…and some of Canyonlands too!

(Canyonlands neighbors Arches and it’s pretty do-able to visit both in a day, which I completely recommend, especially if you want to see MESA ARCH at sunrise, pictured above. Please don’t miss that!)

But first a little back story:

A few months ago, a couple of Lucy’s Young Women leaders called me with some worry about girl’s camp this summer. They were going river rafting up in Moab and they were worried about how Lucy would fare with all that it involved. They wondered if I would like to come along.

At first I pushed back against that idea. Lucy is fiercely independent and does not want help from anyone, especially not her mother at girls camp. And also, to be honest, I was thinking there would be something kind of awesome about sending my girls off and getting some time by myself with Dave. Part of me felt just as sad as Lucy does that she warrants more help than other kids her age. But as time went on and I talked things through with Dave, (which involved lots of prayer and agonizing and worrying), we both felt like it would be good for me to be there just in case. It was going to be everything she didn’t realize she hates: dark, wet, possibly cold, uneven ground, camping, etc. So I joined the group of people making that trek up to river raft.

Little did I know how LUCKY I was going to get to be there enveloped in all that beauty with so many good people I adore, including most especially my two girls.

But that’s a post for tomorrow.

For today, let’s talk about the pre-camp adventure in two gorgeous national parks:

A couple days before we left for camp, my friend Tonia called to let me know our girls camp site in Moab was ten minutes away from Arches National Park and asked if I wanted to drive up with her a day early.

Well, I had actually been meaning to look up the same information. I’ve tried to figure out a way to get to Arches pretty much every summer on our long drives to and from Utah and have never been successful, and knowing I most likely won’t get my family to go there with me (would be tricky for Lucy), I wanted to jump on that opportunity.

The problem was that there were 525 things I needed to wrap up before I could leave. But I pulled up my bootstraps and got them done, and Tonia and I found ourselves on the wide open road leading to all that glory of Mother Earth.

A guide to one day in Arches National Park (and some of Canyonlands too)

Well…that day was split up into 24 hours with a sunset one night and having to leave the next evening, but I feel like we were really able to see it all and it was SO BEAUTIFUL!

We drove all day long with a couple speedy bathroom stops and got more and more excited as we pulled into the park with these views greeting us:

“Three Gossips” on the road above…cool right?
Balanced Rock, right off the road en route to our first stop.

Hiking to Delicate Arch

We pulled up at the Delicate Arch trailhead in perfect timing and lucked out with a parking spot and headed on up that trail to see all that beauty.

Timing is important. Sunset was at around 8:50pm. We got there a little after 7:00 so we could hike and be up there for part of the “golden hour.” We were quite amazed that our timing with all that drive time worked out!

(This hike is approx. three miles round trip. It isn’t too difficult, but as a forewarning, there is no shade and it is hot in the summer. Plan accordingly.)

Our first view of Delicate Arch was on this little landing through a little hole in the rock called the “Twisted Donut.” It was so beautiful!

We kept walking, a steady stream of fellow hikers right along with us (as well as a steady stream of hikers leaving), up around this bend…

…and then, VOILA! There we were! (Along with a bazillion other hikers:)

You know when you wait and wait to see something you’ve been wanting to see and you are finally there?

That beauty you have looked forward to is looming right there in front of you and it is so real and breathtaking that it’s almost surreal?

That is how it felt to arrive at that spot.

We were pretty happy:)

I love that at places like this, despite how many tourists there are, there is an understood hushed reverence amidst all those people gathered there to witness God’s creation.

One review I read advised to see that thing from every angle so I did.

This is what it looked like looking up:

I climbed up to see from a higher vantage point:

And a cute teenager girl offered to take my picture…I think she could see the awe and happiness oozing right out of me:

I couldn’t get enough of not only that masterpiece of a beautiful arch, in awe thinking about the hundreds of thousands of years it took to be standing there on that ledge, but I was also so enamored by the rounded mountains surrounding it.

All those rough edges worn and sanded down through the years from the elements.

And I thought of my own rough edges and how I hope they will come out beautiful some day if I let them be worked on by all the things that come my way, yet stay strong under their pressure.

Orange ribbon of light around horizon as the sun set between those wind-and-erosion-rounded mountains as we took it all in, eating our Trader Joe’s salads we had brought with us and talking to some fellow beauty-lovers.

We watched the light change the colors surrounding us over and over again as the sun sunk lower and lower behind the horizon…

And then we tore ourselves away and hiked back down in the dark…see that little flashlight of Tonia’s leading us down below?

Stopping to gaze at the beauty of the night sky as it started to fill up with it’s vast array of jeweled stars.

We got to our campsite at 11:30, trying to sneak through the gravel to our spot in the midst of lots of other sleeping tents and quietly struggled to set up our tent made much more difficult trying to do it in the dark.

