From ski slopes in the north to the red rock formations in the south, Utah is a state with tremendous natural beauty. We have been lucky enough to drive through Utah on many occasions on our cross-country drives for work. One of our favorite stops was a days-off visit to the city of Moab and some nearby parks.
We drove down from Salt Lake City and made it to the area near sunset, making for some dramatic colors. Stopping at Dead Horse Point State Park on our way into town, we were able to do some late-afternoon exploration. The sun warmed the sheer rock walls and we played at making giant shadow shapes. Reds and oranges cooled to rosy purples until darkness finally set in. It was a perfectly clear night, and the starry sky was punctuated by a bright, half-moon. If you’ve ever seen the movie Thelma & Louise, the famous end sequence was filmed at Dead Horse. There were several other scenes filmed in the area as well. The film 127 Hours was also filmed near Moab.
The town of Moab is located about 30 miles south of I-70 in south eastern part of Utah. Tourists as well as some thrill seekers come from all around to check out the local landscape. The area is very popular for mountain bikers as well as off-roaders with their 4 wheel drive vehicles. In the surrounding area there are trails where people take out everything from Jeeps to custom-built rock crawlers to test their nerves and their driving skills. Others opt for hiking, canyoneering, hot air ballooning, horseback riding and rafting on the Colorado River. After a long day out exploring, head over to Moab Brewery for a locally brewed beverage. We highly recommend the Black Raven oatmeal stout!
For our “spendy” activity, we decided on a canyoneering trip with Desert Highlights into Arches National Park. A guide is required to enter this part of the park, known as the Fiery Furnace. It is a very fragile ecosystem and also potentially dangerous for the unprepared. Our guide Ben was great. Not only was he helpful with proper technique tips but he was very knowledgeable about the rock formations themselves. There are some 2000 rock arches (the largest density in the world) within the park, along with balanced rocks and other interesting and unique geological formations. Nature has worked some real wonders here in the way that the winds have reshaped the sandstone.
Canyoneering is a term used for making your way through and around canyons and rock formations. It can include hiking, climbing, scrambling, rappelling and even swimming! I’m pretty sure we signed some sort of waiver before heading out in the morning; it was very intense at certain moments. We felt like explorers looking out over the sprawling landscape from the top of the rocks. Looking down over the edge of our first, long rappel was exhilarating. Once strapped safely in, over we went. I could keep my feet on the vertical wall to a certain point until the rock curved under, and the last 30 feet or so were a free-fall where you had to control your own speed. Later portions of the hike included more scrambling and careful foot and hand placement on narrow ledges. One funny moment was when I was scooting down a rock face on my backside. Apparently I caused so much friction that it burned through my back pocket and my cash and ID went plummeting to the canyon floor. Fortunately, I was in luck, because we were heading down in that direction. It was fairly easily accessible, and only had to be retrieved from a small puddle! The shorts didn’t fare so well.
We did some driving around Arches on our own the following day doing some short hikes to visit some of the famous aches and formations. Each formation different from the last, this is truly a special place. The balanced rocks seem as though a giant just picked them up and set them atop of the spires they rest on. Other formations might make your giggle if you use your imagination a bit.