Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Arches and Canyonlands (Moab, Part II)

When making your way around Moab—eating at restaurants, shopping at grocery stores, hiking the trails—you’re likely to hear a lot of different languages. That’s because this tiny town in the desolate Utah desert is something of a recreational mecca, due to its proximity to not one but two iconic and world-famous national parks. People come from all across the globe to bike the slickrock trails, hike the slot canyons, see the arches, ride ATVs, and enjoy all the other recreational opportunities the area has to offer.

And... Well, I don't really have anything else to say about that. Let's start over.

So it comes to this: The last two parks in our grand tour of Utah’s “Big Five.”

At this point, we’ve been traveling for five days straight, and we’re both pretty tired of driving and moving from hotel to hotel every night.

But still, we’ve got to drive the full Arches scenic route.

I think I saw these in Cappadocia...
And we’ve got to climb up to enjoy the mind-boggling view of Double Arch.

An adorable baby arch just beginning its journey into full archhood

And catch a glimpse (from afar) of Delicate Arch.

There’s not much to say about Arches, other than to comment on how otherworldly the whole landscape feels once you climb up that slope and enter the plateau. So many geological wonders abound in such a compact space.

We don’t have enough time—but, fortunately, this is one of the two Utah parks (the other being Bryce Canyon) that I managed to explore more in-depth before moving away.


The next morning—and our final day of the trip—we drive into Canyonlands. We’re in a rush at this point—we have to check out of our hotel, and then make it back to Las Vegas to catch some sleep before our early morning flight. So we take a whirlwind tour to end our whirlwind trip—and we’re more or less running from place to place.

First we take the short hike to Mesa Arch, another iconic spot. Unfortunately, it's swarming with people—and the intense sun lessened the impact of what could have been some really cool shots. Fortunately, a million other photographers have already taken all these pictures.

I love how desolate the landscape looks beyond the arch

Then we’re off to Upheaval Dome—a giant hole in the ground that they're now pretty certain was formed by a large meteor impact many millions of years ago. For a long time, scientists weren't sure whether it was formed by a collapsed salt dome (?) or the aforementioned asteroid—but then, a few years ago, some researchers discovered "shocked quartz," which can only be formed by a high-velocity and high-pressure impact. So the impact crater theory is confirmed. (Sorry, my geology nerd is coming out again.)

You can't really get the scale of the thing in the photograph—but if you google Upheaval Dome, you'll get some really cool aerial pictures that show the series of concentric rings around the crater. In fact, click here for a good one.

I know I've said this a few times while blogging my Utah trip, but I’m fascinated by spots like this that reveal our planet’s dynamic history and the immense forces that have impacted (sometimes literally) and shaped it. The surrounding desolate landscape—there’s not a car or town in sight, just an endless vista of sun-drenched rock—makes it even more impressive, and briefly you feel like you might have actually traveled back to some primordial era.

I’d like to walk the full rim of the crater, but unfortunately it’s time to get going. I run back along the trail, jump into the car, and we get back to Moab just in time to check out of our hotel and hit the long, long road back to Vegas.


  1. Another set of great pictures. Love all the arches pictures. I had never heard about the crater before. So glad you had the link to the aerial view of the crater. Amazing history hidden in the rocks of Utah. An adventure to be proud of.

  2. Awesome pictures Tim! Your posts make me want to explore southern Utah more. :)