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Make the most of your time in Arches, whether it’s a day trip or a long weekend

Dina Mishev

Unless you’re an avid hiker or photographer, Arches doesn’t need three days. But because the landscape around the park is fairly spectacular too, and because there’s so much to do in Moab, the town five miles from the park’s entrance, there’s plenty to fill the time.

DAY ONE: MOAB AND ARCHES

Fuel up. Start with one of the best breakfasts in Moab—the one-pound breakfast burrito at Eklecticafe.

Sense of place. Because the line to get into the park is longest in mid- and late-morning we’ll begin our adventures by hiking to the top of the Moab Rim, which is not in the park. Several miles west of town off Kane Creek Road, this is a great place to practice walking on slickrock, which is actually amazingly grippy. (Most of the trails in Arches have sections of slickrock.) Skip the Stairmaster Trail above the parking lot in favor of walking up the undulating sandstone. Nine-hundred feet above the parking lot, you’ll be on the Moab Rim, looking at the La Sal Mountains, Arches, Castle Valley, and the Colorado River. And you’ll have the hang of hiking on slickrock.

Roger, ranger. Finally, it’s time to hit the park. The Visitor Center just inside the entrance is the place to check on upcoming ranger-led programs and see art by the current Community Artist in the Parks. 

Drive By. Take your time driving north from the Visitor Center on the park’s sole road. Learn about and see the park’s petrified sand dunes at a lookout several miles in. Stop at the Balanced Rock lookout and don’t miss the spur road to the Windows area. Along the northern part of the road you can see Salt Valley and the 400-foot towers of the Fiery Furnace.

Dinner, with a view. All of the tables at the Cowboy Grill in Castle Valley have a view of the Colorado River and a towering band of red cliffs. The attached working ranch and adventure lodge are named after the latter.

DAY TWO

Breakfast with locals. Red Rock Café & Bakery makes both sweet (cinnamon) and savory rolls as well as bagels fresh every morning.

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See another park. While you wait for the line to get into Arches to get shorter, drive the one-hour to Dead Horse Point State Park. Mellow hikes wind around the point, a peninsula 2,000 feet above the Colorado River.

A river runs through it. Outfitters offer mellow trips on the Colorado River as it passes by the Fisher Towers area. Guides also float Cataract and Westbrook canyons, which have class IV rapids.

Pedal power. Check out Moab’s 10+ miles of pathways. Start at the junction of U.S. 191 and Utah 128 and ride alongside the Colorado River for a couple of miles.

Downtown down time. On Main St., treat yourself to a massage at Moab Spa.

Fine dining. Keep the pampering going with dinner at Moab’s best restaurant, Desert Bistro.

DAY THREE

Rev your engine. Sign on for a sunrise Jeep tour of one of the dozens of 4x4 trails in the area.

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Mother Nature’s playground. If you’ve managed to snag a permit for the Fiery Furnace or a spot on a ranger-led tour, head there. No permit? The east side of the loop around Devils Garden offers a similar experience.

Sweet treat. Since there are no dining options in Arches, pop into Sweet Cravings Bakery & Bistro to get supplies for an evening picnic at Delicate Arch.

The best for last. Whether you hike to the base of Delicate Arch, or drive to one of the two viewpoints of it, this will be a highlight of your trip, especially since you’ve timed it for about an hour before sunset, and you’ve got that picnic dinner with you.

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