Hello again, our apologies for a total lack of presence on the blog as of late, we have been very present in life and just keep using time for the blog on adventures and exploring. We are certain you understand.
It’s no secret that Moab, Utah is one of, if not, our favorite place in the world. When we lived in Denver, we would visit every chance we got, even if it was just for a short 48 hour trip, it was always worth it to us. Now that we have the chance to stay here for an extended period of time, with still a good bit of time to go, we feel like we have a comprehensive list of all types of good information to share with those visiting Moab- via van, plane, car, tent, or hotel, you’ll find great information in this blog. So without further ado, here is our complete guide to Moab, Utah.
First Things First
Before diving straight into things to do, it’s important to know + understand what not to do when visiting Moab. First and foremost, the ground is ALIVE in Moab, and it’s called cryptobiotic soil. In short, crypto holds down the sand so the desert doesn’t blow away, and it creates + locks in needed nutrients so flora can grow in this harsh environment. Staying on trail and slick rock areas is of the utmost importance when visiting Moab, as a colony of crypto can take up to 100 years to grow, and only 1 footstep to be killed. Rule #2 : Leave No Trace! Learn the 7 Basic Principles of Leave No Trace here. Last but not least- catholes are prohibited in Moab and nearly all of the surrounding area, you must carry Restop bags if you do not have a toilet system. There are very few dispersed areas that do not require them, but be very mindful of your location and your impact.
Okay, so now that the important stuff is out of the way, let’s get into all the things you can do in this incredible area.
Moab is a town situated in the Southeast section of Utah, and is known for being sandwiched in between 2 incredible National Parks: Arches + Canyonlands. Moab itself is not a national park, rather a small (but growing) gateway town outside of the parks. This guide is going to focus on things to do outside of the National Parks, as there are a million good guides dedicated to them already, and they aren’t dog friendly, so we don’t spend tons of time in them.
Where to Stay/Park
The BLM manages 20+ campgrounds nearby for $20/night that have vault toilets, fire rings, and some even have access to the Colorado. We love Hittle Bottom, but it is pretty far from downtown (45 minute drive down River Road). If you like to Boulder and have crash pads, you’d love Upper Big Bend Campground which has a huge boulder field across the street. If you plan on rock climbing, check out the campgrounds along Potash Road/279 where you’ll wake up right at the crag, no driving needed depending on where you stay. There are BLM campgrounds along River Road/128, Potash Road/279, Kane Springs Road, and 313 (see full list below) and nearly all are first come, first serve , however, there are group sites that can be reserved here.
Dispersed camping is harder to find, but is available. Currently, the closest area to dispersed camp is about a 12 mile drive from town and is far from quiet or private, be prepared for large crowds, but hey- free is free. Swing by the Bureau of Land Management field office to pick up a free up to date map on what areas are open + available to you to use and what restrictions they currently have in place. Remember, when dispersed camping, it’s incredibly important to stay on hard, marked surfaces, have Restop bags, and to Leave No Trace.
#vanlifers there is a car camping ban in the city of Moab that is enforced. You will be woken up in the middle of the night and required to move. Please respect the town, the laws (regardless of feelings about them), and the locals. There are many free areas for us to access, do your homework, visit the field office, and enjoy how van friendly the town is! Hello free filtered water + wifi (see bottom for service directory)!
There is a hostel just south of town that is $10 to park (includes use of facilities and wifi) and $12 a night for a bed. A great cheap option if you want to be near town, and a little more convenience, we have heard great things about it.
An abundance of hotels can be found with a quick google search, but we cannot vouch for any of them. We do plan on staying at a hotel for a few nights before we leave town, and will probably stay at the La Quinta or Quality Inn because they do not charge a fee for dogs. Will update after our stay. If you are traveling during peak season Spring and Fall, be prepared to drop some money on a hotel as they are not cheap and often completely booked so we do not recommend waiting until the last minute to make reservations if it can be avoided.
What to Do
There are no shortage of things to do in Moab, so each category is going to include a few of our personal favorites for the sake of length.
