This spring, upon leaving Canyon De Chelley we headed to the Moab area. The main draw to the area for us were Arches and Canyonlands National Parks but there are a few gems on the route that we took advantage of.
To get there we traveled from Chinely, AZ North on 191 then East on 163 towards the town of Mexican Hat, diverting on 261 to stay at Goosenecks State Park. This location gave us access to Monument Valley, Natural Bridges National Monument and Valley of the Gods. Goosenecks State Park offers a small dry camping area overlooking the 1,500 ft deep San Juan River valley for $10 per night. What beautiful views and sunsets!
Monument Valley, one of the “7 Wonders of Navajoland”, is a valley filled with sandstone mesas, spires and buttes that tower above the valley floor. The valley is featured in many old western movies and is referred to by John Wayne as “Gods Treasure”. We drove the 17 mile dirt road through the valley which is a Navajo operated park and not part of the National Park system. It was fun to see such an iconic area with our own eyes!
Natural Bridges National Monument is a small park offering views of three of the worlds largest natural stone bridges. We traveled the 8 mile loop through the park to view each of them. There are hiking trails leading to each, one even features some ruins, but dogs are not allowed. Although admittedly cool, this park is definitely overshadowed by the magnificence of Arches National Park. The main difference is that most of the features are actually “bridges” rather than “arches” and aren’t reddish in color.
The Valley of the Gods is sort of a small version of Monument Valley with many sandstone formations. It is also a dirt road and dispersed camping is allowed. It was a fun drive and the dogs had fun running around.
We left Goosenecks State Park, backtracked up 163 and continued North on 191 for Moab, UT. There are tons of BLM camping opportunities in the Moab area. They all have a fee ($10 or $15 per day). We investigated several however and found many of them already full (due to the upcoming Easter jeep safari) or not well suited for our rig. We returned to an area about 11 miles South of town that had a couple of campers in it. It was unmarked at the time and we asked one of the campers about the area. He said he’d been there multiple days and nobody bothered him so we decided to stay! We were there 11 days and had no issues. We have added this location to freecampsites.net. We needed to dump our tanks twice while we were there and used Farm and City General Store both times. We found them using rvdumps.com.
Moab is a 4×4, bicycling and hiking mecca. There are way too many trails and 4×4 roads to list ranging from entry-level trails for stock vehicles all the way to extremely difficult slick rock trails that even the most modified buggy style 4×4’s have difficulty with. It is home to the annual Easter Jeep Safari which draws thousands of people and their 4×4 vehicles from near and far to run trails. We did some entry-level trails/roads suggested by the visitor center, some of which were later a part of the safari weekend. We traveled Long Canyon over Pucker Pass, Shafer Trail Road which begins in Canyonlands National Park descends to Potash Road. We also traveled a combination of trails beginning at Willow Flats in Arches National Park. The latter was included as part of the “Copper Ridge” trail during the jeep safari. We were able to have a little fun in the jeep without risking damage to our only vehicle shorter than 33 ft.
Arches National Park is full of naturally occurring sandstone arches, pinnacles, fins, windows and balanced rocks. There is one main paved road with off-shoots for viewing of the formations. You can then hike up to them and most of the trails weren’t that long. There are a couple of 4×4 roads, one leading to Tower Arch hiking trail which we would love to return to. There are also ranger led walks and hikes, most notably the Fiery Furnace hike which requires an advanced ticket – also on the bucket list! Pets are not allowed on any of the trails. The park is so breathtaking and offers amazing photo opportunities at sunrise and sunset. Due to that fact the line to get in to the park at late afternoon can be quite long.
Canyonlands National Park is a large park made up of three separate areas, each divided by the deep canyons of the Colorado and Green Rivers. The regions are called Island in the Sky (North), The Maze (West), and the Needles (East). We visited Island in the Sky, a huge mesa, driving the paved roads to several overlooks in to the canyons. In this section is the White Rim road, a 100 mile 4×4 road below the rim which takes multiple days to complete. We may go back to do this at some point. We would also love to explore the less accessible and wild Maze region and Needles region which boasts colorful spires, ruins and lots of trails.
There is quite a lot of dinosaur evidence in the Moab area including fossilized tracks and bones. We saw tracks in two places, along our Willow Flats drive on Copper Ridge outside of Arches and along Potash Road on the East side of Dead Horse Point park. This stretch of road also has a huge petroglyph wall.
The town of Moab has a variety of restaurants and the typical gift shops you would expect near national parks with a focus on the 4×4 and outdoor lifestyle. There is so much to see and do here and in the surrounding areas. We’ve barely scratched the surface so I’m sure we’ll be back.
Our beloved and dearly missed Bailey lived out her last days with us in Moab. If you are in need of a skilled and compassionate vet while in the area give Moab Veterinary Clinic a call.