Favorite land of Mormons, Utah is worth the detour. Located in the heart of the American West bordered by Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and New Mexico, this state attracts more than 20 million tourists each year. Of this number, there are rare Quebecers who are slowly learning to discover its natural splendours.
With its dramatic mountains, water-carved canyons, soaring cliffs, and exceptional geological formation, Utah is arguably one of the most awe-inspiring states on the entire continent.
A good way to learn about its beauty is to visit its national parks, including the famous Arches National Park, located in southeastern Utah. But beware, given the popularity of this destination, you must book three months in advance on recreation.gov if you go there between April and October.
There are no constraints for traveling to Utah and Quebec travelers will find their way around easily. The government has lifted all restrictions regarding Covid-19. Masks are optional in most restaurants and shops, and those who wear them are rather in the minority. Even inside National Parks government buildings, they are no longer required. Government and local authorities still suggest that tourists bring their masks, since according to Utah law, private companies have the right to impose them.
2000 natural arches
Arches National Park is 5 miles north of Moab, a popular town with thrill seekers as there are great mountain biking trails nearby.
The park, which attracts more than a million visitors a year, is known for its 2,000 natural arches in colors ranging from yellow to orange-red. Over millions of years, ice, water, wind, extreme temperatures and subterranean movements have sculpted these awe-inspiring rocky landscapes. Arrive early in the morning to catch the majestic sunrise.
Not far from the main entrance stands an imposing monolith, called the "Tower of Babel". The soft light that shines on its stone, early in the morning, gives it even more radiance.
Also, on the horizon loom the La Sal Mountains, Utah's second highest mountain range reaching over 3,657 meters or 12,000 feet. The show is breathtaking.
The adventure continues. The visit of the Arches, which covers an area of more than 310 square km, can be done by car or by bicycle using the panoramic road, which is 36 km long, or 72 km round trip.
Several observation points, scattered here and there, allow you to admire these impressive monuments more closely, whether they are arches, monoliths, towers or pinnacles.
In some cases, you have to walk a few kilometers, sometimes in height, to see them more closely.
A wonderful hike
The Delicate Arch Trail is the most popular hike in the park, as it leads to the famous Delicate Arch, often considered the most beautiful natural arch in the world. Standing 20 meters (46 feet) tall and just over 9 meters (32 feet) wide, it is the pride of Utah, and is featured as a backdrop on thousands of license plates.
This famous hike is 5 km (round trip). Along the way, you have to climb (to a height of 146 meters, almost 479 feet) hoping not to get too dizzy. As you move further and further towards the Arche, the paths become narrow, but they remain accessible. There are walkers of all ages.
A wonderful surprise awaits us at the top! The view of the coppery relief of the Arch as well as the mountains of La Sal is breathtaking.
Other points of interest
The visit continues.
Believe it or not, for a short moment and with a little imagination, you could imagine yourself in Quebec.
The "The Windows" section which features several oddly shaped rocks shows one reminiscent of Rocher Percé.
Note that a series of national parks called the Mighty 5 (including Arches National Park) are also worth a visit, as well as about forty State Parks.
As you can imagine, a single stay is not enough to discover all the splendors of Utah.
McCannan International Airport located in Las Vegas is a gateway to the national parks.
Salt Lake City International Airport is another good starting point.
Book your place
It is sometimes necessary to book in advance to access the Parc des Arches. For example, if you plan to visit the park between April 3 and October 3, 2022, you will need to make a reservation on recreation.gov and preferably 3 months in advance, so plan everything well (no reservation necessary if you enter the park before 6 a.m. and after 5 p.m.). (Daily reservations also allow, if you are lucky, to obtain an entry permit for the next day, again, we reserve on recreation.gov.)
Utah is Mormon country! The Mormon Church has very strict rules. It prohibits alcohol, drugs, tobacco, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, etc. Fundamentalists forbid women to wear short skirts and jeans, so they must wear long dresses. In Utah, it is not uncommon to come across these women dressed as in ancient times. It reminded me of the outfits of the women in the popular TV series Little House on the Prairie.
Masks are required at all times in parks belonging to the Navajo tribe.
It is suggested before leaving to consult the websites of the various national parks, as the rules regarding covid-19 may change depending on the circumstances.