- Jeep Arch Trail, Potash Road- there is no shade, so definitely a morning/late afternoon hike in the summer months, but it’s a fun slick rock trail that follows cairns (do not build your own) and ends at an arch that looks like a jeep. If it’s hot, we will actually walk the canyon along the little stream, underneath the hike. That’s always fun too.
- Grandstaff Trail, River Road- this is a very crowded hike, but because of it’s close proximity to town, goes along the creek, has places to swim for both you and your dog, and ends at the Morning Glory Arch, it must be listed. We enjoy this hike in the early mornings and late afternoons as well, when there aren’t quite as many people. But even when we have hiked it when completely jam packed, we still managed to find a little spot of our own.
- Mill Creek Trail, in Moab- another great hike right in town that has 2 waterfalls, many creek crossings, and (kinda) ends at a big swimming bowl and waterfall, where at any time you’ll find happy dogs swimming and playing in. This hike is mostly covered and also heavily used, but for good reason.
- Dinosaur Stomping Grounds, Klondike Bluffs- this hike is exposed but very cool. Over an acre of a dried up shallow lake bed holds thousands of dinosaur tracks that you are free to hike around. It is an incredible hike back in time, with dinosaur tracks so well preserved it’s like they stepped in mud just yesterday.
- Fisher Towers Trail, River Road- This trail gives you great views of Castle Valley and the surrounding area. There is a ladder in one area that can be hard to maneuver large dogs up/down, this may be a turn around spot for some, but the views up to that point are just as incredible. Bonus, you get to watch climbers fight their way up these giant towers, like Ancient Art! The drive to/from Fisher is loaded with great pull offs and roads to turn down and explore, who know you may just find an even better hike then one listed here ;)….
*do not climb on wet sandstone in Moab, you can ruin the routes forever by breaking off holds, the rock is incredibly fragile when wet. Best practice is to wait 3 days after rain, or until you can cleanly blow the sand off of your hands at the bottom of the route without any sticking to you.*
Moab is known for it’s rock climbing, more specifically, it’s crack climbing and has no shortage of climbing areas. We use the guide book “High on Moab” which lays out an impressive amount of known routes in the area all sorted by area/road, if you plan on climbing in Moab, I highly recommend picking up a copy. It’s written by Moab legend Karl Kelley and all proceeds go to Access Fund.
Potash Road/279 is hands down the most popular area, with its close proximity to town and campgrounds, this place is jamming. You’ll find Wall Street here, a mile long stretch with well over a hundred routes ranging from 5.4-512’s! I personally love Wall Street and think it’s a great place to meet other people, but there are tons of lower key spots, check the guide books! Best time to go is in the morning, before the rush of climbers gets there, but prepared for the sun. Climbing in La Sals is always an option in the summer.
If you’re looking for a guide service, we highly recommend Cliffs and Canyons. We have used them 3 times and each time we had great experiences, gained a ton of knowledge, and left feeling like we got way more than what we paid for. We specifically request Joe Stern, but I’m sure all of their guides are top quality.
Moab has some incredible views that are accesible right from your vehicle! Rainy + rest days can still be enjoyed to their fullest by doing any one of these drives.
- Highway 128- If you are coming from 70 East, consider taking the exit for Cisco and coming into Moab via 128. This road takes you along the Colorado, past the historic Dewey Bridge, and through what feels like Mars as you approach Moab. You’ll pass many campgrounds, wildlife, and famous towers like Fisher + Castleton in the distance. It is hands down our favorite road to take, and something we love to drive every chance we get.
- Highway 313- This road takes you out to Dead Horse State Park + dead ends in Canyonlands National Park, but all along the way are incredible sights to see. Take your time, pull over frequently, and keep an eye out for arches, eagle eyed passengers may catch one or two.
- 191 South to Canyonlands Needles District- because of Canyonlands size and remoteness, you have to drive south of Moab 74 miles to access the Needles section of Canyonlands, along the way are arches, petroglyph sites like Newspaper Rock, and wildlife. Important to remember, Canyonlands is not dog friendly, so dogs must stay in vehicle or on paved surfaces only.
