Last summer my husband and I went on the longest vacation we have ever had together – a 13 day roadtrip covering Texas, New Mexico, the corner of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. We loved every second of it. If you want to take a trip with breathtaking views and a vast array of landscapes, this is the trip for you. Follow along through this series of blog posts as I tell you all about the places we went, our recommendations and things we would have done differently.
Road Trip Day 1
I spent the whole day getting everything packed up. I had never been on a big camping trip like this before so I packed for every possible scenario-rain, cold weather, hot weather, being stranded in the wilderness. Looking back, I can tell you that I completely over packed. I had everything. My husband got home from work at 4pm and after removing a few items I had packed, off we went!
We had hoped to make it to Albuquerque but we were tired and didn’t want to push it so our first stop was in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. LaMesa Motel was located on the old Route 66, had good reviews on Trip Advisor and was cheap. It didn’t disappoint. It’s a small family owned motel and was only about $50 for the night. Our room was small with one queen sized bed. It was clean and the owner was very nice. He personally came up there when we got there to get us checked in. We needed a cheap, clean room with a shower and that’s what we got. The sign out front certainly added to the charm.
Road Trip Day 2
I got up early and did a workout in the motel parking lot. Yes, I packed a set of dumbbells and a kettlebell on vacation. I had been consistently in the gym and I was afraid 13 days with no workouts would really set me back with my workout group. As it turns out, this was the only day I actually used that equipment. LOL! We did so much hiking and exploring there just wasn’t a lot of time. Plus, showers were few and far between so I didn’t want to get too sweaty. We got on the road and drove the rest of the way through New Mexico until we got to the Four Corners Monument. It was a little out of the way, but I really wanted to stop and get some pictures.
We cut through a corner of Colorado before entering Utah and making it to Moab. It was a really long day of driving, but we did get to see some pretty scenery along the way. We had planned to camp outside of Moab at one of the BLM campsites but by the time we got there the sites were all full. We found an available room at the Desert Inn Motel for about $75. The room was big and clean, but dated. We didn’t care, we were so tired! Who knew that many hours sitting in a car could leave you so exhausted?!
Moab, Utah: Arches National Park
Road Trip Day 3
We got up early and headed straight to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground called Goose Island Campground right on the edge of the Colorado River. You can not reserve a site at a BLM campground. They are first come, first serve so get there early! I should also mention that that the BLM sites do not have electricity, water or showers. They do have vault toilets and believe it or not, they were quite clean and didn’t have an odor. I was shocked, but very happy about that. The campsites are on somewhat of an honor system. You find the site number that you want (we chose Site #17), place something at the site to hold it (we left 2 camp chairs there), go back to the entrance and fill out a slip with your site number, name, address, phone number, license plate number and days of your stay. You insert your payment ($15/day) into the envelope, tear off the piece you need to keep and drop the envelope into a locked box. You return to your site and place the slip you kept on the pole where your site number is located. Someone comes by throughout the day to collect.
After paying for our site we headed back into Moab and had breakfast at the Moab Grill. They had a big breakfast menu, the food was good and the service was friendly. It was finally time to do some real site seeing.
We had to wait in a line of traffic to get into the park but it didn’t take long. I recommend arriving right when it opens to avoid this, especially if going on a weekend. Rather than paying the entry fee, we purchased the America the Beautiful Pass for $80 because we knew we would be seeing several other National parks on this trip. Having this pass allows you entrance to all national parks for free for a year. It paid for itself just with this trip.
Arches NP was beautiful. I had been there once before when I was a kid but only vaguely remembered it. It was so fun to watch Chance as he saw it for the first time. There is a paved road that takes you all through the park and you can pull over at different overlooks for pictures and stop at different parking areas to get out and hike some trails to get closer to some of the big rock formations. We stopped at the first trail, Park City Trail, and hiked to the Courthouse Towers and back again. The map at the Visitors Center will tell you the distance of each hike so you can decide if its one you want to do or not. Some people hike every trail. Some people drive through and don’t hike at all. You can make it what you want. We stopped at just about every overlook and every trailhead there was. We knew we had the whole day to spend there so we wanted to see everything we could.
Balancing Rock is by far one of my favorites. It just amazes me that its formed that way and has never moved or broken off. Across the street from the parking for Balancing Rock are restroom and a picnic area. While using the facilities (vault toilets) Chance started examining the map. He found a trail that led to an arch called Eye of the Whale that required a 4×4 vehicle. Being the Texan he is, he couldn’t resist. Arches NP attracts a lot of tourists so there are people everywhere you go. It was nice to go off the beaten path. You can get a good laugh with the video below.
“If you want to get away from the people, you gotta go where the people can’t go.” -Chance York
After the bumpy ride, we enjoyed lunch at the picnic area. If you go, pack a cooler with food, drinks and snacks. There isn’t anywhere to get food while you are there. We really wanted to see the Double Arch and the Windows, but the road was under construction and the trails were closed off. We will have to be sure and see those next time. Next, we hiked up to Delicate Arch. It’s not a very difficult hike-there were both kids and elderly on the trail-but you are starting at an elevation of about 5,000 feet so be aware of that. It was also mid afternoon with temps in the mid 90s. If the heat bothers you or if the hiking is more difficult for you, then I would suggest driving straight to this arch and doing the hike first thing in the morning before it gets too hot and before you are tired from the other hikes. Be sure to take plenty of water with you.
Delicate Arch is the one most photographed rock formations in the entire park. It was so beautiful and so much bigger than I imagined. The people that made the hike formed a line and would take turns taking pictures inside the arch. Everyone was really friendly and offered to take each other’s picture. I’m glad we got to get a picture in there together. You can see just how tiny we look inside the arch!
We finished off with a couple more short hikes (Skyline Arch & Sand Dunes Arch) before heading back into Moab. All in all, we hiked about 11 miles inside the park. We skipped over Devil’s Playground area toward the back of the park. It has several hiking trails and a campground. Between that area, the Double Arch and the Windows we could spend another full day inside the park exploring.
We went back to the campsite before dark so we could get our tent set up. Chance had an inverter that plugged into his cigarette lighter in his truck and allowed us to power things-like an air mattress. I’m sure many of you hardcore campers have your mat and sleeping bag and that’s all you need. But being a newbie to camping, I wanted to be comfortable while sleeping. It worked perfectly! We also brought a couple of 5 gallon water jugs with us so we were able to wash off our arms and faces since we were hiking through sand most of the day. The site was set up and we went into Moab to the grocery store to get the food we needed for the next couple of days. While in town we decided to have dinner at a local spot and relax. Moab has a really cute main street with restaurants, shops and a brewery. We had pizza at Pasta Jay’s and it was delicious. We would definitely recommend this place.
Although the temperature was in the 90s during the afternoon, it cooled down to the 60s that night. After a long day in the sun hiking over 10 miles, mostly in sand, we were ready to get some sleep. What a great day of exploring!
Let me know if you have been to any of these places in the comments below. I would love any recommendations you have.
Be sure to check back next week for Part 2 of the trip – Canyonlands National Park