“I hate you all,” screamed Mr. History Tourist (who is not a fan of heights) at our tour group as he went down a 1240 foot zip line, 75 feet off the ground. We were on the tour with Raven’s Rim Zip Line Adventure, on #4 of 6 zip lines stretched across the hills above Moab, Utah. By this time, our group of ten had bonded to the point that everyone felt free to mock Mr. HT as he screamed his way across the hills. Mr. HT was born and raised in south Philly, where trash talk is a fine art. So it just made him feel loved.
The zip line was a 3 hour tour that started (and ended) with a brain-rattling off-road trip on what seemed like a vertical dirt path straight up the hill …
… and included a walk across a 100 foot long suspension bridge.
We’d booked the tour based on the recommendation of Camille of Wine and History Visited and like her, I’d recommend the company and the tour highly. Even though the area, during our time there, was clouded by smoke from wildfires in the northernwestern US , we still got great views of Moab and Arches, and Canyonlands National Park, about 30 miles away.
The day after our visit to Arches, we we went to Canyonlands. It features (surprise!) canyons and bluffs carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. It’s like a shallow Grand Canyon wannabe. That’s not to say it isn’t beautiful and dramatic. It’s just not — in my opinion — as beautiful and dramatic as the other parks we visited on our southern Utah/northern Arizona tour. Even in the Miss Universe pageant, someone comes in last.
Why judge at all? Because if you don’t have the time to see them all, Canyonlands would be the one I’d skip. To be fair, though, Canyonlands is so big — 337,598 acres — that it’s divided into three districts, each with its own visitor center. We only saw the Island in the Sky district. The other two districts (The Needle and The Maze, both much more remote) could be specular beyond our wildest dreams. We just didn’t have the time to find out.
Moab is the closest town to Arches National Park (5 miles) and to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park (32 miles to the Visitor Center), so it’s where we stayed for our visits to both of those parks. It’s a charming little town in its own right — a little western, a little hippie, and totally devoted to nature and outdoor activities. There’s a Museum of Moab — history, geology, archeology — that we didn’t get to see, but we’ll definitely do it on our next visit.
There are a couple of origin stories about the naming of the town. One is that it was named after a Biblical land near the Dead Sea, in Jordon. The other says that it comes from the Paiute word for mosquito: moapa. Whatever its origin, in the late 1800s, some fine citizen of Moab tried to changed the name of the town (twice) because, in the Bible, Moabites are associated with incest. The first petition asked that the town name be changed to Vina. The second wanted Unadalia. Thankfully, both attempts failed and the town remains Moab.
A warning about traveling to the southern Utah national parks — they’re very popular and hotels in the area fill up quickly. I started making plans 6 months out and had problems finding places to stay. The end result was that our hotels ranged from good to really bad. In Moab, we were lucky to find one of the good: the Inca Inn, a 1960s motel on Main Street, about two blocks from the tiny “downtown.” It’s been updated to be a cute, immaculately clean accommodation and we loved it. We ate at several venues around town but our favorite was the Peace Tree Juice Cafe, also on Main Street, for its local, organic offerings.