3 Days 358 Miles
Discover Eastern Utah’s Natural Wonders in 3 Days
Hiking, Biking & Whitewater Rafting
The Great Basin has a well-earned reputation for having some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the country. This three-day itinerary takes you through eastern Utah’s natural wonders, Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Starting with a convenient in/out through Salt Lake City International Airport, a drive through the picturesque Utah Valley.
Our destination, Moab, Utah, is approximately four hours from Salt Lake City. The first part of this drive on Interstate 15 through Salt Lake City and then into the Utah Valley to Spanish Forks is arguably one of the most dramatic backdrops of any interstate drive. The imposing Wasatch range rising up to the east and Mount Timpanogos, near Provo, with its 11,572-foot peak, is astoundingly beautiful.
In Spanish Forks, you’ll leave the interstate and head southeast on U.S. Highway 6; while this section of the drive doesn’t have the majesty of the Wasatch, it will take you through portions of the stunning Manti-La Sal and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forests.
Day 1 – Arches National Park
While Moab is only a short drive from the entrance of Arches National Park, it takes a bit more driving time to get to the individual trailheads. Before you head out, pick up coffee and a bite to eat from Moab Garage Co. for breakfast all day, vegan and gluten free options available and locally brewed coffee.
Begin your first day in Arches National Park early to avoid the crowds—and the heat if you’re traveling in summer. Our first stop will be the Windows and Turret Arch. For this stop, plan at least 30 minutes. Drive along Windows Road until you reach the end. From there, you will be able to enjoy a 0.7-mile hike that includes North Window, South Window and Turret Arch.
After that, you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see the Double Arch, which is the tallest in the whole park. Simply take a walk from The Windows. Our tip? Climb up the fiery red rocks and relax a bit before continuing your journey.
There is no doubt Balanced Rock, which is more than 65 million years old, is one of the most incredible parts of the park. To catch a glimpse of it, turn left onto Scenic Drive. The ride will be quick, and you’ll have the option to go on an easy 0.3-mile trail for a closer look at nature’s balancing act.
The cherry on top to any visit to Arches National Park is the hike to Delicate Arch—perhaps the most iconic sight in Utah. Even if you’ve never been to the park, you have probably seen the stunning photos of the natural wonder. It’s also the landscape seen on every Utah license plate! Well, guess what? It’s even more beautiful in real life!
The three-mile hike to the Delicate Arch won’t be easy, so make sure to bring water and snacks, and be ready for a workout. During sunset hours, the trail teems with photographers trying to capture its incredible beauty.
Make sure to set aside some time for stargazing, and if you do, bring a headlamp to traverse the trail at night. If you decide to visit Delicate Arch earlier in the day, the Balanced Rock, The Windows Section and Garden of Eden Viewpoint are also great places to stargaze.
Where to Eat Near Arches National Park
Once you’ve finished exploring the park, head back to town for a well-deserved dinner at Thai Bella. This popular spot features authentic and delicious cuisine that often has people lining up for a table. Snag a table outdoors for a relaxing evening to end your day.
Day 2 – Mountain Biking & Dead Horse Point State Park
After a fantastic day of hiking in Arches National Park, it’s time to get out and experience some of the finest mountain biking in the West. Moab is known for its access to hundreds of miles of world-class mountain biking trails, and if you’re an experienced mountain biker, your options are limitless.
Moab Adventure Center
The Moab Adventure Center has the perfect half-day excursion along the Courthouse Wash Loop Trail for the novice. This four-hour trip is ideal for riders looking for an introduction to off-road terrain and mountain biking techniques. The ride follows the contours of a mesa overlooking the Windows area within the Arches National Park. Riders ages five and up are welcome, so this is an adventure the whole family can enjoy. All equipment including bikes and helmets are included in this tour.
Dead Horse Point State Park
The second half of the day is in one of the most epic spots in eastern Utah, Dead Horse Point. This mesa is some 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, overlooking canyons and rimrock desert landscape. There are several short hikes around the edge of the plateau that offer surreal views deep into the canyons. These trails range from the Dead Horse Point Overlook Trail, which is paved and easily accessible from the parking lot to the remote Bighorn Overlook Trail.
There are seven miles of trails that connect eight different lookout points along the edge of the mesa. Since each offers its own unique, entirely Instagram-worthy views, we suggest spending the second half of your day exploring them all. As the sun sets, expect the skies of the high desert to become bathed in golden light that transforms the vistas into a vivid painting.
The majesty of Dark Horse Point doesn’t end with sunset, as the park’s remote location and dark skies present an unparalleled view of the cosmos. The night sky from Dead Horse Point is a sight that is genuinely remarkable, the vast badlands in all directions, allowing for the entire sky to become filled with billions of stars, each shining brighter than any you’ve ever seen.
Where to Eat in Moab
Get ready to head back to Moab for dinner at The Spoke on Center, featuring bicycle-themed decor and two floors for dining. With a large variety of dishes, plus a kid’s menu, there’s something for everyone on the menu. After dinner, be sure to order dessert from the restaurant’s soft serve ice cream window!
Day 3 – Colorado River Rafting & Dinosaur Park
No trip to Moab is complete without spending some time rafting down the Colorado River. There are more than a dozen exceptional outfitters based in Moab who offer full and half-day calm water excursions. After two full days of hiking and biking, who wouldn’t love a relaxing day floating down the river?
Trips range from full days that start around 8 a.m. and conclude around 4:30 p.m. to morning or afternoon half-day trips that are about four hours in length. These trips wind through the canyons and pass through several class I or II rapids including Onion Creek, Cloudburst, Rocky Rapid and Whites Rapid. In between these rapids are calm stretches of river that often allow for a refreshing dip in the water.
If you opted for a half-day on the river, then we suggest taking time to explore one more unique attraction, Moab Giants Dinosaur Park. This one-of-a-kind museum will transport you back in time, introducing you to the prehistoric creatures that once inhabited the landscapes that surround Moab. The area is known for its exceptionally high concentration of fossil dinosaur footprints which you can see at the park, alongside life-size state-of-the-art versions of the dinosaurs that originally made them. The museum and park support renowned paleontologists’ ongoing work whose research continues to enhance our understanding of the prehistoric world.
After three extraordinary days exploring Moab, the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point and Arches National Park, the journey back to Salt Lake City will be a scenic respite.
Where to Stay Near Arches National Park
Moab is a small town of roughly 5,500 and is our recommended basecamp to adventure out to the surrounding National and State Parks. As an epicenter of outdoor recreation, Moab has plenty of options for your stay, from major brand hotels to numerous independent hotels. The Gonzo Inn, with its colorful and quirky style, and amazing pool is one of our top choices. The Red Cliffs Lodge offers options for suites or cabins, with private views of the Colorado River and some of the most spectacular views in the area from its 220-acre property.