Iconic Classics Southeast
Three days on the open roads of Southeastern Utah is just enough for a taste of two of its most iconic national parks — Arches and Canyonlands — and a few things in between. We don't use “iconic” lightly. These are two of The Mighty 5® — the standard bearers of Utah, the giants whose splendor has inspired humans for centuries.
Day one in Moab is all about the celebrities. Revel in the majestic view of one of the most famous geologic features in the world in Arches National Park — it’ll take your breath away in more ways than one. Test your mettle on possibly the world’s most famous mountain bike trail or follow a guide through a famously overlooked hike in a labyrinth of narrow canyon walls.
Day two is picture-perfect. Get up early and you can catch the first few rays of sunlight streaming through Mesa Arch and the dramatic view it frames of Canyonlands National Park. Another short hike will take you to a 1,000-foot high vantage point above the Needles District and wide-open canyonlands. Or drive to Dead Horse State Park, an even higher vantage point above the Colorado River, as it curves steeply around the canyon wall.
Day three is thrilling. You can either experience the exhilaration from a raft as you surge through the rapids of the Colorado River, or from the seat of a Hummer as you climb to the top of seldom-seen, awe-inspiring Moab overlooks.
In just a short trip you’ll tackle some of the best that Utah has to offer.
- Delicate Arch Hike
- Slickrock Trail
- Fiery Furnace
Start the day with a sunrise hike to Delicate Arch. Grab a headlamp and set out early to race the sun to the iconic centerpiece of Arches National Park. You’ll have plenty of time to tour other great hikes in Arches, including Landscape Arch and the playful Windows Section. Perhaps the most intriguing site is Fiery Furnace. Book a tour well in advance to access the fascinating puzzle of crevasses, fins and boulders. Mountain bikers will want to make haste for the Slickrock Trail. There are easy and difficult options, and places to rent bikes in Moab. Base camp in Moab.
When you come around the corner and see the full breadth of Delicate Arch, you’ll know why this is such a classic hike. At 3 miles round-trip, the hike is no simple stroll, but it’s worth every step. Carry water, hike early to race the sunrise, or stay late for the sunset. Be sure to bring a headlamp.
The Sand Flats Recreation Area near Moab is a nationally significant public lands treasure at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. It’s also home to the famous Slickrock Bike Trail. There’s a practice loop for beginners and the highly technical 10.6-mile trail known worldwide.
Reserve a tour through the Fiery Furnace. This twisting labyrinth of brilliant red rock fissures and spines is so intricate it is highly recommended to find your way through with a guide. With a permit from the visitor center, experienced explorers can enter without a guide.
- Dead Horse Point State Park
- Mesa Arch
- Grand View Point
This is a day of breathtaking views with very little hiking. Another early start can get you to one of the most photographed sunrises around: Mesa Arch. Campers may try to get a site at Dead Horse Point or Canyonlands for quickest access to the sunrise spectacle. Of course, the sunrise over Utah’s Canyon Country is spectacular no matter where you are, and it’s also an ideal hour for photographing this amazing landscape. Pick up additional photos and memories at Grand View Point, one of Canyonlands’ best overlooks.
Many visitors find Dead Horse Point State Park to be even more captivating than the views at the Grand Canyon. A visitor center and art gallery provide a wonderful introduction to the park’s geology and key features visible from the overlooks. There are also mountain biking trails and reservable yurts.
This is a perfect trail for newbies to slickrock desert hiking, and one of Canyonlands National Park's most iconic and photogenic vistas. It’s easy and short, and a detailed display at the trailhead explains how to hike the trail. The payoff is huge, especially at sunrise.
Simply spectacular. Like Mesa Arch, Grand View Point is a short, rewarding hike with excellent interpretive signage. Grand View Point’s vantage is over the distant confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. It’s perfectly clear from here why it’s called Canyonlands.
- Colorado White Water
- Hummer Tour
- Moab Dining Scene
Where will today take you? Choose the thrilling white water of the mighty Colorado River (there are also gentler, flat water options) and experience the very force that carved Canyonlands National Park, or head for the hills on a Hummer tour across the sandstone plateau. Either way, you’ve earned a good meal, which Moab serves up in abundance. Cap off your quick trip to one of Utah’s best known adventure epicenters with a relaxing evening in town.
Utah's most popular river trip, the Moab Daily, is a 13-mile stretch of the Colorado River from Hittle Bottom to Takeout Beach along Highway 128. This float can be easily done in a day. Of course, many raft the Colorado for Canyonlands’ famous Cataract Canyon. With two or more days, you can too.
There are many ways to see Moab. Some take to their feet, others use two wheels, and others soar through the friendly skies. Outside of the military, there may be no better use for the Hummer than crawling the slickrock trails that made Moab famous.
Moab has grown up a lot in the last 30 years. While still a renowned adventure outpost, the vibrant town also serves up an array of incredible dining. Here are a few options from the eclectic to the just plain good. All are highly regarded.