The desert is arguably one of my favorite landscapes to draw and paint, so being in the desert and finding that perfect view, plopping down in the sand, and just drawing, is always a treat.
I've spent a fair amount of time in Moab as it's not far from my home in Colorado, and I've staked out some of the best spots for sketching/painting/drawing for anyone who want's a little plein air fun.
It would be hard to not start with Arches National Park because it's a goldmine of amazing locations. But, I wanted to break these locations up a bit to give each their due. Let's start with Landscape Arch. This gorgeous arch is just a short hike from the parking lot at the very back of the park, but offers some extra fun if you want to extend your hike or plein air session. Landscape Arch, one of the world's longest stone spans, stretches 306 feet but is only about 11 feet thick at its center. Not long ago, a large portion of the middle of the rock fell.
To get to Landscape Arch, start your hike at the Devils Garden trailhead. The trail is hard-packed-dirt/sand to Landscape Arch. The total distance to the arch and back is only 1.9 miles. Beyond Landscape Arch, you can continue along the Devils Garden trail toward Double O arch, although the terrain becomes a bit more moderate at this point. The hike to Double O arch is about 4 miles RT. Theres a short spur trail to Dark Angel (not even a full mile) that starts on the north side of Double O Arch. This out-and-back spur leads to the tall, dark spire seen off in the distance from Double O.
My favorite hike in the whole park, the Devils Garden Primitive Loop, is a spot with some uncrowded, spectacular views takes you through the back side of Devils Garden. It's not recommended if you're new to hiking/reading a map, or if the conditions are wet. This alternative route (2.1 mi one way) to or from Double O Arch is the most difficult segment of the Devils Garden trail system. The obstacles in this segment include difficult route finding, steep slopes, narrow drop-offs, and rock scrambling. Hiking the Primitive Trail requires crossing a pool that may contain water.
2. Next up in Arches is Park Avenue. This section of the park is towards the beginning and you can opt for a quick, easy hike, or just stick to your car and pull out a chair to be more comfortable.
3. The Windows Section of Arches National Park is another excellent location for sketching. It has an amazing view of the La Sal Mountains, lots of cute alcoves to sit in, and loads of arches to choose from.
4. Sand Dune Arch just might be the most comfortable place in all of Arches National Park to sit and sketch. You can sit below the towering arch where the ground is entirely covered with soft sand. The arch is nestled in a little cave and there's lots of different options for drawing more contained landscapes.
5. Outside of Arches National Park, there are countless options for AMAZING places to draw and explore and hike if you're into that kind of thing. If you're looking for a challenging but absolutely stunning landscape to draw, head to Dead Horse Point State Park and either drive or hike along the rim of the park to Dead Horse Point. This gives you an aerial view of the Green River meandering below, with towers and carved out red sandstone to contrast the water.
6. For more aerial views of carved out sandstone, single track, and sometimes water, continue along 310 to Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky District. There are so many amazing overlooks in this park to provide hundreds of landscapes to draw if you've got the time. Some of my favorite places in the park include:
Shafer Canyon Overlook
Grand View Point
Buck Canyon Overlook
The short Mesa Arch hike
7. If you're in the market for free, less crowded options and you don't mind a little hiking, these next options are for you. Grandstaff Trail to Morning Glory Bridge is one of my top 5 places to hike in all of Moab. If you're there at the right time, you get to cross the creek multiple times, and end up in an amazing shaded alcove. Along the way there's twisty juniper, towering sandstone walls, and lots and lots of gorgeous creekside places to stop for a snack.
8. Next up is Corona Arch. Get there early to avoid the crowds as this is a fairly crowded location. This spot gives you lots of different options of things to draw whether you fancy some railroad tracks stretching into the desert, or Corona Arch itself. (My partner is an ultrarunner who did a series of races in Moab, and we went to Corona Arch as part of a training session for him. Hence the running photo).
9. If you're not in the mood to do any hiking but still want more gorgeous views than you could paint in your life, head over to Potash Road. Stop anywhere along the road for river views, towering cliffs, and often wildlife.
10. I saved (in my opinion) the best for last with Castleton Tower. This area on the other side of HWY 191 is a haven for climbers (particularly Fisher Towers, a little ways further on 128). There's lots of places to stop along the way if you fancy drawing old barns, ranch buildings, or any number of amazing sandstone features. But the towers are certainly the gem. Either hike in or stop along the road, pull up a chair, and enjoy.