Let’s face it. We’re all a bit stir crazy these days and have a desperate need to embrace any kind of new surroundings other than our kitchen or bedroom. After all, there’s only so much Netflix you can watch without feeling like a career couch potato. Not to mention the COVID-10 (that’s 10 pounds ) you’ve packed on since March. A road trip could be what the doctor—better yet, psychiatrist—ordered. Yes, I’m well aware of non-essential travel directives, but if you have common sense, wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance, you can pretty much return to some semblance of normality without feeling germophobic. Especially if you’re headed out to some National Parkas.
We gassed up the car and headed to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Mosca, Colorado, which is no more than a 4½ hour drive from the East Mountains, and let me say, it is a sight to behold. It’s like you’ve been transported to the Sahara Desert. The biggest challenge is the walk from the parking lot to the foot of the dunes which seems like 10 football fields. The dunes were formed thousands of years ago as sand deposited by mountain streams was carried in the form of small dunes by southwest winds toward a low curve in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
You can see scores of twenty-somethings skiing down the sand slopes on their sandboards, especially designed for sand. Other ambitious, Sir Edmond Hillary wannabes climb amazingly to the very top of the dunes. But, it’s quite enough just to take in the enormity of the site and snap lots of photos.
Next, the most scenic route to Moab is 160 West which passes through Pagosa Springs, Durango and Dolores and is chock full of scenic vistas, mountain streams and beautiful Alpine forests.
As you make your approach to Moab, you realize the town has somewhat of a “Mad Max” vibe with extreme Jeep tours, not for the faint of heart. Yet, poised one block off of main street is the Hoodoo Moab, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton.
This property is the gem of Moab, with its rustic elegance, sleek architecture and luxurious amenities, including spacious rooms featuring California King beds, large screen TVs, spa-like bathrooms and comfortable seating. However, don’t forget Hilton’s CleanStay initiative. Because of Covid-19, Hilton has rigorous cleaning standards set in place to provide complete peace of mind during your stay with industry-leading hygiene practices that keep visitors ultra safe. They even have automatic hand sanitizer dispensers next to the elevators. The Josie Wyatt’s Grille on premises offers delicious cuisine any time of day in a welcoming and friendly dining room. From Prime Rib to swordfish, the grille brings fine dining to another level. But, the crown jewel of the hotel is its inviting pool, replete with waterfall, whirlpool, hot tub and an excellent view of the mountains. A must-stay while in Moab!
And now, for the pièce de résistance, Arches and Canyonlands National Park. Just a short, 5-minute drive from the town center of Moab is Arches. If you have a lifetime National Park pass, great. If not, children under 15 are admitted free and there is an annual fee for seniors and adults. Arches is a non-stop visual wonder every single turn of the wheel, and the photo ops are so plentiful, at times it’s hard to decide where to point your lens. In any event, you will be awestruck by its massive, geological wonders. There are many hikes where you can explore further as well as a visitor center for books, DVDs and souvenirs.
Another 25-minute drive down the road is Canyonlands, which is a little more spread out than Arches, but no less spectacular. This park differs from Arches in that you are looking down hundreds of feet onto the canyon floor from a high vantage point. Consequently, there are many lookouts to behold, but be very careful. There are no guardrails for most of the lookouts so don’t get too close to the edge just for a selfie!
The town of Moab is great fun with souvenir shops and every type of cuisine you could wish for, including a Food Truck park right across the street from the Hotel. The best time to visit Moab is in the fall or spring, as summer is very hot.
As of Sept. 3, there have been 52,959 cases of Covid-19 in Utah, and 414 deaths. In Grand County, where Moab is, there have been 56 cases and one death.
IF YOU GO
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Alamosa Colorado, 11999 State Highway 150, Mosca, CO., 719.378-6395, nps.gov/grsa/index.htm
Hilton Moab, 1.844.HI.CURIO, 111 N 100 W, Moab, UT 84532, 435.355.0595, rates from $200, hilton.com/en/hotels/cnycuqq-hoodoo-moab
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah 435.719-2299, nps.gov/arch/index.htm
Canyonlands National Park, 2282 Resource Blvd., Moab, UT 84532, 435.719.2313, nps.gov/cany/index.htm
Josie Wyatt’s Grille in the Hoodoo Moab Hilton, josiewyattsgrille.com, 435.355.0552
Richard Atkins is a travel writer, photographer, actor, playwright, pianist, screenwriter and can be reached at email@example.com.