Many of the travelers who come to Southern Utah can only visit one national park. And that can make it tough, since it’s hard to choose between all five of the major parks. We at the Lodge understand this, and we want to try to help you out a little bit, so we’ve decided to write a couple comparison posts. This time around we’re comparing Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
Arches and Canyonlands are basically next-door neighbors. Both are within easy reach of the de facto adventure capital of Utah – Moab. Again, it’s very hard to compare the parks based on their geology, since different people enjoy different types of scenery. As a whole, Arches (or the parts of park that most people visit) has more slick-rock mesas and, of course, lots of natural arches. Canyonlands has some arches and bridges as well, but in general has more sweeping, open-desert scenery.
Arches National Park:
Scenery Description – As you probably already know, Arches National Park is primarily known for its collection of spectacular arches. The park contains over 2,000 examples of sandstone bridges and arches. Delicate Arch is one of the most famous in the world, one of which appears on the Utah State license plate.
Pros – Arches is the smaller of the two parks, approximately 76,000 acres. Which means, you can see more of the park on your vacation, helpful if you’re only got a weekend. Arches is also closer to Moab, which can be more convenient for families with kids.
Cons – In a situation similar to Zion National Park, Arches has a crowding issue. Recent attempts to improve infrastructure in the park has meant dealing with lots of road work. This has caused significant delays, as millions of annual visitors are funneled through one-way routes. But even when they are tearing up the roads, Arches can be a little hectic.
Canyonlands National Park
Scenery Description – Canyonlands is much larger than Arches, covering 337,598 acres of wilderness. Canyonlands is noted for its canyon river landscape, highland geology, and an assortment of monolithic formations. It also has a few arches of its own.
*Pros * – If you want an adventurous, and off-the-beaten-track vacation, Canyonlands is the park for you. It is the least visited national park in Utah, there is lots of space to explore. There is also more diversity in the landscapes. You’ll get to see a lot more than just natural arches.
Cons – One of the downsides to vacationing in Canyonlands, is that Moab is about north. Since that is where most people stay when they visit the park, it make it a little inconvenient to commute between your hotel and the park. Also, food and gas are pretty limited near the park. Canyonlands is just far away from most amenities.
The roads in Canyonlands are also mostly unpaved, so if you really want to experience the vast wilderness beyond the visitor center, you’re going to need a high-clearance vehicle. Which might mean renting a Jeep.