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The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Moab, Utah

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Moab, Utah

From gnarly biking trails to red-rock canyons, roaring whitewater rafting to ancient petroglyphs carved into the desert, there are oodles of things to see and things to do in Moab, UT.

Welcome to the adventure capital of the Beehive State. It’s a place where ATVs rally over backcountry trails, where climbers dangle from stacks of ochre-tinged stone, and skydivers plummet from clouds to the dusty desert floor in just seconds.

On top of that comes the world-class camping in Moab, an array of hearty Moab restaurants, and access to some of the most eye-watering national parks this side of the Rockies.

This guide runs through all the things you need to know about getting sucked into Utah’s wild outback hub. It’s got info on the best time of year to go to Moab, some of the best places to stay and dine, and the best things to do in Moab. So, dust down those walking boots, ready the mountain bikes, and let’s get started…

Can you see mini us? 😉

Where is Moab?

Moab is one of the biggest towns in the wild-west corner of southeast Utah. You’ll find it hugging the meanders of the great Colorado River around 26 miles directly to the west of the CO-UT state line.

To the north is the iconic Arches National Park. A little to the southwest is the lesser-known – although no less spectacular – Canyonlands National Park.

How to get to Moab?

To get to Moab, UT, you can rent a car and drive the east-west I-70 all the way to Crescent Junction and then join US 191 southbound. That should bring you straight to town in under 45 minutes.

The closest airport is the Canyonlands Field Airport, although that only has one or two commercial services. Alternatively, you can jet into the Grand Junction Regional Airport and then make the drive over from Colorado.

Last time we had a campervan.

How many days do you need in Moab?

Well…that really depends on what you want to do! To be honest, you could fill weeks and weeks with all the hiking that’s on the menu between the Canyonlands and Arches national parks. Seriously – we’re talking hundreds of miles of marked trails. And that’s not even mentioning the world-famous mountain biking and off-roading that the region keeps up its sleeve.

The upshot? Before asking ‘how many days do you need in Moab’, ask what you really want to get up to in this enthralling corner of the Beehive State. If you’re keen to see both parks, enjoy the local Moab restaurants, and do a few adrenaline-pumping outings on the whitewater, it’s probably wise to set aside at least four or five days.

Shorter trips are possible, but first-time visitors should be wary of coming for less than three days. There’s just so much to see, and you’ll need at least a whole day each for the main state and national preserves in the vicinity.

What’s the Best Time to Go to Moab?

The seasons in this corner of Utah are going to have a huge effect on the type of vacation you have out in the Moab Wild West. Winters can bring dustings of snow and sub-zero temperatures, but also mean finding the place largely without the crowds. Summer is popular, great for feeling the heat haze of the desert, and also alive with visitors and energy…

Winter in Moab

Winter is the best time of year to go to Moab if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. Loads of the organized tour outfitters shut down for the colder months and visitor numbers dip to their annual low between December and March. Average temperatures sit around the 30s and snow is common on the red rock valleys all around.

So, you’ll need the thermals in tow, but can also look forward to seeing the Arches blanketed in white (fantastic for photography). Hiking trails often stay open throughout the season but are nowhere near as packed. Meanwhile, adventurers flock to enjoy bouldering on the canyons along the Colorado River or Nordic skiing in the La Sal Mountains.

Spring in Moab

Spring might just be the very best time of year to go to Moab! As the winter snows dip away and the temperatures increase (highs go from 65 to 85 between March and April), the Moab Desert awakens with blooms of wildflowers and colorful cacti. Because the scorching summer heat hasn’t yet hit in earnest, the spring is prime for hiking and mountain biking.

The downside? You’re likely to see a noticeable uptick in visitor numbers and the cost of accommodations from around the start of April. That also means it’s usually wise to book your camping in Moab as far in advance as you can if you’re coming for springtime.

Summer in Moab

Summer in Moab can be hot. Mercury levels regularly hit 100, but it’s even balmier in the direct sun. There’s also hardly a day of rain in the middle of the Utah desert at this time of year.

Still, hikers and bikers flock in by their thousands between June and August. The rule of thumb is to get your adventures out of the way as early as you can – ramblers usually begin in the small hours and wind up their trek around midday.

There are lots of options to beat the heatwaves in this action-packed town, whether that means tubing sessions on the Colorado River or SUP boarding through the canyons. That said, it’s probably wise to plump for a hotel that comes with its own swimming pool during the warmer season.

Fall in Moab

The fall is another of the popular times of year in Moab. Crowds drop off a little from the midsummer and temperatures are tempered a tad. In fact, you’re looking at daily averages that are up to 20 degrees cooler in October than in August.

That means it’s a doozy of a season for hikers who want to hit the myriad trails of the Arches and the Canyonlands national parks. In addition, thinning visitor numbers mean the lookouts of places like Dead Horse Point State Park won’t be so busy.

The whitewater rapids on the Green and Colorado rivers also tend to relax a little, so rafting outings could be on the menu, even for relative beginners.


Top 5 Things to Do in Moab

Moab is an adventure seeker’s dream come true. From high-speed MTB routes over petrified sandhills to wild whitewater rivers, there are all sorts to get through. And there’s a load of national parks and scenic lookouts for good measure…

Arches National Park

The Arches National Park is usually right up there at the top of any list of things to do in Moab. The main southern entrance and visitor’s center of the reserve sits a mere five miles to the north of the town. It marks the start of the Arches Scenic Drive, which weaves through swathes of wild desert scrub spotted by toppling hoodoos and cathedral mountains.

There’s hiking galore in the Arches. If you’ve got time for just a single day, we’d recommend the iconic walk to Delicate Arch, which twists amazingly out of a bed of Navajo sandstone with the snowy La Sal Mountains framed in the distance.

Canyonlands National Park

Charge the camera to full. Dust down the walking boots. Get ready to go, because Canyonlands awaits.

The second of the great national parks in the vicinity of Moab is a vast enclave of cut canyons and rusty peaks, covering over 520 square miles that begin about 25 miles to the south-west of the town.

There are four distinct sectors to the preserve. The so-called Island in the Sky is the most popular, mainly for its jaw-dropping lookout points.

Closer to the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers, you can find some of the best camping in Moab, where morning views over colossal buttes and gorges are the norm.


Slickrock Trail

If you’re heading to Moab for the mountain biking (and loads do!), there’s simply no ignoring the Slickrock Trail. It’s arguably the most famous backcountry MTB route in America.

Crossing 10.5 miles of the Moab Desert to the north of the town, it takes riders across a rough terrain of hardened sand dunes that can sometimes be a real challenge to summit (AKA: they’re steep).

Of course, the views are incredible, especially as the peaks of the La Sal range spike the horizon to the east.


Dead Horse Point State Park

If you have to pick only one viewpoint, pick the Dead Horse Point State Park’s overlook that lofts more than 2,000 feet above the meanders of the Colorado River.

The vista pretty much sums up the terrain around Moab: Pure drama. You’ll be surveying a huge bend in the famous waterway, as mighty cliffs soar up like cathedral towers on all banks. It’s not a sight you can forget in a hurry!

RiverRafting on the Colorado River

Moab isn’t all dusty deserts and sun-scorched hills. This land is carved out by the ancient waters of the Colorado River. As they flow in from the border with the Centennial State to the northeast, they offer up some fantastic stretches for rafters and canoers.

Different times of the year give different strengths of rapids, and tours range from adrenaline-pumping whitewater outings to chilled sightseeing kayaking. It’s a fine way to get a feel for the beautiful countryside around Moab.


Where to Eat in Moab

There’s a great range of Moab restaurants to pick from these days. Whether you’re after a quick brunch on your way to the trails, a filling Americana slap-up of steak and salad, or something a little different, this town should have an eatery to match…

