’d say the portion to Landscape Arch is the most heavily trafficked as it is less than a mile one-way from the trailhead, and then it gets more primitive beyond that, involving some scrambling.

When you try to photograph the trail map but get an abstract selfie instead!
Desert scenes at the start of the trail

We decided to check out Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch on the way out, which are on short spur trails that added maybe a mile to the hike. I must say, Pine Tree Arch was really awesome!

Tunnel Arch
Closer view of Tunnel Arch. Photographing in the afternoon was challenging. I think this hike would’ve had better lighting conditions if done in the morning
Another arch spotted in the distance while heading to Pine Tree Arch
Pine Tree Arch, which I absolutely loved!
The other side of Pine Tree Arch
Pine Tree Arch
Using another photographer for human-size scale at Pine Tree Arch

After the short spur, we rejoined to the main trail to Landscape Arch.

The path to Landscape Arch is wide and improved. They say it is accessible as well.

Landscape Arch is the 5th longest arch in the world, and longest in North America. It has been getting thinner and thinner as rock slabs crumble from the bottom, like was caught in a lucky photo in 1991, and is only 6 feet wide at its thinnest point. Therefore, the trail going right underneath it is closed. This is kind of one of those things I was happy to see, as you never know how long it will last!

Landscape Arch!!
Landscape Arch really is really thin!
Landscape Arch
We hung out here for a bit!

We were tired and hungry after getting done with our hike. I decided to drive to the lower viewpoint of Delicate Arch so Sarah could see it, leaving us with the best quote of the trip: “That’s it?” Subpar Parks review right there, Sarah! It was crowded with no parking, so a sunset hike probably would’ve been frustrating anyways with those crowds (one day I really should dig out my amazing photos I’ve taken over the years at Delicate Arch and blog about it!). We hightailed it out of there, and I vowed to come back maybe in the winter when there would be no crowds and maybe I could see some of the other stuff I hadn’t had the chance to.

Views heading back to the car at Devil’s Garden
Met this lil’ one on the trail
Delicate Arch telephoto from the lower viewing point. So many people up there!

Back at our cabin we cooked up some dinner and ate some amazing cake we picked up at City Market, and tried to get to bed early as we had VERY early alarms set to beat the crowds to Canyonlands National Park in the morning.

We had quite the spread going on for dinner, including a fantastic cake!

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