- La Sal Mountain Loop/Castle Valley- Moab towers are certainly a sight to behold, and Castle Valley may just be the best of the best. The La Sal Mountains are the backdrop of Moab and offer expansive views of the town and Castle Valley, we recommend starting near Ken’s Lake and dropping off into Castle Valley.
- Kane Springs Road- this road is unpaved but is maintained and accessible without 4 wheel drive- there are no turnarounds and it is a narrow winding road, so RV’s and trailers are not recommended. I love this drive because it has it all. Water, petroglyphs, canyons, valleys, camping, hiking, biking, climbing, you name it, you can probably find it off of Kane Springs.
Search for Rock Art
One of our favorite things to do is to search around for petroglyphs and pictographs, not just in Moab, but the entire southwest. Moab has a few easy to get to panels that are definitely worth checking out. Make sure you don’t touch, trace, draw, or chalk the rock art as it is very fragile.
- Birthing Panel, my personal favorite. A giant roadside boulder is covered in petroglyphs, most noteworthy, what may be a birthing scene depicted. You can find this panel and many others along Kane Springs Road
- Potash Road Panel/Dinosaur Track Site, along Potash road is a long stretch of petroglyphs on the canyon wall. There is a brown sign marking the rock art and places to park on the side of the road to get out and view. About 1/4 mile past this panel, is a very short hike up to exposed dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs.
- Golf Course Panel, out by the golf course in Moab is a large panel where you will find the “Moab Man” and overall a really cool scene.
- Sego Canyon, if you’re up for a little drive, head up to Thompson Springs and check out Barrier Canyon style pictographs that are both beautiful and eerie. It is well marked, has parking, and make sure to walk around so you don’t miss any- they are scattered.
- Courthouse Wash, right off of 191, most drive by this panel without ever knowing they were passing by petroglyphs. This large panel can be accessed via parking at the sign and walking south on the trail before bearing right up to the canyon wall, follow the trail and you’ll see them. Keep right at sign marking the Arches boundary.
Other things to do in Moab:
- Go Skydiving and drop in Castle Valley at Skydive Moab
- Go Canyoneering with Moab Canyon Tours
- See Moab via Helicopter with Pinnacle Helicopters
- Rent a raft/kayak and go down the Colorado (or be like us and take a blow up $80 raft down, Mile 6 to Lions Park is smooth sailing and takes about 2 hours depending on river flow, hitchhike back to car)
- Rent a jeep and tear up some 4×4 trails
- Go Mountain Biking
- Visit the Dog Park in town
- Check out a lecture from an area expert at the Information Center
- Take a day trip to Capitol Reef National Park
- Walk around town and visit the local shops
What to See:
Depending on how much time you have in Moab, you may not be able to see everything in your first trip but it won’t be long before you’re planning your next trip back, trust us! Here are our things not to miss while here.
- The Moab Movie at the Information Center, let this place be your first stop. The staff is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, make sure to ask to watch the 20 minute 4K movie!
- BASE jumpers, Moab is one of the very few places you can legally BASE jump in the United States and if you keep an eye out, someone may just jump off a cliff near you and you’ll get to watch the impressive landing.
- Castle Valley, a beautiful valley worth seeing and exploring. See the famed Castleton Tower! Walk around the base of the towers, climb up to the top if you’re brave enough.
- The National Parks (Arches + Canyonlands), most definitely check these outs! You can still drive them if you are traveling with a pup and see some well known sites! Delicate Arch has a viewing area that does not require a hike, Balanced Rock is roadside, along with other great arches and viewpoints. Canyonlands has many pulloffs that don’t require any hiking or going far from your vehicle.
- Dead Horse Point, if you want to be in awe- you have to make a stop here. The view is endless, you’re free to explore on the rock, and it is absolutely breathtaking. Dog Friendly.
- Fisher Towers, even if you don’t do the hike, the towers and surrounding area shouldn’t be missed.
- Ken’s Lake, the perfect place to cool off for the day. Relax on the beach, float on a raft, or walk the trails, we’ve done all of these and made a really nice day out of it.
