Welcome to our fourth and final installment of our coverage of Joel and Patty Anderson's adventure-filled trip to the Grand Circle!
As artists and illustrators who love to create vintage travel art and National Parks poster art, we recognize the importance of traveling to the special places we create art of. In preparation for the upcoming book, The Illustrated Guide to Exploring The Grand Circle, our Creative Director (Joel Anderson), Bookkeeper (Patty Anderson), and co-author of the upcoming book (Dan Pierce) spent eight days of sightseeing, hiking, and exploring in the National Parks, Monuments, and natural wonders of Utah and Arizona.
Today we set off on the final stage of the journey, Day #7, #8, and #9. In this last stretch of the adventure, JP&D (Joel, Patty, and Dan) visited Escalante, Moab, Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley, Bears Ears, Mule Canyon, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, and Dead Horse Point.
Day #7, Escalante; Homebase for Capitol Reef and Goblin Valley
Towards the end of Day #6, our group left their base in Kanab, Utah and drove to the small town of Escalante, Utah, about a two-hour drive northeast. Here, JP&D had an incredible meal at the award-winning Hell's Backbone Kitchen. The next morning, Day #7, the group ventured into Capitol Reef National Park and Goblin Valley State Park on their way to Moab.
Capitol Reef National Park. One of the less-often visited National Parks in the Grand Circle, Capitol Reef offers comparable stunning views and vistas as other Grand Circle attractions, but without the packed crowds and overstuffed parking lots. Capitol Reef NP is home to ancient petroglyphs, cowboy graffiti, plenty of canyons, mesas, hiking trails, and the Fruita Orchard. Speaking of the Fruita Orchard (and good eats in general), our travelers had some tasty pie at the Fruita Farm and the best burgers ever at the Capitol Burger food trailer. Capitol Reef National Park didn't disappoint!
Goblin Valley State Park. The drive from Escalante to Moab sends you right by Capitol Reef and Goblin Valley, both of which are worth stopping by and checking out. Goblin Valley is a peculiar sight, with unique rock formations that look like something out of a B-rate sci-fi movie. In fact, Galaxy Quest, a 1999 comedy/sci fi film, was filmed in Goblin Valley.
Day #8, On to Moab and Beyond!
The last leg of the journey would be launched from Moab, the third staging area on our trio's adventure. JP&D arrived at Moab on the evening of Day #7, and Day #8 saw them rise with the dawn and spend a full day exploring Bears Ears National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Mule Canyon, and Monument Valley.
Bears Ears National Monument. Bears Ears National Monument is perhaps best known for its ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, stunning remnants of a culture that lived in the region hundreds of years ago. JP&D explored these ruins, taking care not to disturb them in any way. (Practicing "Leave No Trace" is a must when visiting this park).
Natural Bridges National Monument. As the name implies, Natural Bridges National Monument features stunning arches of stone that form actual bridges from one monolith of rock to another. One of the best features of this park is that it offers much of the same awe and excitement as Arches National Park, but without the crowds.
Mule Canyon. As Utah travelers often say, a trip to the Grand Circle isn't complete without a hike through Mule Canyon. Another local attraction easily forgotten, this stunning canyon features red-rock canyon walls, Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, and petroglyphs. It's a path less traveled but absolutely worth the excursion.
Monument Valley. Just about everyone has seen images of Monument Valley, even if they haven't physically been there. This valley has been featured in many Hollywood films, including old western films and other greats like 2001: A Space Odyssey, National Lampoon's Vacation, Back to the Future III, Forrest Gump, and The Lone Ranger.
Monument Valley is located in the Navajo Nation, an Indigenous tribal park with several attractions and stunning vistas.
Day #9, Ending it on an Arch... Arches National Park!
The last day called for adventure, excitement, and going out with a bang at some of the most iconic attractions of the Grand Circle. Our travelers decided to spend their final day at Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, both of which offer fascinating rock formations, panoramic views, and diverse landscapes.
Arches National Park. Known for its incredible stone arches like Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Partition Arch, and over 2,000 other natural stone arches, this park is understandably one of the most-visited National Parks on the roster. The National Park Service describes it accurately; it's a "Red Rock Wonderland."
Dead Horse Point State Park. Known for its huge vistas over deep canyons and winding rivers, this park attracts visitors with modern amenities, manicured hiking trails, well-kept campgrounds, and incredibly dark skies at night. This park in particular has some of the most stunning sunrise and sunset views in the Grand Circle.
Joel's Two Cents
When Joel, Patty, and Dan returned from their trip, I interviewed Joel about their adventure.
I wanted to know what about the Grand Circle inspired him as an artist and what advice he had for other travelers. Here's what Joel said about the last few days of their trip:
Ren: Moab is quite the adventure hotspot. What are your tips for securing lodging there?
Joel: Moab is all about their outdoor events. The city even has a webpage dedicated to its events. Check out that calendar before you schedule a trip, and try to avoid some of the more famous event dates. During the busy season, I recommend visiting Moab during the week. It's packed on the weekends, even if there isn't an event scheduled.
Ren: Social media selfies have made the arches in Arches National Park extremely popular. How do you recommend folks visit that park without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder with other visitors?
Joel: Get there early! We went there first thing in the morning, and the parking lot was already almost full. Plus, how cool would it be to snap a sunrise selfie at Delicate Arch?
Ren: Natural Bridges National Monument... or Arches National Park?
Joel: I like them both for different reasons. Natural Bridges is one of the most well-kept and best-maintained National Monuments I've ever been to. It doesn't have a fraction of the crowds that Arches gets, but the views are incredible. But then again, Arches is just... iconic!
Ren: What stood out about your last few days in the Grand Circle?
Joel: I think what was interesting to me is how some attractions receive immense attention, and others don't, but they're just as amazing, sometimes more so. Places like Mule Canyon, Capitol Reef, Natural Bridges, and parts of Monument Valley don't get a lot of visitation, but they're stunning.
Ren: What advice do you have for other travelers?
Joel: I guess leading from that previous question, I'd say that detailed planning really does win the day because if you plan your trip out well, you have time to see a bunch of the off-the-beaten-path attractions I mentioned that are stunning yet have much smaller crowds. Plan your trip in detail and take your time with it, and you can see all that the Grand Circle has to offer in one-and-a-half to two weeks.
An Adventure of Inspiration and Wonder
The Anderson Design Group poster artists are already hard at work creating new National Park posters of some of the attractions that inspired Joel, Patty, and Dan during their trip. You can view the recently completed works in the 63 American National Parks Collection and the American National Monuments and Natural Wonders Collection. Be sure to check back on these collections too. Poster art is being added every week, with new design ideas and poster illustrations forthcoming.
Also, keep an eye out for Anderson Design Group's upcoming hardcover coffee table book, The Illustrated Guide to Exploring The Grand Circle. Once released, this book will be available in the Books & Journals section.
This was just one trip the ADG team planned to take in 2021. Coming up in September, ADG social media and customer service wizard Molly Mann and front desk/fulfillment super lady Ally Cizowski will be heading off to tour some parks of their own! Stay tuned, as we'll be covering their adventures too!
Until next time,
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer