As we crossed the border into Utah, it was still early afternoon. We had arranged a hotel in Ogden, Utah for the night and we thought that we might end up arriving earlier than we wanted, especially at the rate we’d been traveling. Moab seemed like the most ideal detour.
On the map, it looked like the perfect little loop off the highway and leading into Arch’s National Park. Chris had never been to Utah and I would continually go on and on about the amazing red rock formations peppering the southern portion of the state. When I was a kid, my parents took us there and we drove through several of the national parks. During that trip, we spent so much time in the car that, according to them, I cried when we got back home and refused to get into the car again to run errands. Moab has a very exotic, otherworldly look to it. There even used to be a camel tour there that one could take in Moab, but sadly, that no longer exists. (That would have been a dream come true!)
Chris didn’t take too much convincing and we headed off I-70 and onto the Scenic Byway of Highway 128. The terrain there is like something out of the Roadrunner cartoon. You can’t help but hear Ennio Morricone echoing from the cliff sides, and you are prepared to be ambushed by outlaws around every bend. This stretch of highway is worth the detour alone. The closer you get to Arches, the more bizarre are the red rock formations that you begin to spot in the distance.
Once you enter Arches National Park, it costs $10 for a car to get in and park, but that allows you to re-enter the park as often as you’d like for the next seven days. With admission, they give you a great big packet of information about the park with a quality fold-out map.
There’s a lot to see in the park. Ideally, you’d want to visit the Park earlier in the morning, long before the dry Utah heat has started to set in. Also be sure to bring lots of water! They happen to have a water bottle filling station just outside the visitor’s center, so you can fill up if needed just before embarking on a journey through the park.
From the road, we were able to see the Courthouse Towers, the Petrified Dunes, the Great Wall, Rock Pinnacles, the Windows Section, and the Fiery Furnace. In order to have seen Devils Garden, the Klondike Bluffs, or the Delicate Arch, we would’ve had to hike too much, so we ended up either staying in the car or walking up to the various viewpoints.
While the park is a worthy destination, it really doesn’t make the best detour to take if you have more road ahead of you. Each of the natural monuments has to be driven to and some require extra hiking to reach. A trip through the park adds a lot of extra driving time. We didn’t hike any of the trails and we skipped several of the formations, but it still took us 3 hours to get out of the park and back onto I-70.
This was the point in the trip where we realized we still had over 4 hours of driving left to go. What might have originally been a 9 to 10 hour trip turned into nearly 15 hours of driving! And until we reached the Spanish Fork on Highway 15 (via Highway 6), much of the drive toward Ogden would be big on scenery and short on towns. Be sure to get your rest stops and gas in long before then.
After all that, only Clyde the Koala – our small traveling companion – still had the energy to muster a smile: