People flock from all corners of the world to visit U.S. National Parks each year, and it’s no wonder that they are such a draw. America’s national parks include some of the most diverse natural landscapes in the entire world, ranging from the spire-shaped pillars of rock in Bryce Canyon, Utah called “Hoodoos”, their golden columns jutting up into the sky as if in a race to reach the sun, to the volcanic lava in Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, flowing like sheets of fire into the ocean. America boasts over 50 national park locations to select from, and with all this diversity, how in the world are we meant to choose just one to visit? Luckily, some parks are located close in proximity to one another, and Utah is the perfect state for this type of visit, as you can easily rent a car and drive. We visited Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Deadhorse State Park (this one is not a National Park, but it is located conveniently close to the other two parks, so many people visit all three in the same trip.) We spent a total of five days in Moab, Utah, where all three parks are located. We visited in mid-April when the weather was starting to warm up, but the crowds were still at bay.
Below I will include a sample itinerary including things to do, where to stay, and drive times to each location.
There are several options for motels and hotels within Moab. We stayed at the only hostel in the area, called the Lazy Lizard Hostel, at only $35 per night. The room was tiny, the restrooms are shared, and the mattress was not the most comfortable, but for $35 it was good enough for us. For families looking more for comfort, there are several chains in the area such as Super 8, Motel 6 and La Quinta Inn & Suites, which would be more comfortable for families.
DAY 1: Arches National Park
Sitting at just over 4,000’ elevation, Arches National Park is a popular choice amongst national parks visited in America. Arches National Park attracts people from all walks of life including biking and outdoor adventure enthusiasts, retired couples, and families. We spent a full day exploring and hiking to the various naturally-formed wonders.
DAY 2: Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is just a 30-minute drive from downtown Moab, and you’ll want to be sure to fill up on gas in Moab before heading out, as service stations are sparse once you’re on the road. Bring plenty of water and lots of snacks for a full day of hiking and exploration. The views were otherworldly and too spectacularly monumental for words, so allow me to show you in photos.
DAY 3: Bike tour through slick rock in Bar M, Moab
We did a tour through a company called Escape Adventures, operated out of Moab Cyclery downtown. They were very responsive and got us on a last-minute tour, which we had all to ourselves since nobody else signed up for that time slot! Our awesome guide was Ryan, a fellow adventure traveler and van life advocate. The bikes they use are the Specialized brand, which are top-of-the-line mountain bikes with great shock and suspension meant for adventure riding. This was one of the most fun activities we participated in during our trip! There are options for family rides as well, so if you have kids who are able to ride a bike, they can participate in the tours! Advance reservations are recommended, especially during peak season.
After 2.5 hours of biking, we were exhausted so we took a break at the Grand County Public Library to catch up on emails and correspondence since there is no reception anywhere outside of downtown Moab. The library is a beautiful and clean building with floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor courtyard in the sunshine. It has free 5G Internet if you’re looking to get some work done during your holiday.
DAY 4: Deadhorse State Park for Sunset
Deadhorse State Park is located at the same entrance of Canyonlands, about a half-hour drive from downtown Moab). This State Park is not part of the National Park system, so the annual pass is not accepted here. The fee is $15 per vehicle (up to 8 people) and it was well worth it! We did the 5-mile rim trail and got to Deadhorse Point lookout just in time for sunset (7:45 PM in early April). The rim trail was spectacular and felt as if we were on a deserted planet.
Where to eat in Moab:
After a full day of exploring in the sun at relatively high elevations, food will be at the top of your mind at the end of an adventure-packed day! Here are some great restaurants we frequented during our five nights in Moab:
Arches Thai: we ordered the Tom Kha soup (coconut and lemongrass-based), green curry with chicken, and pad Thai with tofu.
El Charro Loco: Mexican
Love Muffin Café: great for breakfast and take away sandwiches if you’re going on a hike. Remember to pack your own food because there are limited options within the parks.
If we had the opportunity to stay longer, we absolutely would have! Moab stole a piece of our adventure souls, and we will return someday! Here is what we spent (as a couple) on our five-day trip:
Eating Out: $330