Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Mountain biking, hiking, and more await in Moab, Utah

I'll be soon headed to Copper Mountain, Colorado for what looks like the final ski trip of the season. We're very lucky to get to go there twice this winter of 2023-24. That part of the the trip is easy. No mapping out needed. Just ski every day and sleep every night. But I need to plan out the last five nights of the trip.

After skiing on the last day at Copper, a four-hour drive west on Interstate 70 to Moab, Utah sounds rough, so we'll break it up by staying an hour west of Copper at Glenwood Springs. Since we'll be travelling with kids, it's a toss up as to whether we'll head to the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which might be just what our bodies need after five days on the slopes, or Glenwood Springs Adventure Park, which includes a gondola ride, a cave tour, and several rollercoasters.

Then it's on to Moab, a place I've always wanted to visit. It's a small town surrounded by sandstone sculpted by wind, sand, and sun, much of which is in Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. I've mainly heard about it because mountain biking is one of my hobbies. Even though I haven't been doing it as much as usual lately, I'm pumped for the family adventure and I think the kids are going to love it. We have four nights planned there and really 4.5 days before we fly back out of the Grand Junction, Colorado airport.

Among Moab's most notable pop-culture touchstones: parts of 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed there and part of Edward Abbey's 1968 enviro classic novel Desert Solitaire was set there.

For our bike riding, since we'll have our 10-year-old with us, we'll be sure to mostly stay away from the daring and epic mountainous red-rock trails that I associate with Moab. That said, this blog has all kinds of great ideas to keep us busy for at least half of our stay. Here are some possibilities:

  • While our little one is pretty tough stuff, we'll probably want to check the barometer by starting with the Rowdy/Wrangler at Horsethief Campground, which is 1.5 miles and billed as "the best beginner bike trail in Moab for kids."
  • The Intrepid Loop Trail at Dead Horse Point State Park is a 1.1-mile mostly-flat trail with some rocky terrain and views of the Colorado River. After that initial stretch it gets tougher but turning back is an option.
  • Jurassic Trail looks like a cool 3-miler that "sits on the western side of the Klondike Bluffs" and includes "stunning views ... such as the nearby mountain ranges and overlooking various bluffs ... colorful clay that dates back to the Jurassic Era."
  • Mill Creek Parkway is a 2.5 miles out-and-back in town on a paved route. "There’s also a stunning stream that flows alongside the path that comes from the nearby La Sal Mountains."
  • Moab Canyon Pathway is another paved trail that runs for 8.8 miles "along the southernmost border of the Arches National Park." It offers "stunning and scenic sights that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else or along any other bike path." But we should be aware that the whole trail can somehow take about three hours.
  • If we succeed at some of these, we may proceed with some more intermediate-level trails.
  • If we don't, and the weather is nice enough, we might have to do some whitewater rafting at Red River Adventures.

Key hikes to do in Moab include:

  • The Corona Arch Trail, a 3-mile moderately strenuous hike above the Colorado River Canyon to Corona Arch, which is less busy than some other spots in nearby Arches National Park and some say it's the most beautiful. The detour to Pinto Arch is said to be worth doing as well.
  • Dead Horse Point is said to be most stunning at sundown and a lot like looking out over the Grand Canyon. It's also near where Thelma and Louise drove along back in 1991. Same for Double Arch and Delicate Arch (which is the one on Utah centennial license plates; it's a mile-and-a-half hike in Arches).
  • "The Fisher Towers Trail explores the Fisher Towers, one of the Utah canyon country’s most bizarre landscapes. The area is a maze of soaring fins, pinnacles, minarets, gargoyles, spires, and strangely shaped rock formations east of Moab," notes Visit Utah and several other people.
  • If we want to explore for dinosaurs, we should hit either the Dinosaur Tracks Trail or the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Bone Trail.

When it comes time to imbibe:
  • The New York Times recommendations are La Hacienda ("a tasty pair of fried fish tacos"), World Famous Woody's Tavern ("cold $2 drafts ... some say the floor is painted red to cover up bloodstains from brawls"), and Milt's Stop & Eat ("fresh chili, mouthwatering double bacon cheeseburger, creamy chocolate malt"). In general, Moab's downtown area is "pretty darn cute."
Before flying back home out of Grand Junction, Colorado, hopefully we'll have time for a quick hike or at least walk around the downtown. Lands End Road up to Grand Mesa and the short hike behind the visitor center at Colorado National Monument are both possibilities.

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