Five and a half hours due west of Denver, Moab is a popular weekend road trip right over the Colorado border. Perfect for a last-minute getaway, it’s home to two national parks (just 30 minutes from each other, quite the rarity), one state park, and the roaring Colorado River, making it one of the undisputed adventure capitals of the country.
And while Colorado has plenty of snowy tundra and green spaces to play, there’s something about those magical red rocks that offer a whole different kind of landscape to explore (and a treasure trove of dinosaur remains buried beneath the sediment). Home to epic hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and rafting, Moab is a year-round outdoor mecca. So, pack up the car, grab your crew, and prepare to get dirty because we have all the not-to-miss things to do in Moab, Utah.
Explore Arches National Park
The world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches, over 2,000 arches and other geological features can be seen within the park’s expansive 75,000 acres. Keep your eyes peeled for soaring pinnacles and twisty spires that seem to be hand carved, precariously balanced in the sandstone.
There are many ways to explore from hiking and biking to horseback riding, ATVing, and rock climbing. If you’re short on time or just want a quick overview of the area, you can actually drive to a majority of the highlights in under 1.5-hours. The Windows section has some of the park’s largest arches, while the Delicate Arch viewpoint will bring you face to face with the most famous arch, which you may recognize from the Utah license plate. Arches is also a majorly popular spot for nighttime photography so pack your tripod and head out for a night under the stars or better yet, prepare to camp in the area.
One of the most popular hikes is Devil’s Garden, which ranges from 1.6 miles to 7.2 miles depending on how many arches you want to see. But if you’re really up for a challenge, Fiery Furnace is a naturally formed labyrinth that requires going with a ranger guide or watching a video and securing a permit to learn how to navigate your way out of the narrow passages. It’s like Mother Nature’s own diabolical escape room.
Adventure through Canyonlands National Park
Another dramatic desertscape, Canyonlands is the largest of Utah’s five national parks, ringing in at a whopping 337,000 acres. Home to many diverse features formed by the Colorado River, the Island in the Sky is the most popular and most accessible area to explore. A huge, flat-topped mesa with panoramic views, you can drive to the various lookouts, rip it on one of the mountain bike trails, or go for a day hike.
The towering rock pinnacles of the Needles and the remote canyons of the Maze are deep in the rugged backcountry and a bit more of a time commitment. But for history buffs and intrepid explorers, the Native American rock paintings in Horseshoe Canyon can also be seen in a day.
Cool Off on the Colorado River
Known as Fisher Towers, this wild stretch of the Colorado River boasts some of the most exciting whitewater in the region with class IV rapids. Raft trips can vary from half-day adventures to multi-day expeditions. And depending on your level of adrenaline-stoke, Moab Adventure Center also has jet boat tours if you’re looking for even more of a thrill. If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, many outfitters rent canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards as a way to beat the heat…calmly.
Visit Dead Horse Point State Park
What looks like Horseshoe Bend’s long-lost cousin, Dead Horse Point overlooks Canyonland’s crazy pinnacles, making it one of the most picturesque vistas in the world. Another place perfect for experiencing Moab’s hiking, mountain biking, and off-roading, it’s also an accredited dark sky park for stargazers and mecca for photographers. An epic place to sleep under the Milky Way, there are luxury yurts for rent for those who aren’t into tent camping.
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
Moab’s towering sandstone was formed back in the Jurassic period and worn down by erosion over the years, and making it accessible to anyone with a willingness to get hands on. You can go at it on your own on the appropriately named Wall Street (pun intended), but it’s also an ideal place to try rock climbing or canyoneering if you’re new to the sport. Essentially the opposite of each other, rock climbing is scaling a rock face, while canyoneering is descending down it. They require different levels of physicality and each has their own technical skills, but local guides will teach the basic instruction of belaying, scrambling, and knot tying.
Take to the Skies
You’ve already explored by land and water, so the only thing left is from the sky. Get a bird’s eye view of the topography on a scenic flight, hot air balloon (one of the coolest places to do it outside of Albuquerque), or skydiving. You’ll ascend over 10,000 feet on an epic adventure as you take in every divot and crevice of the incredible landscape.
Looking for a longer Southwest adventure? Consider a road trip through Utah and Arizona.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Moab
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