Destination: Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park's Island in the Sky district

Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky district

Canyon-spotting: Not hard to do in Utah. The day I visited Canyonlands National Park I was over rocks, but it had been on my list and I’m a thorough kinda gal, so go I went.

The park has three distinct areas; the easiest to access is 30 miles northwest of Moab up U.S. Highway 191. This area is the park’s Islands in the Sky district, an expanse of winding canyons and plateaus that looks like something out of the Land Before Time’s earthquake scene. I wonder in writing this if the [so legendary] movie’s illustrators used Utah as inspiration. Let’s do a side-by-side comparison (yes, let’s):

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Destination: Arches National Park

Entering Arches National Park

Entering Arches National Park

Arches National Park is easygoing. It’s like that friend who you call to hang out and you know they’ll always say yes. I like Arches enough to be friends with it, and enough to return someday, maybe even with someone when that time comes. Let’s break it down:

Arrival: Just before sunset, a time that changes often when you’re in a different city every day. These days I let the sun go down when it wants and try not to plan too much around it.

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Destination: Moab, Utah

Driving into Moab, Utah via the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway.

Driving into Moab, Utah via the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway.

There are two ways to reach Moab when driving in from Colorado on I-70. For scenery, visitors should take SR-128, also known as the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway. This 40+ mile stretch first skirts the ghost town of Cisco and winds through open range, then shadows the river and steep rock walls as you near Moab.

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Destination: Rocky Mountain National Park (Part 2: The Rest of it)

Rocky Mountain National Park's "Never Summer" Mountains

Rocky Mountain National Park’s “Never Summer” Mountains

Rocky Mountain National Park reminded me of my home state of Washington. Mountains and all the things that come along with them (trees, lakes, whatnot) match the landscapes of the Cascades – an offshoot, so to speak, of the Rockies, and a 45 minutes drive from where I grew up.

During summer, visitors drive Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road, the main route traversing the mountains between Estes Park and Grand Lake, two small towns serving as eastern and western portals.

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