Of all the places we visited last year, Moab, Utah was by far one of our favorite. Yes, even with Utah’s watered-down grocery store beer, we still loved it here. We spent more time in Moab than anywhere else—10 full days—and could’ve easily stayed a month or more. The most striking thing about the area is the land, but the city also offers tons of activities and a laid-back creative atmosphere. Imagine a colorful busy little city set in a picturesque desert of sage, canyons, cool rock formations, and mountains in the distance. If you’ve been to Moab, you probably want to go back. If you haven’t, here are 7 reasons why we recommend a visit:
Arches National Park is one of the most iconic places in all of Utah, and for good reason. It has more natural arch rock formations than anywhere else in the world and awesome rocks are kind of Utah’s thing. The entrance to Arches is a mere 5 miles from Moab making the park super convenient. If you want more details on how to spend your time in Arches, we have an entire 2-3 day itinerary. Also, be sure to find out what not to do on the hike to Delicate Arch.
Canyonlands National Park is close enough to Moab for day trips. This park has three distinct sections to explore and as the name implies, vast canyon terrain. It also has some of the most remote land in the nation. We have a whole post of recommendations for the more accessible areas of Canyonlands.
The name and history of this park is morbid. Legend has it that cowboys corralled horses here without water and they died of thirst, while the Colorado River rushed 2,000 feet below them. But the park is a geological marvel. Dead Horse Point is positioned high above an especially curvy section of the Colorado River. There are picturesque views of a bend in the river called a gooseneck (fun right?) with steep cliffs and canyons rising above it.
Our advice is to get here for sunrise. A lot of people go to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands which is lovely, but very crowded. We’ve heard that you need to arrive at least 2 hours before sunrise to get a decent spot. There were a number of photographers at Dead Horse Point, but there’s also a lot of space and different angles. You can easily find a place to watch sunrise without having to wake-up in the middle of the night and battle crowds. After that, hike atop this rocky peninsula or mountain bike around the 16 mile trail system.
4. Outdoor playground
Moab is basically an enormous outdoor playground. And of course, it’s gorgeous. Everywhere you go the views are stunning. If you spend a week here you could do a different outdoor adventure each day and barely scratch the surface. Here are some of the many options:
Rafting and Kayaking: The Colorado River runs along the edge of Moab so there are tons of whitewater rafting and kayaking adventures to be had.
Fishing: You can catch your dinner in the Colorado River or the many lakes and streams in the La Sal Mountains.
ATVing and UTVing: This is hugely popular in the area. You can rent ATVs and UTVs in Moab or bring your own. There are hundreds of miles of trails to explore.
Mountain Biking: There was a mountain biking event going on when we visited so all the camp areas were extra busy. Our campsite neighbors even went on a few night rides. Moab claims to have the best mountain biking on the planet. We really need to get some bikes!
Rock Climbing and Canyoneering: What do you do when you see really awesome rocks? Well, climb them of course. One of our goals this year is to try rock climbing. Perhaps we’ll attempt a climb next time we visit Moab.
Hiking: We were focused on the national parks during our visit, but there are loads of cool formations and hiking destinations outside the parks too.
4×4 Exploring: You’ll see a lot of 4×4 tours advertised throughout the area. You can get guided tours or rent a vehicle and explore the rugged roads yourself. A multi-day 4×4 trip into the Maze section of Canyonlands is at the top of our list for next time.
5. Downtown Moab
The downtown area of Moab is a bustling little hippy mecca of tie-dye, books stores, outdoor gear, local art, and cafes. There were so many restaurants to choose from that we wished we could’ve stayed a whole lot longer. Have I mentioned that I suffer from sever food FOMO? Our favorite place was the Moab Brewery. Not just because they have tasty full-strength carry-out beer, the food was delectable too.
6. Free Camping
You can stay for free when you visit Moab. You read that correctly—free. We actually camped for free at all of the Utah national parks, but that’s a story for another time. Surrounding Moab is a ton of BLM land that’s free to camp on for up to 14 days. Some of the sites even have toilets (seriously, we’re talking luxury). There are often festivals and events in the area so the campgrounds fill-up. Just don’t wait until sundown to choose your site and if you can arrive on a weekday that’s even better. Some of the BLM campgrounds have fees so be sure to check them out ahead of time. Here’s the site we use to find free camping.
7. Traveler Friendly
On any given weekend the Moab population of 5,000 doubles or triples with the influx of visitors. A huge part of the economy is focused on tourism. This means it’s a super traveler friendly city. We spend a lot of time at small town libraries. When you live in the wilderness and work online, free WiFi is your friend. The Moab library is the best one we’ve found yet. It’s not only comfy but hosts author readings, film screenings, adult coloring sessions, and ping pong game days. It’s easy to locate laundry and shower facilities in the city as well (traveler necessities) and we always felt completely safe and welcome.
Have we convinced you to visit Moab? What would you most like to do there? If you’ve been to Moab, what was your favorite thing about the area?