Arches National Park
|Slickrock Dreams: Moab's favorite pastime (Oi2)|
Southern Utah is a wilderness mecca, with national parks, national forests, and various other public land preserves forming an emerald chain across the state. If you're traveling from the east, Arches would likely be the gateway stop on a tour of these ecologically diverse destinations.
Though not situated on federal land, the area around Moab is a renowned destination for outdoor types, but especially for mountain bikers. The famed Slickrock Trail here is one of the world's quintessential rides, running across the top of a great mesa with views of Arches, Canyonlands National Park, and the Colorado River.
Moab is also the nearest place for Arches' visitors to buy food and camping supplies.
Southwest of Arches lies Canyonlands National Park, one of the most remote and least visited parks in the system. It is an immense wilderness of rock at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, cut into three sectionsthe Needles, the Maze, and the Island in the Skyby the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River.
Capitol Reef National Park is a less foreboding but equally vast desert preserve farther west across the Henry Mountains.
About ten miles east of Moab lies a portion of the La Sal area of the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The entire forest encompasses over 1,300,000 acres, including a section about 45 miles south of Moab on Utah 191 and the much larger Manti area in the central part of the state.
The La Sal area's landscape is as distinct from that of Arches as it is close to Arches on a map. In place of sandstone towers, there are 12,000-foot peaks; forests of spruce and fir stand in for the juniper-pinyon scrub that covers the Arches desert.
Farther west, the Dixie National Forest stretches some 2,000,000 acres across south-central Utah. Within its borders, the climate ranges from harsh desert dryness at lower elevations to lush coniferous forest in lake-strewn alpine peaks.
National Monuments and Recreation Areas
Following the course of the Colorado southwest of Canyonlands is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, home of the well-knownand controversialLake Powell, the largest man-made lake in the world.
Beyond Glen Canyon is one of the largest and most recently established wilderness preserves in the U.S., the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Designated in 1996 by President Clinton, Grand Staircase-Escalante is a massive desert tract that receives about 7,000 visitors a month. (Compare that to Arches, which, at less than one-tenth the size, gets millions of visitors annually.) The area was the last section of the continental United States to be mapped.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication