USA Travel

How to make the most of your stay in Moab, Utah

By
Tim Gillespie
on
June 7, 2021

On the top of every outdoor adventurist’s bucket list is the tiny town of Moab. This outdoor playground offers up access to incredible hikes, unforgettable mountain biking, huge rapids of whitewater, deep canyons for exploration, and spectacular night skies once the sun goes down. Along with this vast list of recreational opportunities, visitors will find a unique downtown vibe dotted with food trucks, breweries, and boutique cafes. There is so much to do and see in Moab, that’s why it's a no-brainer why it’s become a sought after destination.

Planning a trip to Moab? Then continue reading to find out our recommendations and things to do to make the most of your stay.

Explore Arches National Park

Arches National Park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. Littered throughout the stunning desert landscape are various unusual geological formations. Hikers can choose from a wide variety of trails, from short twenty-minute walks leading right up to many of the largest arches in the park to more adventurous hikes into lesser seen areas.  

Delicate Arch, easily the most photographed arch in the park, can be reached on a moderate 1.5-mile hike. We recommend you do this hike either for sunrise or sunset to capture the best lighting for your photographs. Do expect crowds during the peak season from June through October though.

One of the best ways to explore the park is by driving the 36-mile (57 kilometers) Scenic Drive, which allows access to multiple trails and viewpoints of several famous arches. Be sure to explore the trails in the Windows Section of the park or hike to Delicate Arch at sunset.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab
Hiking to Delicate Arch is a must-do activity in Moab

Additional Reading: Top Hikes in Arches National Park

Explore Canyonlands National Park

The largest national park in Utah, Canyonlands is a vast network of interwoven canyons and crevices carved out by the Green River and Colorado River. The Island in the Sky section of the park is the most accessible from Moab and offers spectacular panoramic views that encompass thousands of square miles of canyon country.  

The Mesa Arch Trail is an easy, 0.5-mile hike to the viewpoint of the arch framing the La Sal Mountains. The Grand Viewpoint Overlook trail can be accessed along the 34-mile (54 kilometers) Scenic Drive. This 2-mile hike leads out to the edge of the mesa with panoramic vistas the entire way.

If you are looking for a real adventure, opt for a guided 4x4 tour to explore the lesser-visited areas of the park.

Go Hiking

Visiting the nearby national parks will offer plenty of hiking opportunities, but there are also miles of hiking trails to explore in Moab to keep you busy. From cool stream-side pathways to spectacular sandstone arches and rock art along the canyon walls, you’ll want to bring your hiking boots to experience some highlights of Moab.  

A few tips for hiking in Moab: 

  • Do expect the weather and terrain to be challenging.
  • Stay on the trails when you’re hiking because the region has a lot of fragile biological soil crust (also known as cryptobiotic soil) that is the foundation of desert plant life.
  • Pack at least two liters of water per person per day.
  • Don’t forget your sun protection.

Our recommended hikes in Moab:

  • Corona Arch Trail: an easy, 3-mile (4.8 kilometers) round-trip hike that leads to a gigantic arch measuring 140x105 feet! Along the way, you can find beautiful wildflowers, slickrocks to maneuver, caves to explore, and ladders to climb.  
  • The Grandstaff Trail: a moderate, 4-mile (6.4 kilometers) round-trip journey that follows along a clear stream through a scenic canyon, leading to the magnificent Morning Glory Bridge; a 243-foot long natural bridge!
  • Amphitheater Loop Trail: a moderate, 3-mile (4.8 kilometers) round-trip loop trail provides broad sweeping views of the Colorado River corridor as you walk amongst high red rock sandstone cliffs.
  • Fishers Towers Trail: a challenging, 5-mile (8 kilometers) out and back trail that explores bizarre landscapes as it twists through the towers, dips into sharp canyons, and traverses beneath vertical cliffs.  
Hiking in Moab

Go Mountain Biking

Moab is well known for being a world-class destination for experienced mountain bikers. However, there are a variety of trails for any experience level, from beginners looking for a scenic ride through beautiful canyons and mesa tops to seasoned bikers looking for the ultimate challenge.

If you are looking to discover the Moab region by mountain bike, check out these recommendations:

  • Slickrock Bike Trail is a challenging, highly technical 9.6-mile (15 kilometers) trail considered by many to be the ultimate mountain biking experience.  
  • Klonzo Trails is located 12 miles (19 kilometers) north of Moab. Here you’ll encounter gentle grades, unbeatable views, and a perfect intro to tight, flowy desert singletrack.
  • Bar-M Loop Trail is a mellow, non-technical 9-mile (15 kilometers) trail that provides a great introduction to the varied terrain and beautiful scenery adjacent to Arches National Park.
  • The Intrepid Trail System in Dead Horse Point State Park offers 16 miles of beginner and intermediate trails providing amazing views of the Colorado River.

