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Mesa Arch and Delicate Arch

We went to Moab to explore the area and do some photography exploration over a week-long period. We arrived late on Sunday and left early on Friday which gave us 4 full days of hiking in this beautiful area. The weather cooperated most mornings and a few evenings for golden hour photography, but we got a variety of lighting from overcast, snowing, foggy, and full sun. In total, we hiked a little over 30 miles and over a mile in elevation on this trip. We came to the same conclusion that our favorite type of hiking is the type where we're alone or hiking with very few people so that we can enjoy nature to the fullest extent, as well as get a perfect photo with no one in it.

On our first full day of being in Moab we did our two most important hikes; Mesa Arch at sunrise and Delicate Arch at sunset. We woke up before sunrise and got to the trailhead for Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park right around 6:45. With sunrise being around 7:15, we figured that would give us enough time to get to the arch (less than a quarter-mile hike) and get set up with our cameras. When we got to the parking lot, we got one of the last spots - I guess everyone else had the same idea that we did. We got to the arch and it was packed with at least two dozen other people, mostly there with their tripods set up to take a photo of the sunrise lighting up the underside of the arch. There were some clouds in the Eastern horizon, so the sunrise didn't actually break through the clouds until about 7:45, all while we and everyone else were eagerly waiting for the perfect photo. The only complaint I had was that everyone was so close to the arch that I couldn't get a full photo of the arch because I didn't have a wide enough lens. But I guess that's what happens when you're an amateur photographer showing up to professional photographer "events". As we were waiting for the sun to rise, we chatted up a few people and there was one person who got there at 4am in the pitch dark to get his spot right at the center of the arch. The weather was in the 30's which isn't terrible, but the wind was blowing pretty strong, and even stronger after the sun rose, which made waiting a little bit miserable. Everyone was completely frozen but everyone was dedicated to wait for the sun to come up. Even though it was cold and packed, at least we were there with like-minded people just trying to get a good photo. The wait and the cold was worth it in the end.

After our early morning hike we decided to stay in Canyonlands National Park and drive the Shafer trail and back to Moab via Potash road. First, we drove through the park to look at the canyons since we couldn't see them as we were driving up in the dark. But because the sun was low, the canyons were a bit washed out and we didn't get any good shots or really even any good views of them. The Shafer trail is a 40-mile dirt road that requires an all-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance. We were a little unsure if we'd be able to make it in Katie's Subaru Crostrek, but when we asked the park ranger he said that it was "super easy" so we figured we'd give it a shot. Shafer trail was pretty steep and winding, but it wasn't all that technical and was pretty easy to drive. Potash Road on the other hand was not all that steep but a wildly bumpy ride, but we made it out without any problems. I can definitely see why all wheel drive and high clearance was required for that portion of the drive. The drive took us about two and a half hours in total including stopping several spots along the way to take photos.

During the day we rested and went into town to do some shopping and see what the downtown area was like. You can definitely tell that this area only exists for tourism, but it's a cute town nonetheless.

In the evening we did the cliche Delicate Arch hike which everyone who comes to Arches National Park does, even though it's rated as a moderately difficult hike. We wanted to get good sunset photos but unfortunately, there really was no sunset. There were clouds in the West and the whole hike was pretty overcast so the lighting wasn't great. The lighting was still better than the last time I was on this hike in 2014 in which I hiked that at noon and there were pretty harsh shadows. The hike itself wasn't terribly difficult, it was just incredibly steep in a very short distance so it was easy to get winded quickly. Once we got up there, it was a magnificent view, but the number of people ruined it. The hike we did yesterday evening was by far more interesting and spectacular because there weren't screaming kids running around in the foreground. We stayed up there for nearly 2 hours to try and get some photos without people in them, which we barely did, and also to see if the lighting would get any better. We cut our losses right around sunset and hiked back to the car before it got too dark.

Trailhead Location
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4.58 mi 4 hrs 6,207 ft 866 ft
View Graphs
Early Morning
Busy Arch
Little Bit of Sun
Later in the Morning
Shafer Trail
Along the Colorado River
Long Way Down
Low River
Square Ledge
Katie and Her Subaru
Through the Canyon
Along the Ledge
Admiring the Arch
Waiting for Sunset
Delicate Arch Area
Delicate Arch