arches! and canyonlands and monument valley

we drove to arizona for thanksgiving. my niece was getting sealed in the temple (she and her husband got married at the height of covid shutdown, when all temples were closed) the day after thanksgiving, so it was perfect timing to live a six-year-old dream of being around a lot of extended family on turkey day. we decided to take a few adventuring stops on the way there and on the way back.

as a born-and-bred utah girl, i have always been ashamed to say that i’ve never laid eyes on delicate arch – the iconic symbol/monument of utah. for the past decade or so i’ve really, really wanted to hike to see this natural wonder. so we made a detour en route to the phoenix area and stopped in moab to visit arches national park. since canyonlands national park is pretty much next door, we decided to stop by there as well. and while we were planning out our itinerary, i told ian i’d also always wanted to see monument valley, on the border of arizona and utah. so he made sure that was added to our plan, and it didn’t add much drive time!

after a few hours in the car on the first day of our roadtrip, our first stop was canyonlands np, where we went on a little sunset hike and got just a taste of this pretty incredible national park.

it was pretty perfect weather and golden light, but once the sun went down it got really chilly really fast! as we tried to hurry back to the car, ian somehow got on a different path with moses and eve that was higher up than the path gabriel and auggie and i were on. can you spot us in these photos ian snapped of us from the higher path?

after a pizza dinner in a hotel room and as good a night’s sleep as you can get sharing a room with four small children, we hit the delicate arch trail first thing in the morning in an attempt to avoid the crowds. the hike up was fun, with lots of big tubes that are there to carry water under the trail that our boys delighted in crawling through and a huge slab of slick rock to gradually trek up. we got to the last bit with a drop-off on one side…

…and then turned around the corner and bam!!! there’s the delicate arch!! i maybe shed a couple tears. it was just so magnificent in real life.

the hike back down, after taking it all in for a bit:

and then we drove through the park to a couple of other little hikes. so much to explore at arches. and so so much beauty. these pictures don’t do it justice at all!

a photo by moses of eve and gabe in the back seat, and a photo by me asking ian which magnet we should get from the gift shop while some children were napping in the car 🙂

we all loved double arch.

and we lucked out with a truly spectacular sunset at “the windows.”

the next day we drove to monument valley!

i had to do this pose (remember forrest gump?!).

we marveled at the rock formations as we drove around and past them (love gabey’s total lack of wonder at the wonder behind him out the car window, haha).

then we popped in the visitor’s center and got a permit to do the 17-mile drive around the amazing pillars of red rock.

gabriel and i each had a turn sticking our heads out the sunroof to take in the views as we drove (very, very slowly 😉 ).

and august was the only child willing to get out of the car for a photo at a few look-out points 🙂

very windy, very bright, very stunning.

and then we headed for gilbert, arizona and lots of family fun.

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