Pictures and notes posted here: http://www.pbase.com/pudgy_groundhog/moab2013
We found ourselves with some extra vacation time this year and slipped in a quick trip to Moab over Thanksgiving week. Since this was basically a bonus vacation we were trying to be as budget as possible. The best plane tickets were flying into Denver for Friday-Friday, so we ended up having four full days in Moab after flying/driving. Definitely shorter than our usual vacation, but hey, we'll take what we can get! Random note about Denver - we stayed one night on either end of our trip and I would highly recommend the Aloft by the airport. Really enjoyed our stay there. In Moab we stayed at the Bowen Motel and liked it (price and location were good).
We planned to spend most of our time in Arches and around Moab. We did plan for one day in Island in the Sky/Dead Horse. We both had been to the Needles section before and enjoyed it, but opted to stick closer to Moab on this trip. When we arrived there was a bit of snow in Arches, but luckily by the time we hiked the trails were mostly clear. We had a lot of fog/clouds which busted sunrise and sunset several days and totally wiped out our Canyonlands day. I dragged my husband and daughter with me for sunrise at Mesa Arch and nada. Thick fog. We hung around the park for awhile, but the fog didn't show any signs of breaking so we admitted defeat and returned to Moab.
Anyhow, what we ended up doing:
- Devil's Garden loop hike. Including side trails, about seven miles (we did the loop counterclockwise). Really enjoyed it* - saw a lot of arches and fins. Favorite arches were Partition and Double O. * One caveat ... I did this hike ten years ago and didn't remember anything particularly difficult about the hike, but this time I thought I was a goner on a nasty patch of slick rock. Even my husband who's a climber, part mountain goat, and not fazed by anything thought it was dicey (everybody else we met that day who had done the same section thought it was scary too). The next day I was talking to a ranger and the hike came up. He said there was a rescue there this summer when somebody broke their leg on it and some people turn around and hike all the way back instead of going down it. We're experienced hikers and it gave us pause, so just thought I'd mention it for anybody considering the hike.
- Fiery Furnace ranger led hike. Loved it! I did a guided trip through Lomatium Canyon years ago with Desert Highlights, but never the ranger hike. We all really enjoyed both the hike and the ranger talk. I think the hike is only around two miles, but it took us over three hours with the scrambling and other maneuvering and stopping for the ranger talks.
- Delicate Arch for sunset. Another short hike (three miles RT), but more elevation gain. We saw a lot of people coming and going around this time, but only a few stayed for the actual sunset. If you can, stay, because those minutes of the orange glow are spectacular. We started hiking back shortly after sunset and there was enough light to easily hike down. We used our headlamps/flashlights only near the end.
Besides hiking/seeing the sights, I enjoy photography. I was up for sunrise each day and mostly thwarted by the fog. :( But did get a good one at the Windows section of Turret Arch through the North Window. To get the shot you have to walk through the window and scramble up some rocks. Looking at it from the window it looks harder than it actually is. Morning light was also nice at Courthouse Towers.
Besides Delicate Arch for sunset we liked Balanced Rock. Walk across the road and back a bit for a nice panoramic shot. The rocks were incredibly red at sunset and could see the snowy mountains behind - lovely! Most people were on the small hill on the other side of the road, but I don't think that's the best angle for pictures because Balanced Rock gets lost against the rocks behind it. If you go down the hill to the left there is a better vantage of Balanced Rock.
Our only complaint about the trip was the food. We were pretty disappointed in food options for dinner, although we did like Paradox Pizza. I'm sure we would've liked Desert Bistro - but more than we wanted to spend. Breakfast options were good.
Thanks to everybody who answered questions. We had a great trip!