If you mention Moab to most people, they explode in positive statements about trips there or their desire to travel there. Having recently made a trip there, I can see why there is so much enthusiasm for this magical place. What a perfect driving destination for four to five days! We started off from Tucson and headed up to Flagstaff for an overnight stay. The most redeemable things in Flagstaff are a visit to the Museum of Northern Arizona and Tapatios, a really good Mexican restaurant on Route 66. The museum is small, but the collections are beautifully presented, emphasizing the rich history of Indian tribes long settled in northern Arizona. Also, their museum store is great, almost like a mini museum/trading post selling quality goods, many created by Native American artists. And I can’t say enough about Tapatios, a family-owned restaurant. Wow! Such great food that was well-prepared in a colorful venue!

While our destination was Moab, you do get to pass directly through Monument Valley, which is another outstanding place to visit. Unfortunately, we were in a hurry and so, we just stopped for some great photo ops of rock formations that have often appeared in western art. But it would be fun to overnight there at Goulding’s Lodge, or the more modern View, and experience sunset/sunrise with close up views of rock formations.

Once in Moab, we drove through town, made a right turn at the end and drove about 15 miles through a red cliffs canyon with a small river to our lodge. What a drive and how impressed we were with the sheer colorful cliffs towering over us and nothing but nature around us. Finally, we arrived at Red Cliffs Lodge, which appeared out of nowhere. What a wonderful place to stay, which far surpasses the motels in town. One of the best parts of the lodge is their western museum which highlights the multitudes of movies shot in the area, starting in the 1940s with the great director John Ford. Also, the lodge is connected to Cave Creek Winery, so, you can spend some time with tastings (and of course purchases). The lodge sits right on the edge of the Colorado River allowing for other available water activities, too.

Visiting the Arches was amazing, but you need to decide whether you are going to hike or drive. Get to the entrance early in the morning, so you don’t get stuck forever in a long line of cars attempting to pay the entrance fee. Once through, you can stop at the visitor’s center, pick up a map of all of the drives and pull-outs to see the iconic highlights. There is no doubt that the Arches are stunning, particularly on a sunny blue-sky day.

But you must also plan to go to Canyonlands. This is another park about 30 to 40 miles north of the Arches. It seemed less busy than the Arches, particularly, if you arrive early. The drive is nice through lots of open countryside, and you do wonder what you will find when you arrive. Again, there is a visitor’s center for information about which drives/walks to take. We loved the canyons here and the beautiful vistas which were so different from the Arches.

In Moab, if you like extreme thrills, consider taking the hummer jeep tour into the back country going up and down at 90 degrees on top of narrow hard rocks (dunes). Too much thrill for me! I preferred horseback riding at our lodge with experienced wranglers out in the back country where many movies were shot. All in all, visiting Moab and its surroundings was a great experience given the sublime beauty of nature.

Subscribe to stay connected to Tucson. A subscription helps you access more of the local stories that keep you connected to the community.