Spring is the perfect time to get outside and play in the national parks. But sometimes it can be had to decide which national park you should visit. One of the choices frequently made is between Arches and Canyonlands. They’re both really close to each other, and they both share the city of Moab as their gateway town – so ideally, you should visit them both. But if you have to choose, this list might help you decide.
Arches is aptly named, as the park contains almost 2,000 different natural arches and bridges. Delicate Arch – the most famous, and the most visited arch in the park – is featured on the Utah license plate. Check out these locations to get the most out of your visit:
Go to the Devil’s Garden – this is the second most popular destination in Arches, after Delicate Arch. It makes for a nice drive. We encourage you to get out and hike the Devil’s Garden Trail. It takes you past about half-a-dozen arches, and some other cool geological features. But perhaps the most amazing feature is Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch is remarkably thin, and, the truth is, it won’t be around for many more years. In a generation or two it will have collapsed. So go see it while you can.
Get Lost (not literally) in the Fiery Furnace – this one of the coolest areas in the park. The sandstone fins and spires that rise from the desert sands create a maze. Because the Fiery Furnace is difficult to navigate, you should consider signing up with for the ranger-lead hikes. Of course you can hike there by yourself, if you are feeling adventurous, but you need to get a permit first. Regardless of how you choose to explore the Furnace, we think you’ll be impressed.
Canyonlands is actually the least-visited park in Utah. So if you really want to get off the beaten path, this is the place to go – because, let’s be honest, Canyonlands is pretty remote. But as long as you like the solitude, the park has a lot to offer. Here is a list some of the things you should do:
Go to the Island in the Sky – this is the northern region of the park. It is also the easiest to access. Start by driving the scenic route, and hiking to the Grand View Point. We also highly recommend Mesa Arch. This is the most iconic part of Canyonlands – and rightly so. (It is one of the greatest overlooks we’ve ever seen.) And, of course, check out Upheaval Dome. It looks like it sounds.
Visit the Needle District – there are many excellent hikes in the Needle District. However, some of the roads require a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle, (something you should plan on bringing anyway.) Chesler Park, Cave Spring, Confluence Overlook, and Roadside Ruin are all popular locations. We recommend you see Newspaper Rock, which is covered in ancient petroglyphs.
Drive Shafer Trail – if, like many people, you are planning on driving an off-road vehicle in Canyonlands, we recommend Shafer Trail. This narrow dirt road climbs through the park, providing amazing views. Only drive this trail if you have the proper equipment and experience.
Of course, it’s hard to tell which park you’ll like more just from reading about them. So you’ll probably have to go check them both out, then decide.