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How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

London, United...
Level Contributor
70 posts
150 reviews
69 helpful votes
How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

We are a family of four with two boys of 12 and 8 wanting to visit the Moab area in August as part of a 16 day circular tour centering on Denver. The Arches and Canyonlands NPs are places we really want to see (also Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde and Durango in Colorado) so I would like to know how long we need to do them justice, taking into consideration the heat. We will be renting a condo. We are into viewing scenery and lots of activity stuff esp biking, though again I'm not sure how much energy we'll have in 40C temperatures ! Any advice gratefully received.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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for Utah
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1. Re: How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

If you can do your hiking and biking early then plan to have some pool time in the afternoon that might help.

Also do you want to do more than a one day rafting? There are overnighters as well.

So I would say min 3, better 4 days. That includes one full day for Arches, one day for a rafting trip, one day for Canyonlands/Dead Horse Point, and one day for biking/ canyoneering, a trip to Corona arch/ or whatever.

Ohio, USA
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for Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Arches National Park
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2. Re: How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

I would say the absolute minimum is two full days, one for Arches and one for Canyonlands (Island in the Sky) with a stop at Dead Horse State Park. That's the minimum time, again. You can spend a week in Moab doing a lot of activities and seeing a lot of sites in the area (other than the parks).

To really experience most all of what Arches has to offer will take a couple of days alone, if yo uwant ot spend more time in Moab. You can see some just driving the roads through the park, but you need ot hike a bit to see all the great sights. You could hike early and late in the day, then drive a bit and also picnic in the shade during the really hot time. Delicate Arch is one of the icons of the National Parks, but you need to hike to see it; the recommendation is to see this arch nearer to sunset, so that may help the heat a bit.

The Fiery Furance is actually a good hike for warm days, as you are really in the shade a bit, due to the way the hike weaves through the rock formations, so that could be an option as well. It is a great hike. It is also a ranger-led actdivity that sells-out quickly, so make arrangments for the hike as soon as you get to the park (usually a couple days wait between making the reservation and taking the hike).

Sedona, Arizona
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for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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3. Re: How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

Moab is one place where you can unpack and hang around for several days and not run out of things to do. You've got plenty on your list and most of those destinations will require 2 nights in order to allow you just one full day and then travel on. I'd try to give Moab 3-5 days if you can.

London, United...
Level Contributor
70 posts
150 reviews
69 helpful votes
4. Re: How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

Thank you all for that very helpful advice. I think we will allocate 5 nights in the middle of our trip to get 4 full days as we have wanted to see this area ever since we visited Bryce & Zion on our first trip to the States in 93 ! I do have a question about the rafting though, is it the white knuckle variety ? My younger son and I are not adrenaline addicts at all but the other two are !

Ohio, USA
Destination Expert
for Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, Arches National Park
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7,783 posts
453 reviews
917 helpful votes
5. Re: How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

Five nights/four full days in Moab will be a high-light of your trip. Glad that you are able to spend some quality time in a great area.

As for the rafting in the Moab area, I have not taken a raft trip there (I guess I just like to hike), but a quick Google on Moab rafting tells me that the rapids are class III in the spring, but drop to Class II later in the summer (so that is what you will see when you are there in August, I would think). Rapids are classified up to Class VI, with VI being the most dangerous.

Here are some definitions from Wikipedia:

Class 1: Very small rough areas, requires no maneuvering. (Skill Level: None)

Class 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, small drops, might require maneuvering. (Skill Level: Basic Paddling Skill)

Class 3: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe a 3-5 ft drop, but not much considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering. (Skill Level: Experienced paddling skills)

Class 4: Whitewater, large waves, long rapids, rocks, maybe a considerable drop, sharp maneuvers may be needed. (Skill Level: Whitewater Experience)

Class 5: Whitewater, large waves, continuous rapids, large rocks and hazards, maybe a large drop, precise maneuvering (Skill Level: Advanced Whitewater Experience)

Class 6: Whitewater, typically with huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, huge drops, but sometimes labeled this way due to largely invisible dangers (e.g. , a smooth slide that creates a near-perfect, almost inescapable hydraulic, as at Woodall Shoals/Chattooga). Class 6 rapids are considered hazardous even for expert paddlers using state-of-the-art equipment, and come with the warning "danger to life or limb." (Skill Level: Expert)

London, United...
Level Contributor
70 posts
150 reviews
69 helpful votes
6. Re: How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

Thanks that is reassuring. Just reading some of the more advanced levels brings back horrible memories of a theme park ride with a huge vertical drop, which I am not keen to repeat ! Can't wait to go to this part of Utah.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah
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16,908 posts
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7. Re: How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

There are a couple different raft trips you can take. Some are smooth water and others are not. Westwater full day trip will take you through some rapids that are rated higher...but they are sooooo fun! I highly recommend you give it a try, you'll never want a smooth water trip again :-)

However if you don't want that then there is a section of the Colorado that has few to no rapids and even those you can avoid if you want to. You can also choose a trip where you are able to help paddle or even get into a little kayak and go yourself. Those are lots of fun as well and the perfect antidote for the heat.

Check out http://www.utah.com/raft/guides/?id=3659 and scroll down to Moab. You'll get links to all of the rafting companies. Check out some of their sites to get an idea what there is and how much it will cost. There is alot of variation, but they all mostly go the same places, just maybe different days or they add on something unique. Just ask if if becomes too confusing.

4 full days in Moab is a great plan, glad you chose that!

8. Re: How many days to do justice to Arches/Canyonlands ?

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