Arches & Canyonlands Hiking & Camping

Trip Length 6 Days
Group Size 4–12
Activity level
Starting from
$2,699 for REI Members
$2,940 for non-members
Departures May 2021-Oct 2021

Discover the scenic and geological wonders of two of the world’s most unique national parks on this immersive 6-day hiking adventure.

Tucked into Utah’s southeastern corner, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks showcase all aspects of the Colorado Plateau that make this beautiful high desert region so alluring to outdoor adventurers. Our camping adventure transports us into the heart of this majestic wilderness where water and wind-sculpted cliffs, towering red rock spires and sandstone arches of enormous scale stretch out to the distant horizon. From our comfy basecamp, we hike along some of the most scenic trails mythicized in Edward Abbey’s classic memoir Desert Solitaire, and come to understand why he was so drawn to Utah’s spectacular canyon country. We also spend a day rafting down the Colorado River, its unyielding current carving through stone and sediment, perpetually altering the shape of the surrounding landscape. Each night, we relax back in camp, savoring freshly-prepared dinners, the magical desert twilight, and the cliffrose-scented breeze.

At journey’s end, we’re sure to return home with a new appreciation for the relentless natural forces that shape our planet and a renewed sense of wonder stoked by the captivating beauty of the American Southwest.

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Trip Highlights

  • Explore the otherworldly high desert landscapes of Arches & Canyonlands National Parks
  • Hike along some of the parks’ most scenic trails to awe-inspiring overlooks and beautiful natural arches
  • Cool off on a fun-filled rafting excursion on the Colorado River
  • Learn about this region’s rich geological and natural history from our exceptional guides
  • Camp in comfort: Sleep in oversized tents and eat delicious guide-prepared meals

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate [3]. You should be capable of hiking up to 8 miles (5–6 hours) while carrying a daypack weighing approximately 10–15 pounds. We hike both on- and off-trail along terrain that includes dirt and sand trails, open sandstone slickrock and some steep inclines/declines. During our rafting excursion on the Colorado River, we use paddle rafts (meaning all group members participate in the paddling) and will be on the water for approximately 6 hours (14 miles). This section of the river contains some rapids rated as Class II–III . No previous rafting experience is required and all associated gear will be provided.

  • Hiking
  • Rafting

What's Included

Five nights camping accommodations; guide leadership; round-trip van transportation from/to Salt Lake City, UT; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; Colorado River rafting excursion and associated gear; beverages including coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate; extra-thick sleeping pads; all group camping equipment; park fees and local taxes.

Accommodations

Camping; 5 nights.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

A warm-up hike at gorgeous Dead Horse Point

Our trip begins this morning in Salt Lake City, Utah. We meet our guides at 8am and, after introductions and a brief orientation, begin the four-hour drive southeast towards Utah’s canyon country. Arriving in early afternoon, we stop for a picnic lunch before setting out on a warm-up hike in Dead Horse Point State Park. Located on a mesa top on the edge of Canyonlands National Park, our trail offers outstanding views of the surrounding high desert landscape and the Colorado River far below. At hike’s end, we head to our campsite and pitch our tents before enjoying our first guide-prepared dinner under the vast Southwestern sky. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 3–5 miles, Elevation gain: +900’ / -900’; Van transfer: 4.5 hours

Day 2

Hike through the Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park

With its colorful geology, giant balanced rocks, and more than 2,000 sandstone arches of all shapes and sizes, Arches National Park is mother nature’s sculpture garden. We head into Arches this morning for a full day of exploration, beginning with a hike along the Devil’s Garden Trail. This 7-mile loop leads us past some of the park’s most magnificent arches including Double O Arch, Landscape Arch (the longest in the park, stretching over 290 feet) and Navajo Arch. Hiking over primitive trail and slickrock, we visit these named arches and take in views of the many sandstone fins and formations that comprise the surrounding landscape. Later this afternoon, we take a second shorter hike between the soaring canyon walls of Park Avenue, walking in the shadows of the Three Gossips, the Courthouse Towers, the Organ, and the Tower of Babel. Back at camp, we reflect on our day of discovery in one of the world’s most unique national parks. All meals included.

Hiking: 8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,100' / -1,100’

Day 3

Explore Canyonlands’ awe-inspiring Needles district

This morning, we drive 90 minutes to a true hiker’s paradise: the remote Needles section of Canyonlands National Park. Our spectacular hike leads to Chesler Park, a large open meadow filled with desert grasses and striated red and white pinnacles towering hundreds of feet high. During the hike to and from Chesler Park, we’re treated to unforgettable panoramic vistas of this entire region of Canyonlands that include thousands of sandstone “needles” rising from the slickrock landscape like a city of stone skyscrapers. On the return trip this afternoon, we stop at Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument to examine the hundreds of petroglyphs carved into the rock face by the Native American peoples who passed through this region throughout the past 2,000 years. Tonight’s tasty dinner will be in a local Moab restaurant, a relaxing end to another full day in canyon country. All meals included.

Hiking: 6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,000’ / -1,000'; Van transfer: 3 hours

Day 4

Raft the Colorado River surrounded by high-desert scenery

After three days of exploring by trail, today’s fun-filled rafting adventure offers a different vantage point as we glide through this majestic desert region along the legendary Colorado River. Our trip downriver incorporates expert interpretation by our guides, and just enough whitewater (class II–III) to get the adrenaline pumping and cool us off. Back on land this afternoon, we take some time to explore vibrant downtown Moab before returning to camp for another night under a brilliant canopy of twinkling stars.

Rafting: 6 hours (14 miles), Whitewater: Class II–III

Day 5

Relish amazing views of Canyonlands from the Island in the Sky

Today’s hike in Canyonlands begins with a gradual mile-long climb across open wildflower-filled grassland towards the rim of Island in the Sky mesa. Our sandy trail eventually changes to slickrock before reaching a mesa-top vantage point offering breathtaking views across the Colorado River canyon. From here we can see the pinnacles, arches and spires of the park’s Needles district and the lofty La Sal Mountains in the distance. Watching for bighorn sheep, we hike just below the mesa rim along the Lathrop Trail, with the cliffs of Island in the Sky above and the carved red rock canyons of the Colorado River branching out below. At day’s end, we return to our campsite for a final festive dinner, providing an opportunity to celebrate new friendships and recap the week’s adventures. All meals included.

Hiking: 6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +350’ / -350'

Day 6

Hike to Delicate Arch before returning to Salt Lake City

After breakfast, we break camp and head back into Arches National Park for our last hike up to arguably the most extraordinary natural arch in the Southwest: magical Delicate Arch. Perched above an orange sandstone basin, the graceful shape, color and location of Delicate Arch make it a photographer’s dream. We spend some time lingering near the arch, marveling at its ability to seemingly defy gravity, before heading back down trail to our waiting van. Our final hike complete, we bid farewell to Arches and begin the last leg of our journey back to Salt Lake City. We plan to arrive in Salt Lake City by 7pm this evening. Breakfast and lunch included.

Hiking: 3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +610’ / -610'; Van transfer: 4.5 hours

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.