Sunday, June 3, 2018

Trip Itinerary - Utah - Moab - Arches - Canyonlands - Monument Valley - 5 days/4 nights

We were planning for this outdoor trip of Utah for couple of years now. Last year we had planned to do the same plan during the Memorial day long weekend, only to find out couple of days before the trip that Memorial day is one of the busiest weekend and the wait time to get into the park may be few couple hours. Since we had planned only for 5 days, we cancelled the trip. This year we implemented the same plan but wanted to beat the Memorial day crowd so visited the first week of May. The weather was just perfect an amazing with early 70's as it rained few days before we landed.

Utah is known for the numerous National Parks, and people usually do more than 1 week trip to cover all of them. Since we had already seen Zion national park, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon, we limited this trip to see the Arches, Canyon Lands and Monument Valley.

Day 1:
Landed in Salt Lake City Airport at 9:30 AM. Rented a full size car at the Avis car rental. The service was really good and we were Avis Preferred Customers, the full process was very fast. It was a nice a sunny day not too hot - early 70's. We took a quick deviation to the SLC downtown as we wanted to check out the Temple Square and Capitol Building.
Parking was not an issue as there were lot of free 2 hour parking. As it was a Thursday around 11 AM, the roads were pretty empty. We parked in the intersection of North Main Street and 200N. This was walkable distance to the Temple Square and Captial Building. We took a sort walk to the Temple Square - beautiful place!

From here a short 20 minute walk through the State Street will take you to the Capital Building. There is a visitor center just opposite to the building where we collected maps for the remaining of the trip.

Walk back to the car - around 15 minutes.
The next stop was to stop in some store to pick up some water and food for the remaining of our trip. There were many Target on the way and we stopped in one of them.
Next Destination - Moab! It take a good 3 hour 30 minute to reach Moab.

There was a Dinosaur museum on the way, but we decided to skip it.
We had our booking in Comfort Suites for the next 4 nights.
In the evening after checking in, we took a stroll in the downtown. A nice little town indeed!
My son had some ice cream at The Spoke on Center.

There is a wonderful organic store - The Moonflower Groceries. The variety of food you get there is just Wow! Name it and it is there. The quality of food is really good. They also have a salad and soup bar.

Day 2: Arches National Park
We planned to spend today in Arches National Park. The park was 10 minutes form our hotel. We entered the park around 8:30 AM and it was literally empty - no line in the entrance!

Quick stop at the visitor center to grab the map and the trail list.

First stop was the Delicate Arch Trail. The ranger said to go here first when we are full of energy and there would be parking in the morning. This Arch is known for the sunset view but the Ranger advised us against it as we have a 5 year old and it would be dark on the way back.
Reached Delicate Arch at 9:30 AM.

This trail is not an easy one and be prepared for a 3.2 mile round trip on the steep rocks. Carry lots of water! It took us 3 hours to get back to the parking lot.
Though the hike is strenuous, the view of the arch is totally worth the effort!

Back at the parking lot, had some lunch and a short break.

Next stop - Upper and lower arch view point - this is for people who do not want to hike the delicate arch but still see it.

We took a quick stop at the Fiery Furnace viewpoint.
Sand Dunes Arches - is a short 0.2 mile loop and fun place for kids to relax and have fun in the sand.
Devils Garden - We took the hike to view the landscape Arch - 1.6 mile.

Windows Section - This is a must see easy accessible place with 4 beautiful arches. We were tired to do this loop hence saved this for another day.

Balanced Rock -  Short walk around the balanced walk.

We made few other quick stops on the view points on the way to the exit, and by then we were very tired and headed straight back to our room.

Day 3: Dead Horse State Park and Canyon Lands National Park
We started our day a with a nice breakfast at the hotel and headed to the Dead Horse State Park.
Stopped at the visitor center to gather more information and maps. The visitor center had a nice look out section to view the scenic view. Took the short nature trail walk.

Drove to the Dead Horse View Point which was about 5 minute drive and spend a good 30 mins digesting and enjoying the mind blowing view!

We made a quick stop at a juice bar in the visitor center and grabbed a lemonade and strawberry smoothie to beat the heat. It was yummy and cooled our temp down a bit.

Next stop - Canyonlands National Park:
Canyonlands National Park is a vast one and only part of it is paved. It is divided into 3 parks each with different entrance. The one we visited was Islands in the Sky - the park with most paved road.

First stop was the visitor center to talk to park ranger and get details about the park.

Grand View Point Overlook - The park ranger suggested we go here first. It gives a majestic view of the landscape as the name suggests - Grand View.

White Rim Overlook - There were picnic tables here so enjoyed a quick picnic lunch.

Drove through the Buck Canyon Overlook for some quick pics and the breathtaking view.

Green River Overlook - 

Mesa Arch - One of the highlights and must do spot is the Mesa Arch. It is around 0.6 mile loop fairly easy trail.

By this time it was already around 6 PM and we were super tired. Headed out the park. On the way we drove through the Potash Road - a scenic drive through that is not to be missed.

This spot is known for rock climbing we were able to see many people climbing the rocks. We drove for around 20 mins one way before we headed back. If you want to wet your legs in the Colorado River banks, this is the spot. There are many turnouts where you can park and get a quick dip in the river.
 We were done for the day, headed back to the Hotel, made  quick stop at Milt's Stop and Eat to grad some fries and shake. We went there because of the outstanding reviews. The food was good but the wait time was too long - more than 45 mins.

Day 4: Windows Section of Arches & Monument Valley

We had booked the jeep tour at Monument Valley for around 3 PM and had the morning free. So thought we could finish the Windows Section at Arches, that we missed the other day. Glad we made this choice as it was worth every minute.

We headed back into Arches around 8:30 AM, the entrance was free. We drove straight to the Windows section. With a short trail we could see 3 arches - North, South window and the Turret Arch - fairly easy to walk and not to be missed. 

Right across the parking lot was the double arch - another couple of minutes walk.

After this we headed back to the hotel room, had lunch and took a short break before heading to the Monument Valley.

We started around 12:30 PM and it was a 2 hours drive. There was pretty much nothing to see on the way except few scenic spots to click the pics.

One of the not to be missed spot is the Forest Gump spot, the place where Forest Gump stopped running. 

Next stop was the Monument Valley, Entrance fee is $20. We parked at the visitor center parking on the left side and spent some time before our tour started. 

After spending around 30 minutes digesting the breathtaking view, it was time for our tour. We had to wait in the lobby of the Hotel.
We booked through Viator - Monument Valley Safari and highly recommend taking this tour. It was worth every penny. It costs $120 with a promo code for 2 people and kids free.
We had booked a 2.5 hour tour and luckily since it was the last tour of the day, our tour guide Jean was kind enough to make it a 4 hour sunset tour. 
She explained very well, giving us detail on every location, stopping every where to take pics and enjoy the view.
John Wayne Point - 

It was around 8 PM by the time the tour was over and we had a long drive back to Moab. We reached around 11 PM. Pretty hectic but wonderful day!

Day 5: Head back home

Last day of the trip and we had a long drive back to SLC to fly back to San Diego. We did have few hours to spare in the morning and took the Hwy 128 scenic drive along the Colorado river. We tuned back after 30 mins to head back to the airport.

We reached the airport just in time for our 4 PM flight.

Back to home sweet home!