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After an eight-hour car ride from Yellowstone, we breathed a sigh of relief upon reaching our fourth stop on our National Parks tour — Moab, Utah. During the earlier part of our trip, I quickly realized that the majority of parents dealing with the effects of 2020 have one thing in common…our kids need to move. They need space. The need to spread out, breathe fresh air, enjoy life, and look beyond their screens. In the back of my head, I always knew that nature was the answer in helping them recharge. But it isn’t until we ventured beyond our own backyard and town that I fully understood just how significant nature truly is when it comes to waking up our psyche.
Our next campground would find us hiking through the majestic parks of Moab in beautiful Utah proving exactly what I had hoped for. We started to feel whole again. Our minds were clear, anxiety was at bay, and we hadn’t felt this alive and free in a really long time.
The name “Moab” comes from an ancient Biblical kingdom. The name “Utah” comes from the Ute language, meaning “people of the mountains”.
Growing as a Family
Spending this much time together in the great outdoors taught us to see our kids with a whole new perspective. We also discovered how to “dig deep” and keep everyone’s sanity intact during those long hauls in between. By the way, this car ride was great preparation for our stay in Moab, Utah. There is a reason this red rock playground is considered one of the best climbing destinations in the world—it’s filled with ways to escape and think about future goals and existing challenges both mentally as well as physically.
Moab allowed us to move outside of our comfort zones, and truly become one with nature. I began to see new levels of focus, goal setting, and determination that I haven’t felt in months. This trip was exactly the full-circle moment my family and I needed to get back on track.
Where to Stay in Moab
Utah glamping at its finest, the campsite at Under Canvas Moab was everything I excepted, and oh, so much more. I’m not sure if I was more excited to check out the famous Arches or climb into that big fluffy bed, but what I did know for certain was this would be an epic place to stargaze where I could wish on every bright twinkle in the sky.
Lodging with Under Canvas is a dream come true because I know all too well that not everyone is down with camping and being one with nature. (I am a city girl, after all.) As guests of Under Canvas, visitors can either appeal to their “crunchy granola” side or relax in luxury inside one of their five-star safari tents. And if you’re worried about nature, don’t be—we experienced 100 mph-winds during our stay and the tents were made to stand! The wind was strong, but inside we were comfy and cozy.
It’s actually a great accommodation for those looking to ease into loving the great outdoors too because that’s exactly what will happen. You’ll fall head over heels in love and become one with nature before you leave to return to your concrete jungle with a heart filled with memories to last a lifetime. Trust me—it’s impossible not to love it.
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Arches National Park is home to 483 species of plants, 186 species of birds, 52 species of mammals, 6 species of fish, 6 species of amphibians, and 21 species of reptiles.
Where to Play in Moab: Arches National Park
Follow the Colorado River as it winds through eastern Utah and explore over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. This includes the famous Delicate Arch, that is the perfect backdrop for that subtle Insta-brag you’ve been mulling over. The formations are truly breathtaking as you find yourself mesmerized by all the natural beauty surrounding you.
Spanning over 75,000 acres, the park features the highest density of natural arches in the world. It’s safe to say, it’s impossible not to find the ideal hiking trail, or spot to explore. The Arches are located on the Colorado Plateau and the highest elevation is 5,653 feet at Elephant Butte, with the lowest elevation being 4,085 feet at the Moab Visitor’s Center.
There’s So Much to Do
For those seeking extreme desert thrills, Moab also features ziplining, horseback riding, rafting, boating, stand up paddle boarding, mountain biking, and hot air ballooning. Jeep safaris, rock climbing, and canyoneering are popular with those looking for some adventure.
Per the Moab Visitor’s Center, “Many of these activities are conducted with guides, an arrangement that helps preclude the kind of damage to the land that can happen when uneducated visitors venture into areas where they shouldn’t be.” So make sure you protect the park and go with a group. With the COVID-19 outbreak, I suggest investigating a few private tours, but if you’re looking to travel during the school year, the crowds and temps disperse leaving lots of room to self-distance.
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Moab is a mountain biking mecca. Its Slickrock Bike Trail is one of the most technically challenging bike trails in the world.
What to See in Moab
No trip to Moab would be complete without a visit to Canyonlands National Park. The vibe is unlike anything else thanks to its natural beauty and tranquil landscape. And it is filled with forty different hiking trails made up of four areas: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers spanning over 337,500 areas. The hikes range from easy to strenuous and vary from one to 45 miles in distance.
The highest point in the Canyonlands is at Needles District measuring 7,120 feet. And the lowest area is located at The Big Drop Rapids in Cataract Canyon directly on the Colorado River at 3,700 feet. For all you pop culture enthusiasts like me out there, Canyonlands is where the iconic ending scene of “Thelma & Louise” was shot, as well as James Franco’s “127 Hours.”
Upheaval Dome, the geological formation, can be found at the Island in the Sky. It is three miles long and geologists are still debating whether it is a crater from a meteorite or remnants of a salt dome.
Moab, Utah is home to the visually stunning Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The Colorado River also passes thru Moab.
Best Way to Explore Moab: Off Road Tour
With dramatic red rocks and wondrous arches for as far as the eye can see, other things we spotted while drifting through our desert safari were lots of wildlife. Some commonly seen creatures seen here are lizards, snakes, cottontails, kangaroo rats, mule deer, and every once in a while you can spot a black bear near the stream by the Needles District.
The Moab Adventure Center Tour was a great way to really see a lot of the park in a shorter amount of time than hiking. This allowed us to explore areas we normally may have not been privy to otherwise. Zig zagging through the miles of Utah terrain, with looming red cliffs, large towers, and the remains of an ancient civilization that once inhabited this land, you are not going to want to miss one square mile of Moab.
Tours are highly recommended for those visiting with young children or those not up for hiking in hotter temps. We recommend at least two full days to experience this incredible destination. And seeing it from the comfort of a seat is just as amazing as hiking it. Moab is quite large, and there are many roads to travel. Tours can condense the time, and keep you safe from straying off trails and running into wildlife.
The Green River and the Colorado River both flow through Canyonlands National Park. They have formed the Park’s canyon mazes and plateaus, unbroken scarps, sandstone pillars.
What to Know Before You Go
Those following me on Instagram had the inside scoop on the daily during this trip, but I wanted to share with you a few pointers I learned while venturing into the Great Wide Open with my fam. Here is what this City Girl has learned thus far, in case you plan on braving this trip with kids:
1. Bring insulated bottles for every family member. A few of the kids prefer CamelBak’s (the water backpack) but the insulated ones keep your water cold! You can fill them up at the National Parks filling station! Such a great thing when you have a big family.
2. Privy: privy is a discrete word for an outhouse or bathroom.
3. Trailhead: often marked by a sign, the trailhead is the start of a trail.
4. Cairn: This is a group of stones piled on top of each other, marking the route or the landmark.
5. Backcountry vs. Frontcountry: A backcountry campsite requires you to get there by foot, carrying what you need with you. Frontcountry sites enable you to camp near your car!
Airplanes aren’t allowed to fly over Arches National Park because the vibrations from the planes could potentially break its delicate features.