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Discover Moab, Utah, for epic regional adventure

Photographers and nature enthusiasts come from around the globe to photograph the famous mesa at sunrise in Canyonlands National Park in Moab.  The sun illuminates the underbelly of the mesa, creating a dramatic fiery appearance. Photo by Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle.

Photographers and nature enthusiasts come from around the globe to photograph the famous mesa at sunrise in Canyonlands National Park in Moab. The sun illuminates the underbelly of the mesa, creating a dramatic fiery appearance. Photo by Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle.

By Amy Proctor, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle:

Most Soldiers, spouses and family members look forward to their well-deserved 30 days of vacation every year. One of those weeks should definitely be spent in one of America’s most epic locations – Moab, Utah, which is home to two of the country’s most amazing national parks.

Why Moab? In a word, location. Not only do visitors travel the world to see its two stunningly unique national parks, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, but it is in close proximity to other must-see American southwest areas, such as the famous Monument Valley and Antelope Slot canyons in neighboring Arizona.

This tiny town of 5,100 residents hosts more than one million visitors annually. About 30 percent of those visitors are foreigners who have put the area on their bucket list when coming to the United States to vacation. Photographers from around the globe make sure this is one area they photograph to enhance their portfolios and expand their freelance businesses. Moab is often featured in prominent papers and magazines such as the New York Times and National Geographic. And there’s reason for all the attention this little town gets. It’s stunning.

Moab is less than a 10-hour drive from El Paso. Leaving El Paso at a reasonably, but not ridiculously, early hour will land you in Moab by mid-afternoon. This quaint little town is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and filled with character. It’s reminiscent of something you’d find in Colorado with its mountainous, alpine feel, but it is uniquely desert. It’s assortment of local restaurants and hotels make it a comfortable stay while enjoying the many things Moab has to offer.

Why do people come to Moab? The two biggest reasons would be their two national parks. Arches National Park is a wonderland of incredible rock structures and arches that are accessible and touchable. The famous Delicate Arch draws a million people each year and is the park’s most popular and bizarre site. Teetering on the edge of a mountain and looking like a giant horseshoe with feet, visitors love to stand under the 65-foot-tall arch for pictures. To one side of the Delicate Arch is a steep, deep, very large crater and on the other is a rock ledge where people sit for hours and enjoy the arch. The feeling that this must be another planet is pretty common as people say out loud in awe, “This is unreal.”

The other arches in the park are not to be outdone. With more than 76,000 acres and more than 2,000 recorded arches, Arches National Park is a perfect place for exploring, playing, wandering and wondering. This may be a fantastic place for photographers, tourists, hikers, nature lovers and thrill seekers, but parents often ask if Arches can hold the attention of a child. The answer is “absolutely yes.” As nature’s vast outdoor playground, Arches is ideal for children and adults alike as it brings out the child in everyone.

Moab is also home to Canyonlands National Park, which lives up to its name with more than 527 square miles of breathtaking desert canyons. Hiking, biking, four-wheeling or horseback riding are all doable within this massive park. Photographers from around the world are drawn to the sunrise at the famous Mesa arch in the park, getting up at 3 a.m. to beat out others vying for the best view.

Canyonlands is also connected to Dead Horse Point State Park, which is also a popular destination for hikers, bikers, photographers and tourists. The edge of the mesa at the main overlook plunges down 2,000 feet into the canyon where the Colorado River goosenecks through the canyon floor providing exquisite views.

The Colorado River winds through Moab, and popular activities there include whitewater rafting, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and jet boating. The town is also a magnet for rock climbers, mountain bikers and hikers. If taking it easy is more your style, there are a number of beautiful 18-hole golf courses surrounded by red rock with incredible views.

Since Moab can act as home base while exploring these magnificent sites, it is also close in proximity to other locations to make the trip worthwhile. Monument Valley, the Navajo Tribal Park just across the state line in Arizona, is famous for its red buttes and John Wayne films, as well as the recent Lone Ranger movie with Johnny Depp, and is one of those locations people try to visit once in a lifetime because of its iconic nature. Being less than two hours north of Monument Valley, a good day trip can be taken from Moab, especially if there are no rooms available at the one and only hotel in Monument Valley, the View, which fills up months in advance in the spring and summer months.

It’s easy to see why Moab, Utah, should be on everyone’s to-do list while in this part of the country. El Paso is just far enough west to make these incredible locations doable for memories that will last a lifetime.

For more information on Moab, visit www.utah.com/moab or www.discovermoab.com.

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