About a half hour in I was just dying for that hotel bed we had thought about, HA! But we made it work and settled down to catch a few hours of sleep.

Our alarm was set for 4:00am but I woke up at 3:48 and just looked up into the sky from our open tent trying to breathe in the outdoors and also just breathe and tell myself I would be ok with so little sleep. I’m not so good at this!

But there is something so invigorating about knowing I’m about to see so much beauty and my excitement was mounting during our dark drive for…

A quick visit to Canyonlands National Park

Hiking to MESA ARCH at sunrise

I was giddy leaping up to MESA ARCH, (only a .5 mile hike, but 50 minutes from our campsite in Moab, and sunrise was at 5:40 I think…), merging in with all kinds of others all crazy enough to wake up that early to experience what we had seen in pictures: the orange glow of the sun lighting up the bottom of the Arch with the most beautiful vista stretched out below.

I could not stop smiling as we waited….again, in hushed reverence.

As the sun creeped up it started to light up the valley below.

I loved being part of that line of fellow photographers, them all set up with their whiz-bang tripods and me trying to sneak in between them to capture that beauty.

And I loved how all of them were expressing their love for this world just as I was feeling that love running through my body.

The view through the arch started out like this:

Then this:

…And then eventually it looked like this all lit up by the morning sun:

Let’s check out a few pictures to see the gradual progression.

Just a little light at first:

Then that orange glow crept across it until it was so bright.

It lingered for long enough that I could fill up my camera to the gills (and iPhone too!).

We took it in for a very long time, then pulled ourselves away and hiked back down and took our time looking at the vast vistas in Canyonlands (mostly overlooks of grand, beautiful canyons in Canyonlands as opposed to all the arches across the way in Arches National Park).

The Green River Overlook

White Rim Overlook

I love the background information, especially about Major Powell since I’m a pretty huge fan of Lake Powell.

Then suddenly we realized in alarm that Arches (where we planned to spend the rest of the day) sometimes reaches capacity and closes by 8:00am.


It was 8:45 by the time we got there and sure enough, that park had closed at least for a few hours. We were so sad because we didn’t have much time before we needed to go meet girls camp, but luckily after breakfast it opened again, and we were drenched in the beauty of arches all day.

Lugging myself up to Arch hike after Arch hike in the heat, trying to will my legs to keep moving so we could see it all. (I had just done a hard-core leg workout the one day we were in town after California and it was all setting in as we hiked, not such a good idea.)

We saw so many of those arches and drank it all in.

Hiking to other arches in Arches National Park

Let me give you a quick “tour” of those beauties. We started at the top of this map, and made our way back down:

First stop was Devil’s Garden

We had planned to do the 7.8 mile hike through Devil’s Garden, but we lost some time with the park closure, so we just headed straight to Landscape Arch.

En route we checked out TUNNEL ARCH:

…and also PINE TREE ARCH, which was turned out to be one of my favs.:

(Gotta jump a little for that one…)

Then we got to LANDSCAPE ARCH:

This one is one of the very longest…here we are to show the scale a little better (although we are way in the foreground):

(No one can climb up under this one for safety reasons…a huge section of it fell off back in the 90s.)

We went up Devil’s Garden Trail, which led us up a humongous boulder (this is going back down again):

LANDSCAPE ARCH from the other direction coming down:

Next up we drove down to take a mini hike to BROKEN ARCH:

The view from climbing up to the other side:

…and looking up:

Next was SAND DUNE ARCH, which was a welcome relief from the heat, nestled in between these gigantic slabs of red stone walls:

We drove past the FIERY FURNACE:

…which looks so cool…you have to have a guide to take you through all those little slot canyons, I’m sure filled to the brim with all kinds of hidden arches.

Then our last stop was filled up with a whole slew of arches we could see right from the parking lot.

TURRET ARCH looked pretty cool:

As well as WINDOWS ARCHES (North and south, right on a ridge together).

But we didn’t have enough time to get up close and personal with all of them so we chose DOUBLE ARCH…a good choice since it may be my favorite (aside from Delicate Arch).

Here it is from further away…see it there on the right below?

A little closer:

And closer still…check out those people down there at the bottom so you can understand the sheer size of those arches:

We climbed up inside to catch the views outside:

And up:

Fun fact that my brother shared with me when we got home: the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed here.

Kinda cool, right?

One more quick stop to see Balanced Rock (cars in the picture to show scale…can you believe that majestic thing??)

We bid goodbye to all that beauty and followed the river through the canyon to meet up with our girls…who we found also enveloped in all kinds of beauty.

Some other road trip adventures you might like:

Driving the coast of California (part 1)

Driving the coast of California (part 2)

Southern Utah’s Gorgeous Antelope Canyon

One Day in Sedona, Arizona

Another “One Day” in Sedona

A pretty grand road trip in ICELAND

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