Get wet on the Colorado River and Green River

Floating down either of these two rivers provides access to incredible scenery. Imagine looking up at thousands of feet of towering red rock canyons, splashing through rapids, swimming in serene waters, and relaxing on sandy beaches. Water-based activities found in Moab include rafting, paddleboarding, kayaking, and jetboat experiences. Here are a few recommended sections of the river to explore:

  • Moab Daily:  One of the more popular stretches that can be completed in either a half or full-day tour, these 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) are filled with fun, splish-splashy Class I and II rapids.
  • The Green River Daily: This 9-mile (14.4 kilometers) section is great for first-timers as it offers a mixture of floating and paddling as it winds through breathtaking desert scenery with just enough rapids to keep the excitement levels up.
  • Westwater Canyon: For a full day, your guide will navigate Class III and IV whitewater rapids through rugged desert scenery that is comparable to the Grand Canyon.

Reminder: rafting activities in Moab are best from April through October.

Watch the sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park

With an overlook towering 2,000 feet (609 meters) above the Colorado River, this scenic vista has become one of the most photographed spots in the United States. From here you will be able to photograph a panorama of the La Sal Mountains and the steep canyons rising above a sharp bend in the Colorado River. 

The viewpoint is stunning at any time of the day, however, sunset is when it really becomes magical. You can also opt to spend the night camping at Dead Horse Point State Park and pitch your tent underneath the stars in a certified International Dark Sky Park.

Viewpoint at Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab sunsets
Viewpoint at Dead Horse Point State Park

Indulge in shopping and dining

After a day on the trails or floating down the Colorado River, head into town to explore the unique and eclectic downtown community. Popping into the locally-owned restaurants, boutiques, art exhibits, and gear outfitters that line Main Street is the best way to really feel the character of downtown Moab.

Recommended Restaurants in Moab:

  • Jailhouse Cafe: This breakfast-only restaurant boasts a large menu featuring omelets, eggs benedict, pancakes, and waffles. 
  • Love Muffin Cafe: Known for its breakfast, lunch, and coffee, it’s not uncommon for them to sell out of food during the busy season. They feature seasonal, locally sourced items with an emphasis on organic, vegan, and gluten free items. 
  • Desert Bistro: Located in an old adobe house, this is one of the best fine dining restaurants in Moab. They feature nightly game dishes as well as fresh seafood plus bread and desserts baked in house.
  • Milt’s Stop & Eat: Perfect for a burger and fries after a long, adventurous day. 
  • Moab Brewery: A fun, local microbrewery and restaurant featuring salads, wraps, and pub foods. This is a great place to enjoy craft beers and socializing with locals.
  • Eddie McStiffs: This local eatery offers classic bar food and dishes such as salmon cakes and miso tofu wraps. They source their food from local producers, make their dough daily from scratch, grind their burgers in-house, and all the oil the restaurant uses is turned into biodiesel! 

Recommended shops in Moab:

  • Moab Rock Shop: Search through gems and gorgeous jewels, as well as real dinosaur bones. Part museum, part souvenir shop, this place is wildly fun and interesting.  
  • Back of Beyond Books: Located on Main Street, this little store not only sells books but also has postcards, stickers, and vintage national park posters.
  • Moab Made: This is a great shop for gifts, jewelry, unique art, and so on! It features local Moab artisans and always has new and interesting products.
  • Moab Gear Trader: This consignment shop is a great place to go to find good conditioned gear, such as hiking shoes and outdoor clothing at reasonable prices. 

Camping Options in Moab

Planning a trip to Moab wouldn’t be complete without figuring out where you are going to stay for your visit. There are plenty of accommodation options from camping to high-end resorts within close proximity to downtown. However, a trip to Moab would not be complete if you did not spend a few nights camping under the stars.

If you are new to camping and hesitant to give it try, read our Beginner’s Guide to Camping article.  

For this list, we have not included campgrounds located inside of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, though those are great options. 

Recommended campgrounds:

  • Slickrock Campground:  Located on the outskirts of Arches National Park, there are RV, tent, and cabin site rentals with a pool, shower facilities, and WiFi access.
  • Kayenta Campground: Located in Dead Horse Point State Park, this small and remote campsite has 21 tent sites with electrical hookups but no showers.
  • Archview Campground: Located 10 miles (16 kilometers) outside of town, there are tent and RV sites, as well as cabin-style rooms and cottages. They have an on-site general store and a pool.
  • Sandflats Recreation Area: Located 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) east of Moab, there are 120 tent and RV sites with picnic tables, vault toilets, and fire rings. All sites are on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  • Big Bend Campground: Located 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) northeast of Moab, there are 23 tent and RV sites with picnic tables, vault toilets, and fire rings. All sites are on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no cell phone service at this campground.

Additional reading: Camping Menu:  Easy Meal Ideas for Every Camping Trip

Moab may have once been Utah’s hidden gem but more and more people are discovering this outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Perhaps, it’s your time to explore this tiny little town and its wide array of highlights and attractions. When planning your trip to Moab, use the recommendations in this article to make the most of your stay and we hope you have an incredible experience.

Want to explore Moab and Arches National Park with like-minded individuals, learn more about Under30Experiences Grand Canyon, Moab, & Arches trip. 

If you're visiting Utah and looking to explore other national parks, we highly recommend Zion National Park.  Check out these articles to learn more:

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Tim Gillespie
Tim is U30X's Thailand Manager & Community Builder, and has been living, traveling and accumulating experiences in SE Asia since 2009. He loves being in the outdoors, immersing himself in local cultures, and tasting exotic foods.

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