The Best Things To Do in Moab, Utah
What are the best things to do in Moab, Utah? Moab is a treasure of a city in the eastern part of Utah approximately 230 miles south of Salt Lake City. It is the home of the remarkable Arches National Park with its breathtaking red rock formations, and is just 30 miles from the stellar Canyonlands National Park. The Colorado and Green Rivers travel through these regions adding to the color palette of oranges, reds, greens, and blues. There are so many fun things to do in Moab, it may be difficult to decide. Here is my list of the top things to see in Moab.
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Know before you go
Best Time to Go
Late spring and early fall are great times to be in Moab, the temperatures will be mild (between 60-80 degrees fahrenheit) and the crowds will be small. The summer is hot (up to 100 degrees fahrenheit), but that should not discourage you from visiting. If you plan your hikes for early in the morning or later in the day, you should be OK. The winter months may be much less crowded, however, some trails may be unsafe to manage in the snow.
Where to Stay
Moab has a plethora of camping and lodging choices, including vacation rentals. I stayed at the Hampton Inn, just 8 minutes from Arches and right on the main street, within walking distance to the restaurants and shops. A pool, hot tub, safe clean, and of course, the famous free Hampton Inn breakfast. I was able to find rooms for a holiday weekend, just a week before the trip on Expedia. If you are a camper, then check out one of the many complete guides to campgrounds in and around Moab for help with locations and reservations. Devils Garden Campground within Arches National Park is the only campground actually inside the park.
Where to Eat
Moab has a surprising number of excellent restaurants, and many with gluten free options! The choices range from basic American fare to Italian, Chinese, and Indian food. I can recommend Zax, Spokes, and Gloria’s Cafe for lunches and dinner and Love Muffin and Doughbird for breakfasts.
Moab has a small airport, called Canyonlands Field Airport, but if you want to see more of what beautiful Utah has to offer, I recommend renting a car at the Salt Lake City airport and driving the 3.5 hours to Moab. The scenery is exquisite, the two and three lane highway is great, and there is basically no traffic.
Bring your camera, a tripod, hiking boots or decent sneakers, a backpack, casual clothes and exercise clothes, a bathing suit, and warm things for the cool evenings. Have plenty of water with you at all times! It is desert air and very dry. You are not a camel-Hydrate!
Arches National Park
The best things to do in Moab, Utah? One of the world’s most famous parks is in Moab. Arches National Park is THE reason to visit Moab. Unique for its 2000 massive rock arches, formations, and pinnacles, Arches is one of the most inspirational places I have ever been. These rock formations began with geological forces 65 million years ago! Don’t feel overwhelmed by all there is to see.
You will have plenty of time, if you follow these instructions:
GET UP EARLY!!! Be at the park entrance by 6-6:30 AM. The park is open 24 hours, so you may encounter lines and have to pay a $30 per vehicle fee (good for 7 days). (We did not have to pay. For some mysterious reason they were not collecting fees that day). Drive the 11 miles through the gorgeous landscape. Do Not Stop to take photos, just get to the parking lot at Delicate Arch. Signs will direct you. The lots in the park fill up very quickly and since Delicate Arch is the most popular hike, you will want to do it early in the day to beat the heat. The trail to the arch is 1.5 miles (3 miles round trip), on an incline with a gain of 430 feet. It is billed as a moderate hike, but if you are an avid hiker and in fairly good shape, you will find it fairly easy. Plan on a three hour visit, that way you can sit and relax at the arch, drink water, have a breakfast bar, have your photos taken by all your fellow hikers, and take your time climbing down and taking lots of pictures. Don’t miss the path to the Ute Indian Petroglyphs on the rocks near the parking lot before you head back to your car.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Your second priority when it comes to the best things to do in Moab, Utah is Dead Horse Point State Park just 33 miles (40 minutes) from Moab on route 313. Dead Horse Point is another breathtaking desert landscape of canyons, river views, and rock formations. I recommend you plan to be there late afternoon or near sunset. There should be plenty of parking at that time of day and fewer people walking the trails. There are over seven miles of hiking trails in the park and all are considered “easy.” Most trails begin at the Visitor Center. There are two campgrounds in the park and even four yurts which sleep up to six people each for only $140 per night! How cool is that? I really love these views. This park reminded me of a miniature Grand Canyon. We saw a wedding on a rock ledge that looked absolutely magical.
Route 128/ The Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway
This 44 mile long road along the river is said to be the most beautiful route in the country! Rocks along one side, and the river on the other, make for a spectacular ride. It is very relaxing and serene. You will see river cruises, kayaks, and stand up paddles. Spend as much time as you want and turn around to head back if you must, but take your time. Begin at the Colorado River Bridge in Moab and end in Cisco, a ghost town that was used as a water refilling station for locomotives. Many movies have been filmed along this route. About 24 miles in, look for the red rock Fisher Towers against the backdrop of the La Sal Mountains.
Potash Road/ Route 279/ The Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway
About four miles north of Moab, turn left onto Potash Rd for more gorgeous scenery. Five miles in you will see ancient petroglyph drawings in the rocks on your right. And if you stop at 5.9 miles to park in the Poison Spider Trail, you will find a map to a short trail to dinosaur tracks and more petroglyphs! At 9.9 miles in is another trailhead which will lead you to the famous Corona and Bowtie Arches. Keep going even further, and you will see 15 miles of sheer Wingate sandstone. When you get to the Potash boat ramp, you can turn around, unless you have a 4X4 and want to continue onto Shafer Basin Road to find the canyon where Thelma and Louise drove off into the sunset!
Canyonlands National Park
When it comes to the best things to do in Moab, Utah, Canyonlands National Park is at the top. It spans almost 340,000 acres of canyons, rock formations, arches, mesas, and buttes just 33 miles southeast of Moab. Canyonlands offers four districts of jaw dropping territory, all within the desert landscape, but each distinct for its own opportunities. The Green River and Colorado River divide these areas, but make it difficult to access the districts in single trips. If you are planning on extending your stay in Moab to see Canyonlands, you will need to plan ahead and decide what you have time for. You might just need to return for another trip! The Island in the Skye district is considered the most accessible and easiest to see in a short trip from Moab. You can enjoy many views from a paved highway and find trailheads for great hikes. The other districts require boats, hiking, and four-wheel driving, so let me know if you have info on these adventures!
Just 11 miles south of Moab on Route 191, is the beautiful Ken’s Lake set against the backdrop of the La Sal Mountains. It is a popular campground and swimming lake perfect for cooling off in the desert heat. You can easily walk to the Faux Falls from the campground and enjoy the crisp mountain water.
OK people get out there and start exploring “the mighty five” National Parks in UTAH and tell us all about it!!!