Canyonlands and Arches are easily accessible from Phoenix and can be done in a long weekend. For those just starting to explore the amazing outdoor opportunities that Utah has to offer, this is a great area to get your feet wet. Most of Arches and Canyonlands are easily accessible and have roads with short walks to beautiful views.
Moab is within 20 minutes of both parks which is ideal for families or those just starting to get comfortable with “vlamping”.
Pro Tip: Skip the Crowds by checking these parks out in the winter. Colder temps = less tourists.
We strongly advise against visiting this area in the summer. There is little to no water or shade which make hiking conditions treacherous.
- Night 1: Drive to Goosenecks State Park from Phoenix
- Day 1: Canyonlands Needles District and Island in the Sky District
- Day 2: Arches National Park
- Day 3: Hiking around Moab, Corona Arch
- Add ons depending on trip length
Things to note:
Cell service and gas are sparse in this area. Fill up when you see a gas station. When you do have cell service download maps and directions to your next destination.
iOverlander is a Lost Saguaro favorite (and no we do not get paid to say that). It is a free app you can use to find campgrounds, dispersed camping, and boondocking. The app provides reviews from users as well as pictures of the sites.
Night 1: Camping at the Goosenecks
- Only 5 hours from Phoenix. It is a great place to stop off and camp. If you are leaving Phoenix early and have more time check out the Moki Dugway Utah Highway 261, spend some time exploring Monument Valley or drive up to Bears Ears. Even if you decide not to camp here, this place is absolutely worth seeing. It is a less crowded version of Horseshoe Bend.
- There is a fee to enter the park. The amenities are scarce. There are pit toilets. Camping spots are not designated. You can pick and choose as you please. Pull up next to the canyon edge for amazing views.
- Make sure to wake up early and catch the sunrise. It is incredible.
Day 1: Canyonlands Needles and Island in the Sky Districts
Canyonlands is broken up into four districts. Island in the Sky, Needles and The Maze are all drivable. The 4th District is the Rivers District. The Green River and Colorado River converge within the park. The Maze is extremely remote and not visited easily or without 4×4.
- Drive from the Goosenecks and head first to the Needles District.
- The Needles District is much more remote and has less panoramic views. If you are wanting to hike this is your spot. There are a TON of hiking trails in this section. If you are short on time this is a place that can be skipped.
- Head to Island in the Sky at sunset. While it looks close on a map, Island in the Sky is a 2 hour drive from the Needles District so plan accordingly.
- Walk to Mesa Arch
- This is the iconic picture you see at Canyonlands. It is pretty but it is crowded. So be prepared.
- Pro Tip: Crowds at the park generally thin at sunset.
- Grab your favorite beverages and snacks and head to the Grand View Point for a sunset happy hour. You won’t be disappointed with the views.
- Walk to Mesa Arch
- Camp right outside of the park using iOverlander.
- Service is spotty in Canyonlands. Sit at the visitors center and find a good campspot. There are many in the area. There are also designated campgrounds.
Day 2: Arches National Park
Arches is crowded. But it is a National Park for a reason. You can drive through a large portion of it with multiple short walks to the various arches. There are a few longer hikes that are definitely worth doing. This is a park where the early bird gets the worm. Parking lots will fill up and you will be waiting for spots if you go midday.
- Hike to Delicate Arch for Sunrise
- Wake up early and get there before the crowds. You won’t regret it. Delicate Arch is the iconic arch on the Utah license plate. It is a 3 mile hike. It will be extremely crowded during the day. Going at sunrise is a perfect way to avoid as many people.
- Spend the rest of the day at Arches. Most of the park is driveable to see the impressive arches. If you have time or want a longer hike check out Dark Angel Trail. It is a 5 mile hike to a 150 foot sandstone tower.
- Head into Moab
- Take some time to check out the town. There are quite a few shops and restaurants
- Use iOverlander to find a place to Boondock near town
Day 3: Corona Arch Trail and the Surrounding Areas
- Hike Corona Arch Trail
- This is a fairly popular hike, but less popular than Arches National Park. Corona Arch is impressive and worth seeing if you have the time. It is a 3 mile hike and is rated as easy to moderate depending on your fitness level.
- Head Home – be sure to stop and take some pictures at Monument Valley if you haven’t already.
Have more time? Check out these options:
- Go mountain biking with a guide
- Go on a jeep tour near Moab
- Shafer Canyon Road Tour
- Deadhorse Point State Park
- Goblin Valley State Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
- Bears Ears National Monument