Southern Utah is home to 5 National Parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The Utah Office of Tourism recommends an itinerary to visit all 5 in the order listed above. They also recommend a visit to Goblin Valley State Park since it breaks up the trip between Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. We’re seeing all of these on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, about 140 miles southeast of Zion.
October is a busy time to visit these parks so reservations in the park campgrounds are hard if not impossible to come by. We were able to reserve a site at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and Goblin Valley so this gave the project manager within me the parameters needed to plan out the rest of our trip.
Sunday, October 4 – Arches National Park
We left the Grand Tetons yesterday for the 2-day, 520 mile drive to Moab Utah, the closet town to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It’s about noon when we arrive at the ACT RV Park just south of town. Campgrounds in both Arches and Canyon Lands are full and besides, it will be nice to have full hookups and access to laundry after our dry camping stopover in the Grand Tetons. Our original plans had called for three nights in Moab but our chores in Bozeman took longer than expected so we’ll stay here just one night, not enough time to see both parks. I ask the campground manager which park she recommends. “Arches”, she replies, so Arches it is.
With laundry done, we pile T&E in the truck and return north on Highway 191 for the 5 mile drive to Arches. It’s about 5 PM when we arrive, about 2 hours before sunset. Despite the late hour, the park is still full of visitors. Plenty of the famed arches can be seen from the drive through the park but most have tourists milling about their bases. I had expected to take photos similar to the iconic images I’ve seen many times before coming here but the presence of so many people leaves me uninspired.
Monday, October 5 – Goblin Valley State Park
It’s about 11 AM as we leave Moab for the 100 mile drive to Goblin Valley. Once again we head north on Highway 191, then turn west on I-70. Even though we’re far from empty, we stop in Green River Utah to fill up with diesel since a sign on the Interstate warns of no services for the next 100 miles. With a full tank, we get back on the Interstate for another 10 miles then exit onto Highway 24 south.
Highway 24 south of I-70 is the very definition of the middle of nowhere. There are no other roads, buildings, nor power lines; just desert with iconic western landscapes in the distance. 30 or 40 miles later, we arrive at the Goblin Valley Visitors Center. It’s cool out so Cindy and I leave T&E in the truck while we head inside to check-in. A sign on the door says they use solar for all their power needs. This place really is in the boonies. This also means no light pollution and with clear skies in the forecast, I will finally be able to try my hand at photographing the Milky Way.
Wednesday, October 7 – Goblin Valley continued.
Goblin Valley has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It’s a small park and even though the campground has been full, about the only visitors here are the campers themselves. Armed with my compass, I spent yesterday hiking a few trails searching for good spots to take Milky Way and sunrise photos. Last night’s Milky Way photoshoot went better than expected so I’m excited this morning as I hike out to my preselected sunrise spot. This morning’s hike is short and it’s still dark out. I set up my tripod and wait…
Tomorrow we continue our tour of Utah’s National Parks so check back soon for our next installment.by