5 Parks, 1 Weekend

For our 1-year anniversary, The Traveling Geiger and I set out for a long, adventurous weekend in Moab! I’d never been there before, and the sheer amount of outdoor possibilities was slightly daunting. Despite a bit of stormy weather, we made the most of our 5 days!

Our first stop was Arches National Park. We knew visiting on a weekday was our best shot at avoiding massive crowds. We hiked some of the shorter trails, and got to Delicate Arch by mid-morning.

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After stocking up on groceries in Moab, we headed down to The Needles section of Canyonlands.

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Jake wanted to do some backcountry camping, but all of the spots were reserved. We were surprised to find that there were no walk-up backcountry camping permits available here. With a storm brewing overhead, we found a site at the normal campground and headed out for a full day of rock scrambling and hiking through sand and slot canyons. We spotted the Needles almost instantly off in the distance, and hiked underneath them before reaching a dirt road used by Jeeps. The backcountry campsites looked amazing, and there were no people there… Very disappointing for us, but we’ll be back, this time with reservations.

Chesler Park and a slot canyon were the highlights of our 13 mile loop. We managed to escape the rain, taking a different trail back to camp.

The next day we took the long drive back up to Moab, and continued on to Dead Horse State Park. It had fantastic views of the river below, although a stiff wind kept us from venturing too close to the edge.

A short drive from Dead Horse was the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands. From here, we could see a good portion of The Needles off in the distance, as well as the Green and Colorado Rivers.

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We took a short hike to see Mesa Arch and some ancient ruins.

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We drove onward to try find a campsite for the night. Everything we found was full. We were creeping along, checking reservations slips in the dark, when a young couple called us over and offered to let us share their site. We quickly popped up the tent, and borrowed a corner of their blazing fire to make dinner.

The next day we returned to hike Upheaval Dome, which we had all to ourselves. It was a strenuous hike, with a massive section of boulder scrambling, and many sandy washes with hard-to-spot cairns marking the way. We rewarded ourselves with some burgers in town, and found a decent campsite near the river.

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The next day we drove into Moab to rent mountain bikes! Jake had been looking forward to this for months, but I was a bit skeptical. After reading up on the famous Slick Rock Trail, I was sure it wasn’t for beginners. Jake had been mountain biking once, and I had never been. The trailhead is only 10 minutes from town, so I didn’t have too much time to get nervous. We buckled on our helmets and hit the trail. The shocks and seat took a little getting used to, but I have to admit, those bikes are amazing. You can take a 2-foot drop and barely feel a thing! Although we were certainly not expert riders by the end, we completed the practice loop as well as the full loop. Next time I’d rather start out on an easier trail, but the views were great and we met some cool people along the way.

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We took the scenic route back, camping near Fisher Towers. It was our most pleasant campground yet, quiet and full of cottonwood trees. We had a great final dinner by the campfire, complimented by some wine we’d picked up at Castle Valley Winery along the way.

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The next day we drove through Colorado National Monument and enjoyed the sunshine, before heading back to cloudy Denver. It was a great weekend, and just a warm-up for our full summer of hiking and adventuring. One month till we hit the road!

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