Define Fettle Travels: Denver To Moab

Define Fettle Travels: Denver To Moab

A recap of our travels from Denver, CO to Moab, UT complete with a guide to Hanging Lake, our favorite spots to check out in Arches National Park and the very best place to watch the sunrise/sunset in Canyonlands National Park.


It’s been semi-quiet for us on the travel front since we returned from our Arizona adventure earlier this spring because we are in the midst of planning a Jamaican destination wedding {basically zero stress, the wedding is still 4ish months out and I already am recommending this route to everyone I know} and a 3 week honeymoon in Bali which leaves me with minimal vacation time left to spare at work.

Nonetheless, we did manage to sneak in a little 4-night/5-day adventure out west to cross a few more National Parks off of our list earlier this fall and it was great weather, great timing and {obviously} great scenery so I’m sharing all the details of our short trip just in case the you’ve caught the travel bug and are looking to plan your next adventure.

DESTINATIONS:

COLORADO:

Idaho Springs: Austin + I landed in Denver on Wednesday evening {flights were way cheaper than flying into SLC} then our friends Amy and Andrew scooped is up in our rental car and we immediately headed to eat some tacos. After dinner/drinks, we stopped at a local grocery store and picked up a few groceries to make a frittata for breakfast the next morning then headed west to Idaho Springs, an adorable mountain town where we snagged this airbnb for the night.

The next morning we grubbed, grabbed coffee at the cutest local coffee shop and headed west towards Hanging Lake and Glenwood Springs. If I could have spent more time in this town, I would have without question - - mountain towns are some of my favorite places in the world!

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Hanging Lake: The drive from Idaho Springs to Hanging Lake is about 2 hours along I-70 and it was gorgeous in the early morning hours because the sun was beaming down and the colors were just starting to change but that was just the start of the beauty we were about to take in that day. The hike to Hanging Lake is just under 3 miles on an out and back trail with an elevation change of a little over 1000ft. The hike is rated as moderate due to some incline/stairs on the way up, but overall it’s a great hike for those of all activity levels and the view at the top is well worth it.

The trail to Hanging Lake takes you along Dead Horse Creek and the lake itself is situation high in the mountains of Glenwood Canyons. The turquoise/green waters of the lake are crystal clear and because of the fragile ecosystem of the area, visitors are banned from fishing, swimming or even entering the waters. We spent quite the amount of time here snapping pics and just enjoying the scenery because following the signs leading us on another very short hike to Spouting Rock, where snow melt run off pours from a hole in the limestone.

Overall the hike probably took us around 3 hours but that’s because, like I said earlier, we stopped to take a lot of photos. Totally recommend, I haven’t done a ton of hiking in CO, but from my experience and what I’ve heard from others, this is one of the best out there.

*Note: If you want to find a parking spot, plan to get there fairly early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds {a little at least}.

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Hanging Lake Define Fettle
Spouting Rock Colorado
Spouting Rock
Hike Hanging Lake

UTAH:

Moab: Next up, we started the drive 3-4ish hour drive from Glenwood Springs, CO to Moab, UT. Once we got about half way there, around the Grand Junction area, we made the decision to hop off I-70 and take the scenic byway of Hwy-128 based off of a recommendation Austin had seen in a forum he read before the trip. If you take one thing away from this post, TAKE THE DAMN BYWAY. It’s not even going to show up on your GPS, but use your mapping skills {I have none} and take this route. Seriously, this might add 15-20 minutes to your drive, but it’s going to be one of the most gorgeous roads you’ve ever driven on. All 4 of us were in awe and we stopped multiple times to take in the beauty and obviously capture a few photos as well.

Highway 128
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Arches National Park:

Once we arrived in Moab, we got settled in our Airbnb for the next few days and headed out to Arches National Park for the sunset. The sunset was great - I’ve definitely seen better, but for some reason I continue to replay that evening in my mind weeks later. The warm breeze was blowing ever so slightly across our bare skin, the color of the warm rays of sunshine painted themselves onto each of the red rock arches and formations throughout the park and the stillness, the calm that accompanied us in these few moments was nothing short of pure bliss.

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After grabbing dinner, the girls went back to the Airbnb and Austin and I headed back out to Arches National Park {literally a 5 minute drive from Moab} to shoot some night sky photos at Turret Arch, which is housed in the windows section of the park. Austin is the night sky/outdoor photographer, so I can’t take any credit for the majority of the photos in this post, but I can take credit for being a great assistant and tagging along on his midnight treks through the pitch black national park to capture some of the best stars I’ve ever seen.

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We got back to town early the next morning and had a wonderfully well deserved full nights rest. Upon waking we all went into town to check out the shops, coffee scene and more of the Moab culture - which is very touristy to say the least.

We hung out around town all morning and upon early afternoon headed out for the first hike of the day to Corona Arch.

Corona Arch: Located roughly 4 miles north of Moab, the trailhead to Corona Arch is right alongside the Potash Road. The hike to Corona/Bowtie Arches is about 3 miles roundtrip with the entire route clearly marked with piles of rocks or cairns. Rated at moderate, this route was perfect for a mid day hike through the Utah desert heat. After we completed this hike, we headed back into Moab to refill our water bottles and then turned right back around and headed back to Arches National Park to hike to Delicate Arch and watch the sunset from there.

