After driving from Denver, I arrived to Moab, Utah around sunset and luckily found an open campsite for the night. Most of the sites are on a first come first serve basis and tend to fill up early in the day, depending on the time of year. After a long day of traveling, I chatted with some nearby campers for a bit, then headed to bed with a plan to wake up and catch the sunrise before heading to Arches Nat’l Park. Our first night in the van went pretty well, it was warmer than I imagined and eerily quiet. I have insulation panels to put in the windows at night that keep the heat in and prevent people from seeing inside the van. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t sleep very much that first night and woke up checking the windows and locks several times. Waking up early for sunrise didn’t disappoint. Seeing the sun slowly paint the colorful canyon walls was simply amazing.
I entered Arches National Park before 8am and there were already a few people at each of the main sites. By 10am it was pretty crowded and the chances of getting a photo without tons of other tourists in the background was impossible. I wasn’t able to do any of the big hikes because dogs aren’t allowed on the trails and I had to leave Kuma in the car. I was still able to see a lot of the viewpoints before it became too hot in the car for him. There are over 2,000 arches in the park which are formed by natural erosive forces. Each arch has a different shape ranging from sliver thin cracks to spans greater than 300 feet. The size of these Arches are amazing and pictures don’t really do it justice. Must see: Delicate Arch, Double Arch, the Windows, Devils Garden.
After leaving Arches, I went to the visitor center to find out where they allow dispersed camping (camping outside of campgrounds or designated sites) and which areas were dog friendly. After a picnic lunch, Kuma and I spent the afternoon on a 4 mile hike to Morning Glory Natural Bridge. This was his first hiking experience and he did quite well despite the heat. It was a beautiful fairly easy hike but let’s just say we were both covered in red sand by the time it was over.
While Kuma took a nap in the van, I showered at the aquatic center in town. The visitor center had given me a list of places where you can pay to use their facilities. Perfect!! (That answered everyone’s first question: where are you going to shower??) Feeling clean and refreshed, it was time to find our campsite for the evening. There’s an area just north of the Canyonland park entrance that is designated for dispersed camping. Turn at the sign marked Willow Springs and upon entering there’s a board with info about where and how to camp there. It was overly crowded but I managed to find a spot. Luckily I don’t need a firepit or place for a tent, just a space to park my van. Since this is desert land, there’s sand everywhere including inside the van. I left the door open to get some fresh air but realized after a while that crazy winds and sandy ground don’t mix well. By this time, the sun was setting so I had a simple sandwich dinner and tucked in for the night.
The insulation panels on my van windows make it nice and cozy with absolutely no light coming inside. I could’ve slept forever but the sun was creeping up and that sunrise view was totally worth it. I headed to Dead Horse Point State Park to see the canyon at sunrise, again beautiful views and very few people.
From there, I continued on the same road to Canyonlands National Park, arriving before 8am. Canyonlands has four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers. This area preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires. I only visited the Island in the Sky which is closest to Moab. Again I wasn’t able to do any of the hikes, but the scenic drive takes you to all of the viewpoints. The mountain bike trails through these canyons are incredible. Several cyclists could be seen in the distance like little ants leaving trails of dust along the canyon floor. Must see: Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Green River Overlook, Shafer Trail.
I decided to treat myself to lunch at Moab’s oldest restaurant, Milt’s Stop & Eat. Diner food at its best. With a full belly and a full tank of gas, we headed to our next destination: Capitol Reef National Park… to be continued.