Steeped in ancient history, pre-historic fossils, and hundreds of miles of majestic canyons and towering cliffs, Moab is a hub for adventure and exploration. Featuring advanced rock climbing routes and mountain bike trails to accessible National Parks and scenic drives, Moab is full of opportunity for a variety of ability levels. Truly. It’s a place where new discoveries are continually being made with infinite amounts of fun to have. As great of variety as Moab has, it can be hard to know where to start. More than once, have I seen people over their ability level, scrambling to make due. And let’s be real- I’ve been that person too. This blog will be an all-inclusive guide for the moderate adventurer, covering places to camp, National Parks, and where to find the best petroglyphs and ice cream alike.
Where to Stay
Located a few miles past the downtown area, one can mix and mingle with co-explorers at the budget-friendly, Lazy Lizard Hostel, featuring dorms or private cabins. Closer to the action and a step up in price is Adventure Inn Moab with bike storage, continental breakfast, and a close location to Arches National Park. AirBnb also has endless condos, town homes, and apartments, which has perks (like hot tubs) of its own.
However, to get the full desert adventure experience, camping is the way to go. Nothing can beat sleeping under the stars in the cool desert night wind, or waking up to the sunrise surrounded by sprawling vistas of Moab’s signature deep red rocks and cliffs. Kane Creek Road, located 3 miles outside of town, features multiple first come first serve campgrounds. Popular because of it’s location to the Colorado River, rock climbing routes, and canyon hikes, King’s Bottom Campground is the first designated campground. Yet as you continue further down the road, sites are littered for miles and miles. Four-wheel drive vehicles with high clearance are necessary past the five mile mark where the road is no longer paved.
Arches National Park and Canyonlands are the most accessible national parks to Moab. Arches lies a mere five miles from Moab and is full of jaw-dropping formations, accessible to varying ability levels. Delicate Arch, one of the most popular hikes, while initially starting as a paved path featuring petroglyphs and historic cabins, later turns into a journey up a slab of slick rock. And while I have seen many people making the trek, regardless of ability, I wouldn’t recommend it for elderly or mobility impaired. There are multiple viewpoints that provide a safer experience with still stunning views.
If someone in your party isn’t sure of foot, hiking poles make a world of difference. As an alternative, Double Arch trail provides a well-maintained flat dirt path, accessible to all ability levels. Another friendly feature of Arches National Park is if you get tired of hiking, (because there is a lot to see), many formations are viewable from the comfort of your car. Whether it’s a scenic drive-by or a parking lot picture, there’s rest for the sunburnt and weary. Crank your air conditioning, throw on your favorite tunes, and enjoy the ride. Per usual, bring plenty of water (like more than you think you need) and snacks so every camper stays happy, as desert landscapes provide little shade with a lot of heat.
30 miles outside of Moab rests Canyonlands National Park. With three separate areas, Island in the Sky, Needles, and The Maze, Canyonlands is vast, sprawling, and awe-inspiring. It also offers a wide variety of adventure for varying skill levels. Island in the Sky is the closest and most approachable area of the park with The Maze being reserved for backcountry experts only (please reference the movie 127 Hours, if you need further convincing). Island in the Sky district features scenic canyon drives, paved paths to sublime viewpoints, and ancient cliff dwelling buttes. If I could do one thing differently about my time in Island in the Sky, I would have found a hike that goes below the rim of the canyon. However, taking in the scenes from above was consistently mind-boggling, leaving me with a continual sense of personal smallness with overwhelming gratitude.
An alternate way to experience the park is off-roading or by boat. Once a cattle road, Shafer off-roading trail leads from Canyonlands to Moab. Rent or Hire a Jeep Tour for your day of adventure, 4WD is necessary. Or book a tour on the Green River or Colorado River to see experience the park from below.
A little bit of this and that
Are ya getting the picture yet? Moab is endless in adventure and so many are in close proximity to town. Paddle board or raft flowing sections of the Colorado River. Wander the twists and turns of Hunter’s Canyon. Meander your way through the spiral steeples of Fischer Towers. Or feel the teeny-tiniest exploring ancient petroglyphs and dinosaur footprints on Potash Road and Poison Spider Trailhead. (Yes- that is truly the name) I’ve been to Moab three times, and every single time- I find something new to explore.
Relax, Eat, Mingle
Especially in the summer months, exploring happens in early morning hours or after the heat of the day. Take the afternoon off with a milk shake and burger at Milts. Grab a caffeine pick-me-up or nitro ice cream at Moab Garage. Support local artists at Made in Moab or one of the many other shops and galleries on Main Street, featuring local artists and handmade goods.
Moab is one of my favorite places on this earth. It’s geography is wild, uninhibited, and majestic. It’s a vast expanse of wonder and adventure waiting to be enjoyed, marveled at, and discovered. Whether you choose to camp, raft, hike, or amble along ancient cliffs, I hope you explore Moab, it leads you to a similar sense of awe. I always leave filled with sand in my car (and everywhere else), thankfulness for the Earth, and wonder at our small yet significant place in it.
About the Author
Laura is a teacher, traveller, writer, musician, and all around human. She believes travel is a means of bringing people together across lines of difference, moving us towards a more compassionate world. Learn more about Laura on her Instagram or website.