Moab, Utah Destination Guide

Moab, Utah: Destination Guide

Moab, Utah is a place everyone should have on their bucket list to visit at least once. And even once may not be enough. A visit here is less about the town of Moab itself and more about access to a remote red rock desert landscape that features endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. The town of Moab serves as a fantastic base camp for exploration into Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, trips on the Colorado River, or any other number of excursions that might suit your recreational appetite.

Yes, Moab is a tourist town and you should plan your trip accordingly if you want to avoid crowds and high lodging prices. In addition, it gets very hot in the summer (you’re in the desert after all). A trip here during the spring or fall is your best bet to comfortably enjoy all that Moab and the surrounding area have to offer.

Bottom line, a visit to Moab and the vast red rock wilderness is a must, particularly for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers, and rafters. As Edward Abbey, a famous and former resident of the Moab area, once said, “wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” In this article, we’ll provide you with some helpful planning tips to make your trip to Moab an epic adventure.

Destination Guide Series: Moab, UT

Where Is Moab?

Moab is a town of roughly 5,500 residents in eastern Utah that sits on the Colorado Plateau at an elevation of 4,026ft. Although the town is small, Moab becomes a mega-tourist destination in the spring, summer, and early fall. Its proximity to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park makes Moab a premier base camp destination to explore the Utah desert.

Moab is particularly known for its red rock desert beauty, natural arch rock formations, and stunning canyons. Not far away from Moab is the La Sal Mountain Range, a subrange of the southern Rocky Mountains. In addition, Moab sits at the edge of the Colorado River, providing access to endless rafting/kayaking adventures.

Why Should You Visit Moab?

The primary draw to Moab is the beautiful expanse of red sandstone geologic formations and its proximity to two majestic National Parks: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. While the parks are a big attraction in the area, many other visitors are drawn to Moab due to premier mountain biking and 4×4 off-road trails. Equally popular are the endless opportunities for hiking/backpacking, rock climbing, and rafting.

Moab, as well as its vicinity, is a place that truly has something for everyone. It’s just as ideal for a family vacation as it is for the rugged outdoor adventurist interested in a multi-day backpacking trip in the desert.

Things to Do

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a national treasure. The iconic Delicate Arch is featured prominently on Utah license plates and is a sight not to be missed. The park has over 2,000 naturally formed sandstone arches. Popular areas of Arches National Park beyond Delicate Arch include Balanced Rock, Devils Garden, and the Fiery Furnace.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is divided into three main districts: 1) Island in the Sky, 2) The Needles, 3) The Maze. A fourth district includes the Green and Colorado Rivers. You’ll need multiple days to cover all districts, if that’s what you decide to do.

  • Island in the Sky: The most commonly visited of the districts, given its proximity to the town of Moab. Highlights include Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Road.
  • The Needles: This district is known for its sandstone pinnacles. You can get a good view of them from the Grand View Overlook in the Island in the Sky District, but we highly recommend you see them up close. Highlights include Druid Arch and Chesler Park.
  • The Maze: This district is very remote and can take over 2.5 hours to get to from Moab. Horseshoe Canyon, just north of the Maze District, is the most popular hike in the area because of the life size rock art within the Great Gallery.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park is a popular alternative to the two National Parks in the area and is a great place to camp, hike, and mountain bike. The park features a stunning vista of Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River.

Mountain Biking

Moab, and the surrounding area, is a mountain biker’s paradise. No adventure to Moab is complete without riding on one of the many slickrock mountain bike trails in the area. There are trails for the novice to the advanced mountain biker. Perhaps the most popular is the Slickrock Trail, which is technically difficult. Check out Poison Spider Bicycles for rentals if you’re not bringing your own bike. They also offer a great overview of some of the trails in the area here.

La Sal Mountains

If you’re looking to get out of the red rock desert for a bit of alpine mountain adventure, the La Sal Mountains are not far from Moab. The La Sal Mountains are part of the Southern Rocky Mountains and have a number of peaks over 12,000ft. — Mt. Peale being the highest at 12,721ft. If you are not interested in summitting a mountain, try the La Sal Mountain Loop drive where you will have amazing views of the valley.  

Colorado River

If you ever dreamed of whitewater rafting or kayaking on the Colorado River, Moab is a great place for it. Stunning scenery through huge red rock canyons and an adventure of a lifetime. A number of outfitters in the area offer guided excursions on the Colorado. We like Red River Adventures for the trips they offer.

Planning Tips

The Outdoor Corps prides itself on curating lists of some of the best books out there on a given subject. Within our lists, you’ll find carefully selected books that aim to enhance your experience of the area, rather than just an arbitrary listing of any book that covers the subject at hand.

Below is a listing of books about Moab and its vicinity, including what we think is the best travel guide on the area (Moon), a few recreation guides (for hiking, climbing, and mountain biking), as well as a few area-specific naturalist books (on flora, fauna, and geology).

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