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Moab area day trips

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Moab area day trips

Postby AlexeyD » Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:36 am

Hi all,

I am planning a trip with my girlfriend to the eastern Utah desert in March. We will have about 5-6 days. Ideally, we would like to see both Arches and Canyonlands. I am looking for suggestions on good destinations within a day's hiking distance. Long hikes - 10-15 miles round trip or so - are OK. Also, any advice on a good, strategically-located spot to set up base camp would be really appreciated. I know that Willow Flat Campground in the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands is one option, but perhaps there are better ones someone can recommend?

Thanks in advance!
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Postby AlexeyD » Mon Feb 08, 2010 2:55 pm

Thanks 1000 pks! Speaking of tourists - in your opinion, how crowded would it be this time of year? We will mostly be there mid-week.
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Postby COTrekker02 » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:53 pm

March can be busy, but really not too bad. The weather is great that time of year so you get spring breakers in the area. We went in late March/early April last year and we had plenty of elbow room.

For hikes, you need to spend a day wandering through Arches and doing many of the short hikes that take you to the main attractions. The couple mile hike to delicate arch is amazing, and I would recommend doing this in early morning or late evening.

I also recommend the Needles district of Canyonlands. It's about 60 or so miles south of Moab and also takes you by Newspaper Rock, which is cool. One great hike is the 6 or so mile (one way) hike to the confluence overlook (Green and Colorado) and that is an awesome hike and you won't see anybody. You will run into jeeps at the end of the route, however, as there is a jeep road that ends up near the overlook as well... The Needles district was virtually empty when we were there.
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Postby Stu Brandel » Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:17 pm

Went to Moab last year in March with my son http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/513060/M-Arch-Moabness.html.

Here are my favorites from that trip and others:
Arches: Devil's Garden Primitive Loop (early in AM)
Had excellent experience with Desert Highlights outfitter for a Fiery Furnace Scramble/Rapelle in Lomatium and Krill Canyon.

Canyonlands (Needles): Elephant Hill to Druid's Arch; or Loop of Lost/Squaw/Big Spring Canyon

Canyonlands (Island in the Sky District): Syncline Loop
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Postby AlexeyD » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:37 pm

Thanks all for the suggestions. We had in fact originally intended to go in the fall, but had to postpone due to schedule issues. I don't think that's too bad, though - being from New England, fall colors don't impress me nearly as much as desert canyons and towers :).

1000Pks wrote:
Speaking of tourists - in your opinion, how crowded would it be this time of year? We will mostly be there mid-week.


It'll probably depend on the weather. By my standards, I've never seen it that bad where you couldn't get a parking spot at any TH. You should be O.K., but for that ranger led hike to the Fiery Furnace, you need to get reservations. Ditto for any lodging and camping, maybe, to be sure.



Reservations for camping? My understanding was the all the campgrounds at least in Canyonlands are first-come, first-served - maybe this has changed recently?
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Postby Scott » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:33 am

Ideally, we would like to see both Arches and Canyonlands. I am looking for suggestions on good destinations within a day's hiking distance. Long hikes - 10-15 miles round trip or so - are OK. Also, any advice on a good, strategically-located spot to set up base camp would be really appreciated. I know that Willow Flat Campground in the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands is one option, but perhaps there are better ones someone can recommend?


Recommended base camp would depend on what kind of vehicle you have. If you have a 2wd car, Willow Flats is OK, but I would recommend Squaw Flat (or Needles Oupost if full) in the Needles District as being the best trail hiking area for Canyonlands.

If you want to stick to trails, here are the best ones in Canyonlands IMHO (* indicates 4wd needed, the rest are easily passable by 2wd's). I've spent decades exploring the area, so there is a lot more to see than the ones below, but these are my picks of the best.

Island in the Sky

White Rim Overlook
Grand View Overlook
Upheaval Dome
Fort Bottom*
Lathrop Trail

Needles

Upper Salt Creek
Druid Arch
Chessler Park
Joint Trail
Davis Canyon* (some trails exist, but are not marked)
Lavender Canyon* (some trails exist, but are not marked)

Arches

Devils Garden/Primitive Loop
Marching Men/Tower Arch
Eye of the Whale* (short)
North Window/South Window/Double Arch (short)
Sand Dune and Broken Arches (short)
Fiery Furnace (permit required)
Delicate Arch

If you like off-trail routes, here are some of the best ones:

Island in the Sky

Monument Basin* (best of the best in the Island in the Sky)
Steer Mesa
Junction Butte (shorter with 4wd, but doable from Grandview Point)
Musselman Canyon*
Confluence Overlook via White Crack*
Holeman Slot Canyon* (short)

Needles

Davis Canyon to Horse Canyon*
Big Pocket
Lavender Canyon exploration*

Arches

Upper and Lower Courthouse Wash
Ring Arch
Lower Salt Wash
Klondike Bluffs

The Maze is also part of Canyonlands National Park, but it's also quite a ways from Moab, so I didn;t list my favorites there.