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Delicate Arch: Delicate Arch, towering at an incredible height of 60ft is the largest free standing and most famous arch in all of Arches National Park. It’s so famous that it’s even featured on the Utah license plate! The arch is not visible from the main park road so you will need to get out of your vehicle to see it, however if you’re not into hiking, you can still get a good look at the arch from the upper viewpoint {with just a 0.5mi walk} or the lower viewpoint {a 0.1mi walk}.

For the up close and personal view {the one we opted for} you’re looking at a good ol’ out and back hike measuring in at just under 3 miles. The hike is rated at moderate, but there is a decent chunk of incline along some slick rock so I’d definitely recommend footwear with good grip. I wore my chacos and everyone was astonished that I was doing the hike {in sandals} hahaha little do they know that chacos are an absolutely amazing choice for hiking in the heat.

The route is heavily trafficked as the arch is the most popular in the park, so beware of this as you’re planning your arrival time. The main parking lot can fill quickly so you may want to increase your estimates in case you have to accomodate time it takes to walk to the trailhead. Also, if you want a picture under the arch, be ready to wait in line. There will be a steady stream of people who want the classic {Instagram jumping shot} to navigate around.

Other than that, the others are right… you definitely don’t want to skip out on this if you’re in the area. I was mesmerized by all of the arches we viewed on this trip, but the fact that this one is free standing was truly amazing. Delicate Arch is a MUST see in my book.

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 Define Fettle Travels, Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Star Gazing: After dinner at a local restaurant, we all headed back to the windows section at arches with wine/beer en tout for some good old star gazing {and more photos in Austin’s case} - this time spending most of our evening viewing/shooting the well known, Double Arch. We laid out blankets, poured ourselves a beverage and took in the vastness of the night sky with minimal light pollution - something you don’t find all that often. If you’re able to stay awake until the moon sets {time will differ depending on what phase it’s in} and you’re not too afraid of a bit of late night hiking, stargazing is totally something you should plan on doing at least 1 night.

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Canyonlands National Park: The sound of our alarms came all too early after a late night at the park, but the next morning we were up before the 5 o’clock hour to head out to Canyonlands for our first sunrise of the trip.

Mesa Arch: The drive from Moab to Mesa Arch is just under 1 hour so we arrived at the arch around 6a, admittedly a bit later than we had hoped. This is a very iconic spot for photographers to catch amazing shots of the sun peaking over the canyons of Canyonland National Park and the warm light beams streaming through the Mesa Arch, so we expected it to be busy but nothing like what we saw when we arrived.

Photographers had been there since before 5a and were shoulder to shoulder with their tripods staked out underneath the arch, ready to catch the perfect shoot as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon.  Luckily, Austin found a spot and got nice and cozy with some Germans in order to grab some of the shots you see in this post. To say that this was an amazing experience, doesn’t do any justice. I live for sunrises and sunsets and this was definitely one of the top 3 I’ve ever witnessed. Whether you have a nice camera or not, this experience, these views are highly recommended - you will not be sorry.

Nap/Food/Rest

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Granary Arch on the Aztec Butte Trail: After a relaxing afternoon we decided to head back out to Canyonlands for some additional hiking before the sunset. We decided to take on another short, moderate difficulty hike along the Aztec Butte Trail. This was just a 2 mile in and out, but did require some {all fours climbing} so beware if you have bad ankles/knees or a fear of heights. Once at the top you’ll want to check out both the granary and the sandstone arches. To find the sandstone arches you will need to climb down and around the edge of the structure, don’t worry there is plenty of space to walk so it’s not like you’re dangling off the edge.

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Green River Outlook: We capped off our adventures with a chill sunset at Green River Outlook which sits at 6000ft looking over the Soda Springs Basin and the Green River. The dramatic view is nearly breathtaking as it is endless, peaceful and vast. The parking lot had but a few vehicles in it when we arrived, so this is definitely somewhere you won’t have to fight through crowds like you might at other iconic stops in the park. The outlook is located very close to the Mesa Arch, so once the sunset commenced, we had roughly an hour drive through the park {watch for mule deer at night in any of the parks} back to Moab.

On our last morning in town, we woke up early gathered our things, cleaned our airbnb and grabbed breakfast at the Love Muffin Cafe before beginning our trek back to Grand Junction where Amy/Andrea would pick up their new rental car and head onto more National Parks {I was so jealous} and Austin/I headed back to Denver to catch our flight home.

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COLORADO:

Vail/Aspen: On our drive back to Denver for our flight back to Minneapolis we caught some of the gorgeous fall colors as they began to arrive throughout the landscape of Colorado. Luckily, we had some extra time to kill since we scheduled an evening flight so we were able to stop briefly in both Vail and Aspen to shoot a few photos and take in the unreal scenery. It was a bummer that we didn’t have another day or so to spend in Colorado, otherwise we would have definitely thrown our hiking shoes back on and headed to the trails to soak in even more of the gorgeous fall colors.

Dinner before we dropped off the car consisted of guac, ceviche and margaritas followed by a pit stop at Little Man Ice Cream {if you’re ever in Denver, GO} then it was back to the airport and after a short flight home, it was back to reality.

Austin and I can totally get down with some travels just the 2 of us, but traveling with friends is an equally as fun experience and we’re so lucky that we have friends like Amy and Andrea who are equally as passionate as us about getting out and seeing the damn world.

If you have questions about anything or would like to plan some travels with us in 2019, let’s connect! Shoot me a message at britany@definefettle.com - I would love to hear from you and/or help in any way.

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Have you ever been to Colorado? What about Utah? If not, are you adding either of them to your bucket list? And the biggest question yet, where is your next adventure leading you?

 

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