  • Milt’s Stop & Eat – A homey and welcoming joint that’s great for families whizzing in and out of town to the Sand Flats or the Arches, Milt’s Stop & Eat serves up classic USA fare with a smile. All burgers (the speciality) are made from fresh-ground and hormone-free beef. There’s also a focus on local, farm-to-table veg.
  • Sunset Grill – There’s nothing quite like settling in for an evening of flame-grilled steaks and Hawaiian-inspired surf-turf at the Sunset Grill. The dishes are hearty and cooked with all-American flair on the BBQ, while the views are of the rugged red rocks of the Moab Rim.
  • Miguel’s Baja Grill – Sat right on the main 191 as it runs through the heart of Moab, Miguel’s Baja Grill isn’t only accessible – it’s darn tasty, too! The vibe is Mexicana seafood with a touch of Tex-Mex fire, so be ready to munch on Loreto shrimp tacos and tortillas doused in traditional mole sauces.
  • 98 Center Moab – A taste of the Far East in the downtown, 98 Center offers something unique among Moab restaurants. The location is small and compact, but the menu packs a punch of Vietnamese spice and soy, touting fusion foods that mingle braised Utah meats with marinated lemongrass and shiitake salads.

Where to Stay in Moab

Moab is the main tourist hub of south-eastern Utah.

The upshot? You should never be short on places to stay in this bustling town of hikers and bikers. From elegant, five-star ranches to simple campsites out in the bush, there’s a medley of accommodation options…

Luxury Hotels in Moab

Moab has oodles of hotels. It’s a place where slick country ranch-resorts rub shoulders with remote cabins. Take your pick!

Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa
Languishing by the side of the Colorado River a little to the north-west of Moab, Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa promises to whisk you out to the stunning canyons and hoodoos of the desert without compromising on luxury. Eye-watering views of the Castle Valley and a sumptuous pool dominate outside. Inside, you’re looking at real-wood fires and cozy lobby lounges you won’t want to leave.

Hoodoo Moab
Four stars and plenty of luxury await at the Hoodoo Moab. The resort effortlessly blends cutting-edge modern looks with the rugged backdrop of the Utah desert, with suites that are designed with infusions of local materials and art. There’s a gorgeous pool with equally gorgeous views in the grounds to boot. Location-wise, you’ll be right in the heart of the town.

Budget-Friendly Hotels in Moab

Best Western Plus Greenwell Inn
Within walking distance of the Moab Brewery,
this inn is a 10-minute drive from the entrance to Arches National Park and close to the tourist spots. Spacious rooms include fridges, tea/coffee makers and are close to local family restaurants.

The Gonzo Inn
This boutique hotel has decorations that are rather fun
. Plus, spacious rooms with every amenity also include balconies with mountain views. The larger suites seem like a home away from home.

Expedition Lodge
Right in the center of Moab, this is the perfect base for a hiking trip. Restaurants, stores, and the Moab Brewery are with walking distance. So is the White Rim Trail and Hurrah Pass Road. Kids enjoy the swimming pool while adults enjoy the hot tub. You’ll also like the games room, and 60s style telephones, TVs, and microwaves.

Cabins In Moab

St. Danes Cabins
Something a touch more authentic awaits at St. Danes Cabins. Built to mimic traditional desert dwellings in the age-old adobe style, these quaint boltholes are a fine couple’s retreat. The location to the south of Moab in Spanish Valley is perfect if you’re looking to visit the Canyonlands NP or the La Sal Mountains. There are few St. Danes cabins around Moab:

Red River Lodge
Private suites with river or creek views and a well-equipped kitchenette at the Red River Lodge are the perfect place to lay your head while exploring Moab. Go horse riding at the onsite corral, visit the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage, or take a dive in the outdoor pool. And at the end of the day, enjoy a drink at The Wild Horse Bar or grab a meal at the Red Cliff’s Cowboy Grill.

Camping in Moab

Camping in Moab is the option to take if you want to skip the city and really immerse yourself in the wild. Thankfully, there are managed campsites in both of the major national parks close to the town.

One of the best is surely the Murphy Hogback Campground A, which spreads on a plateau between Junction Butte and the Green River down in the Canyonlands National Park.

To go under canvas in the Arches National Park, be sure to check out the far-flung Devils Garden Campground. It takes you deep into the reserve, but puts you right by some of the top geological features, like the Broken Arch and the huge Landscape Arch.

If you want to camp outside the parks, here are a few budget-friendly choices.

And here are a few luxurious choices.

There is a lot to see and do in Moab, Utah, from glamping to hiking to four-wheel drives. You’ll definitely want to visit for more than a few days. What do you plan on visiting first on your trip to Moab, Utah? And where do you plan on staying?

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