Road To 50 Part 26: Utah

Utah ranks in elite company for its breathtaking national parks and rock formations.

Arches national park
Arches National Park. PHOTO RISHI PATEL

Some states provide mind-boggling natural scenery incomprehensible to the minds of many. Utah is one of those states. An arid place full of red-orange, sandy rock formations in the southern part, a large landlocked Salt Lake and miles of salt flats so crystal clear they look like snow in the north. No wonder Utah is among the top percentile of naturally striking states. I have visited two of the five famous national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. They were captivating, full of unique rock formations that are only native to this area.


Utah’s eastern and southeastern portions comprise of a dry desert, different from the northern part of the state. Light brown mountains on the desolate stretch of Interstate 70 were regal, and driving to Moab on State Route 191 afforded us grandiose views of the amber clay-colored mountains that were close to Arches National Park.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park
Balanced rock, Arches National Park. PHOTO RISHI PATEL

Since Utah is a large state, my family was only able to drive to Arches National Park in the eastern part to thoroughly explore it. We visited in July, and it was a bit toasty to the tune of 100 degrees. Luckily, it was dry heat making the drive to the park itself such a thrill. A curvy, rail-less maze up to the top of the rock mountains. One wrong steer meant plunging down into pure concrete.

The park itself was immense and remote with rocks inhabiting the distance, only the town Moab located on the doorstep was visible as a gateway. Looking around, all I could find was the dry desert with zero trace of civilization, but some of the most unfathomable non man-made scenery you can witness. There was a Balanced Rock on the top of another rock formation perfectly carved, one can only wonder how it came to be. There was a massive arch where you can go underneath. Standing tall, it rendered me speechless while admiring the power of nature. I saw small holes in the ground made from snakes and other wildlife suited for hot temperatures, though a rendezvous with them was something I passed on.

The most symbolic part of the park, the Delicate Arch, required a bit of work to reach. An icon of the park and the state of Utah, with the welcome sign and license plate inclusive of a Delicate Arch portrait. To get a clear view of the seminal symbol, my family had to hike up a paved trail of pebbles while averting some jagged rocks, in heat. This was a high altitude area so we were easily wiped, but the view was so worth it. I could see the lavish Arch in the distance, though it was in the middle of the park, there were specks of humans making an astonishing hike in desert heat. My family, however, found it justifiable to stare, admire, and take pictures of this extravagant, pure work of natural art.

The gateway town of Moab was a magnet for visitors due to its proximity to the Arches. It’s very tourist-friendly, and the main street offers typical chain hotels, some private restaurants and fast food stops. My family refueled and rehydrated at a place called Fiesta Mexicana. The views of the red-orange mountains near sunset were entrancing, and at dusk, we walked through downtown Moab and visited various shops.


To cap off our time in Moab, we took a Jet Boat Tour in the nearby Colorado River, through parts of the vast canyons near Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. There were towering red-orange rock formations that were so splendidly carved that not even a construction crew could have made them so perfect. Zigging and zagging our way through the remote stretch of natural rock formations was stunning, while nobody dared to call this place home. The rugged beauty was untamed and being immersed in the canyons showed there was no end to the cluster of rock formations inhabiting this part of the state. Some rocks formations had crevices the size of a bulldozer, while some looked unspoiled and superbly structured, like they were asking me to admire them. Of course, our boat felt like an ant compared to these rocky behemoths. The slight mist from the speedy boat helped eradicate the stifling heat that was present even in the early morning. If you love natural lookouts, then Utah is one of the top five destinations in the U.S., but it’s the undisputed king of desert rock formations.

Rishi Patel


Rishi Patel's passion for writing is almost as great as his passion for traveling. Traveling remains the utmost favorite hobby and pastime for Rishi, which has led him to visit 47 of the 50 U.S. States and he cannot contain his excitement as he tries to reach the milestone of visiting all 50.

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