What to See at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

My husband and I took a last-minute trip to the National Parks in Utah in the middle of November 2020.  After our 9-day trip, I’ll share what to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Moab, and why a late fall trip is the best time to go.  

My husband had just been offered a job, and he had a month before it started. We had traveled the USA on our traveling sabbatical from January to May 2020 and were bummed when they closed these two National Parks during our travels.  See blog called GAP year 2020 in Review and what I learned for more information on our travels.

What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks


Since we were moving East, we decided to visit the Parks now. November ended up being the best time to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. One thing to note, we checked the weather forecast. Before traveling there, Colorado had a snowstorm and before driving home Colorado had snow again.  In November the snow can melt fast, so watch the weather and be flexible or just go in September or October if you need to plan.  

Why Later Fall is the Best Time to Visit

First, Moab can get hot in the summer and spring. In the late fall, you can hike to your heart’s content without boiling.  Yes, you may need to prepare for a few chilly days.  You may need to start a bit later in the day when it’s warmer. The temperatures can span from 40 to 75 degrees during the day.

Another reason is fewer people are visiting the parks in the fall.  We encountered probably 3/4 fewer people.  This was hard to tell with the 2020 virus going on.   We felt safe and we wore required masks in the buildings and restrooms.   We were in the great outdoors most of the time.

Finally, there are lower prices on accommodations.  Hotel prices were cut in half or more.   We are usually campers but we stayed in a hotel room suite for eight nights at a really low price.   Normally our bill would have been doubled and almost tripled.  They were glad to have us fill up their hotel.  

 If you do go in the summer you can cut the cost by camping in the Bureau of Land Management campgrounds.  Campsites are on a first-come basis and you have to move after 10 days.  They are good options, but you are roughing it with no amenities.

What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

What to See in Moab, Utah

The Three places to see are Arches and Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse State Park.   You can get into the National Parks with an annual National Park pass but you will have to pay for a 3-day pass at Dead Horse State Park.   I will also explain other things to see or do in the area, which are mainly hikes.

What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Delicate Arch

What to See at Arches National Park

Arches is one of the prettiest National Parks and the most memorable.  My favorite arch was the Delicate arch.  You need to hike to this one, and if you hate climbing and heights you may not like this hike.  There is a hike to see it from the distance but getting closer is the best. 

The other arches to see are the Double Arch, North and South Window, Turret Arch, Sand Dune Arch, Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Broken Arch, Skyline Arch, and Landscape Arch, and a few more Arches we may have missed that were a longer hike to see.  

You can spend two full days and maybe even three if you like hiking to all the arches.  If you are just a viewing person, you could get through the park in one day for sure. There is still lots to see with a few short hikes and viewing areas.

I loved packing a lunch and hiking to these amazing arches.   It’s the journey that makes it all memorable.  

We caught a sunset picture near the balanced rock. I am told the delicate arch is amazing for the sunrise.   

What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Balanced Rock
What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Turret Arch
What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Mesa Arch

What to See at Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is a larger park and reminds me of a mini Grand Canyon.  This Park is farther away from Moab and contains three Districts. We spent two days at this park one on The Island in the Sky District and one at the Needles District. 

The districts are divided by many miles so if you can only pick one day, do the Island in the Sky District.   The Needles District is farther away but is very unique too.  The last District is the Maze and is meant for recreation vehicles only.

My favorite at this National Park was the Mesa Arch.  The hike isn’t too long and the scene through the mesa arch is the island in the sky.  We packed our lunch and at 50 degrees we enjoyed viewing the scenery, people watching, and taking pics for a few people. 

Sunsets are great at the Grand View Point Overlook at Canyonlands National Park. There are many more areas to view sunsets but this is one area where we caught the sun setting.

The Black Ravens love this Park and hang out looking for your lunch or accidental spills.

What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Island in the Sky
What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Grand View Point Overlook in Canyonlands
Dead Horse State Park
Dead Horse State Park

What to See at Dead Horse State Park

Dead Horse State Park is near Canyonlands National Park. There are some amazing views of the Colorado River at this Park. Again, you need to pay a State Park fee to get in.   You can hike and picnic at the park and even mountain bike.  It’s great to head out there for the day.   Some of the prettiest views were from this park.   

Mountain Biking

One of the big draws of the area for the adventurous is mountain biking.  You can mountain bike near Moab in the Bureau of Land Management areas and they also have mountain biking at Dead Horse State Park.  My husband went mountain biking a few times and I tried for 10 minutes and turned around. I am a trail bike rider.  I don’t like all the bumps and rocks.   If Mountain Biking is for you then you will love it.

What to see at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
Fisher Towers
Fisher Towers

Bureau of Land Management Hikes

We went on a couple of hikes that were in the BLM.  One was Fisher Towers.  This is a 7-hour hike and my husband went without me and loved it.  I loved the pics of it.   This is a must-see. You will hike in narrow areas and climb up a ladder and do a lot of steps and climbing. The sunset on this hike is amazing as well as the sunrise.

The other hike in BLM we went on was the Corona Arch hike.  This hike had lots of variety in the terrain and it was fun.  Some sand, rocks, and hills, and even a ladder to climb.  The arch was very cool and worth the four-mile round trip hike to see it. As an extra, we got to see the Bow Tie Arch on the way there.

Corona Arch

Moab and Summer Activities

When people visit Moab in the summer there are jeep rides, river rafting, and other high adventures you can rent and participate in.  The water is cold in the fall, so the activities mostly run in the summer. Of course, Moab has plenty of restaurants and places to eat.  We purchased our groceries and cooked in our hotel suite which worked quite well with coronavirus.

Plan Your Trip to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

You will love these Utah parks and will enjoy your time there.   If you have time you could add Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Capitol Reef National Parks to your vacation plans. All are parks we have visited on previous Utah Trips.  

Get your planning on and plan your trip to the National Parks in Utah, or go the last minute in the late fall.   What to See at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

If you travel and would like other travel ideas here are some links to past blogs.

New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. How to See Tennessee for Free. How to see Hot Springs and Little Rock for Free. Boundary Waters Trip the Easy Way. Summer Vacation Ideas in the USA. How we spent the Day in Home Town, Laurel, MS

Here are links to maps of the National Parks.

Maps – Arches National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) Maps – Canyonlands National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

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What to See At Arches and Canyonlands National Parks