The Essential Arches
Arches National Park
* This southern Utah park is a must-see for park aficionados. Its surreal rock architecture of arches and windows, hoodoos and spires spawns expectations that Fred Flintstone will round the corner with Betty at his side.
* Visitation is best in April and May or late-September and October, when the temperatures aren't like those of a convection oven.
* If you have time for only one hike, follow the path to Delicate Arch. Time for two? Head to Landscape Arch and beyond to Double O Arch, then circle back via the Primitive Trail.
* Best adventure? A canyoneering excursion into Lomatium Canyon with Desert Highlights.
* Kid-pleaser? Sand Dune Arch.
* How do you escape the crowds? Venture through the Salt Valley to Klondike Bluffs, but be sure you have a shovel in the trunk in case you bog down in drifting sands across the road.
* Best dinner? Smoked elk tenderloin mignon with caramelized onions in a huckleberry, chipotle pepper and port wine reduction sauce at the Desert Bistro or seared Ahi and diver scallops in a cilantro-Shoyu reduction with ginger Jasmine rice at the Center Cafe.
* Best breakfast? Ginger pancakes with Dutch Apple Butter and a side of peppered bacon at the Jailhouse Cafe.
* Best lodging, price not an object? Sorrel River Ranch.
* Best bargain lodging? Moab Super 8.