Outside the National Parks and in the Moab/Canyonlands area, here are my picks for the top hikes:

Fisher Towers
Onion Creek
Professor Creek
Corona/Bowtie Arches
Behind the Rocks/Pool Arch
Trough Spring Canyon
Harts Draw

As far as crowds go, some trails can be crowded in March (especially Delicate Arch, Devils Garden and the short ones in Arches NP and Fisher Towers plus Corona/Bowtie Arch), but the area is big enough that you can always find solitude. Most of the trails outside the ones mentioned shouldn't be that crowded. The other trails might have some people, but usually aren't that crowded. Chances are on the off trail routes mentioned, you probably won't see anyone.

The NPS official trails are mostly pretty short, and you can do all of them in the Island district within a half day or so


Round trip distances for NPS official Island in the Sky Trails:

Neck Spring Trail = 5 miles
Lathrop Trail = 10 miles
Mesa Arch = 0.5 miles
Aztec Butte = 1.5 miles
Wilite Trail = 10 miles
Alcove Spring Trail = 10 miles
Whale Rock = 1 mile
Syncline Loop = 8 miles
Uheaval Dome Overlook = 1 mile
Upheaval Canyon Trail = 6 miles
Moses Trail = 2 miles
Murphy Wash/Hogback Trails = 10 miles
MurphyPoint = 4 miles
Gooseberry Trail = 6 miles
White Rim Overlook = 1.5 miles
Grand View Trail = 2 miles
Fort Bottom Trail = 2 miles
Gooseneck Trail = 1 mile

You can hike 81.5 miles in half a day? Wow; that's pretty impressive. :wink:

There's also the Grandview to Monument Basin Trail which adds another 8, but the NPS doesn't like to advertise it.
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Postby Day Hiker » Thu Feb 11, 2010 1:09 am

Great post, Scott. A person could probably spend a good part of a lifetime in Canyonlands and not get bored.

Here is a crude map showing many of the Island in the Sky district trails that Scott mentions. Note that the mileages on the map are one-way, and the descriptions below are round-trip.

(pdf): http://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/upload/island.pdf

And the official NPS CANY map page:

http://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/maps.htm
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Postby Vagabond Manifesto » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:37 am

I live in Moab, but Scott has covered it well!

Best trail in the two parks: Syncline Loop in Canyonlands (Island in the Sky District)

Most bang for your buck: Mesa Arch in Canyonlands (Island in the Sky), Delicate Arch in Arches

If you want to "go big" and have the place to yourself: Red Lake Trail in Canyonlands (Needles District)

The BLM lands around the parks are just as beautiful...
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Postby AlexeyD » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:51 am

Wow - thanks Scott - that's definitely a great list to start from! The 4x4 info is also useful, as we will mostly likely not have one (sometimes the rental place will give you one because that's all they have available, but since we'll be driving in all the way from Denver I'd rather save on the gas $ and take my chances with a regular 2wd.) Speaking of which - you mentioned a slot canyon in the Island district that is 4wd-accessible only - are there any that are reachable with 2wd?

Vagabond - you raise a good point mentioning BLM land, as I believe you can usually camp there for free with minimum restrictions. Any good suggestions, or do you think it's better to just stick with the official campground? No pressure, though - if, as a local, you don't feel like giving away info like that to random people, I totally understand :)
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Postby Vagabond Manifesto » Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:17 am

AlexeyD wrote:No pressure, though - if, as a local, you don't feel like giving away info like that to random people, I totally understand :)


Ah, it's no problem, we all live somewhere! Along Highway 313 (which is the road that goes to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands), the BLM has the Horsethief Campground, which never seems very busy. Minimal fee. It's just a few miles from the park entrance. There are some smaller BLM sites along that highway too.

Highway 128 and Highway 279 both follow the Colorado River right outside Moab and have multiple first-come, first-served BLM campgrounds. In March these might be fairly busy with Spring Breakers and early-arriving jeepers, but there are a lot of sites. At-large car-camping on BLM dirt roads happens a lot (hear no evil...), you might want to bring a portable toilet in that case.
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