If you haven’t visited the prehistoric high desert area near Moab, Utah — located approximately 233 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, and 18 miles west of the Colorado State Line — you’ve probably seen it on television or the big screen.
It’s been the backdrop for dozens of movies — Westerns like Stage Coach, Rio Grande, and City Slickers, and even some of the Star Trek and Indiana Jones series, have been filmed in the area.
It’s also known for being home to some of the best outdoor adventure areas in the United States. In addition to being one of the world’s premier rock-climbing and canyoneering spots, the area sees mountain bikers roll into to town to tackle an extensive network of riding areas — including the famous Slickrock Trail — and road bikers grind it out along canyon tops and during the annual Skinny Tire Festival.
Rafters come to test their oar skills by navigating the mighty Colorado and Green Rivers. Backpackers traverse slot canyons and climb the sandstone and slickrock to find stunning vistas of the Colorado Plateau and La Sal Mountain Range.
Wherever you roam in the Moab area, keep your eyes peeled for petroglyphs of mammoths or mastodons left by the Anasazi tribe that lived in the region around AD 1300.
Here are some highlights from my recent trip:
Steep cliffs of colorful Navajo and Entrada sandstone have been and continue to be molded by water — like the Colorado River — and wind into rugged and spectacular formations.
The trail leading to Bowtie (left) and Corona (right) Arches is one of the best free short hikes in the Moab area. The single track trail is about 3 miles with moderate difficulty and features a slickrock area and a cable aid to help hikers climb a short cliff. The trailhead is accessible by taking Highway 191 North from Moab to Potash Road and staying on Potash road for about 10 miles.
When visiting the Moab area, stay on marked trails and watch your step in the backcountry because you don’t want to disturb the cryptogamic soils. A mix of lichens, algae, moss, and fungus, these important and fragile areas — one stray footprint can destroy years of growth — play a vital role in the desert ecology as they bind soil together, inhibit wind erosion, and provide nutrients for plants.
Rock aficionados of all ages will dig the ancient and impressive geological features — like North and South Windows — located within Arches National Park.
I ended the day with a marvelous sunset on the way back from Canyonlands National Park.
Photography by Heidi Wachter