23 May Amazing destinations “outside of” Arches National Park help avoid the crowds
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Utah’s Fisher Towers, Corona Arch and Goblin Valley
Arches National Park contains some of our country’s most spectacular sights and landscapes. It’s also one of our nation’s most over-crowded destinations. To help you navigate the park and plan your trip, check out the popular Wandering Rose Travels article published several years ago.
Many visitors to the Moab, Utah region concentrate their time inside Arches National Park and nearby Canyonlands National Park, but I recently explored several other amazing places that you should consider when vacationing here. These are my top three suggestions.
Fisher Towers National Recreation Trail
Overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, Fisher Towers National Recreation Trail is a great hiking spot about 19 miles outside of Moab. The five-mile roundtrip trek is not too difficult and includes one ladder on the trail. You hike along a well-marked route at the base of 1,000-foot dark red sandstone cliffs. Looking up at the towering monoliths, pinnacles and rock fins makes you feel very, very small, in a good way.
We visited in mid-April, a little early for spring wildflowers, but we still saw some early blooms that made this destination even more memorable. We heard voices high up in the cliffs and spotted rock climbers ascending to incredible peaks. As usual, we arrived shortly after sunrise and enjoyed the first half of the trail all to ourselves and then passed quite a few hikers who were just arriving as we returned.
Be sure to hike to the very end of the trail (where the sign proclaims “Trail End”) because the views are spectacular. In addition, there’s a small tent campground near the parking lot for overnight adventurers.
Corona and Bowtie Arches
Both of these arches are completely different from those in the national park. The signed parking lot for the three-mile roundtrip trail to Corona and Bowtie is located 14 miles outside of Moab on Potash Road. The trail is rated moderate because of an initial climb and one ladder, but I’m 66 and my brother-in-law companion is 76 and we both felt very comfortable on the trail.
You can walk underneath the larger Corona Arch for photo opps. Hopefully you’ll meet considerate hikers at this location who don’t loiter under the arch and ruin the experience for everyone else. The word “selfish” comes to mind. I asked people to move and received begrudging compliance. But I encourage you to place other hikers in your arch photos because they will help define the huge scale of these rock formations.
Goblin Valley State Park
This destination is a bit further from Moab, about two hours west. We stayed overnight in Green River so that we could explore this location for a day and a half.
Goblin Valley is one of the more interesting state parks in the U.S., part of the San Raphael Swell region. If you’ve never heard of it, join me as one of the uninformed. The area offers hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, camping, canyoneering and off-roading.
We couldn’t arrange our schedule to avoid visiting here on the weekend, so naturally the trails were crowded, but we still found trailhead parking which is often not the case at Arches. We enjoyed the trails and hoodoo formations inside Goblin Valley, but the real treat was our hike just outside of the state park in the Swell: the 10-mile slot canyon loop that connects Little Wild Horse and Bell canyons. We arrived early and enjoyed the cool temps and solitude.
For those who don’t want to attempt the 10-mile loop, I suggest hiking the Little Wild Horse Canyon side, walk the distance you feel comfortable with and then double back. Even if you trek in just two miles, you’ll still experience this great slot canyon and its narrow, swirling rock formations.