- Corona Arch- not included on our must do hikes, but if you have the time, definitely check this arch out and plan to have lunch underneath it. During this hike you will come across a ladder that is impossible to carry large dog up, look to the left and go around that way with your dog easily.
Where to Watch Sunrise + Sunset
For sunrise, we love to drive up River Road and pass Castle Valley a few miles before pulling off to the right and enjoying the show. The sunrises over the La Sal Mountain Range and casts the most incredible colors along the canyon walls and towers. Another great place to watch sunrise is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, this requires a bit of a drive and a short hike (not dog friendly) but is totally worth it for a view that you can’t get elsewhere.
For Sunset, none other than Dead Horse Point. With a 180 degree view, you get the entire show laid out in front of you. Make sure to get there a little early to snag the perfect spot and a parking space! Arches also has great pull-offs where you can catch a phenomenal sunset. We usually like to pull over about 1 or 2 miles from Balanced Rock.
Where to Eat
For breakfast, my favorite place is the Red Rock Bakery + Cafe, opened first in town at 6:30AM, they offer delicious house baked goods, bagels, fresh fruit smoothies, delicious coffee, and service with a smile from the owner itself. Big enough to always get a seat, but small enough to feel warm and get to talk with your neighbors.
Lunch has a few great options. Spoke makes the best burgers in town, great rolls, salads, and a killer meatloaf, never had a bad meal there. Ask for Sean, haha. You may bring your dog, but they have to stay on the outside of the patio, they have tables lining the fence though so they are right next to you. Peace Tree is another good option, love their smoothies, but steer clear of the Spinach + Artichoke dip unless you like eating warm cream cheese- everything else is always great though lol! If it’s after 2pm, check out Spitfire BBQ outside of Woody’s Tavern, their pulled pork sandwich is to die for and we can’t get enough of their baked beans.
If you like Thai food, Thai Bella comes highly recommended by us, and Bella is a great owner who wants everything to be perfect for you, which is so appreciated, they open at 3pm, perfect for when you get back into town after a long hike. They do allow dogs on their patio. If you’re in the mood for sushi, head to Bangkok House Too, great food and a bubble teas, they also have a dog friendly patio. Open for lunch + dinner. There is a food truck village in town that has about 6 options for food (rare that they are all open at once which is annoying) and 2 dessert options. We’ve ate at all of them and our favorites are the Taco Truck, Panini Truck, and Don’s Pizza. If Delicate Donuts is opened you have to try them, seriously the best dessert!
Coffee and dessert are bountiful in town. I love the green Italian coffee truck (and the shaved ice stand next to it), I think they make the best coffee and espresso, and the woman who owns it is incredibly kind and warm. For ice cream, we love the Moab Garage Co. each ice cream is made fresh to order and get this- you can get dairy or NON DAIRY base!! That’s right! Dairy Free peeps, you can finally have an ice cream shake!! It’s so good too! Delicate Donuts is a must in the food truck, don’t forget that one. Spoke has a ton of milkshake options and your free to come up with any wild creation you can think of which is fun.
If we try anything not listed and it blows our chacos off, i’ll update this old girl and let ya know the scoop.
- Free Wifi is available at the Information Center (password: moab2018) and the Public Library (password: gcplwifi), both on Center Street.
- Free Water is available at Lion’s Park + Gear Heads Outdoor Store.
- Forget something? Go to Gear Heads, it’s like a mini REI. If they don’t have it check out Moab Gear Trader and then the Walker Food + Drug in that order.
- Groceries can be bought at Moonflower Co-op, Village Market, or the City Market. We like to shop local when we can, so we go to the stores in that order if we can’t find what we need at the first.
- The only pet store + self dog wash in town is the Moab Barkery, an excellent store with everything you’d need in one stop. Gear Heads also has outdoor dog supplies with a nice Ruffwear selection.
- Showers are available at the Recreation Center for $5, go early to beat the rush and have very hot water.
- If you need a mechanic, try Grand Tire Pro or Parriott before going to Point S or Ford.
- Laundry is available at Main St. + W. 100 (also has drop-off services) as well as next door to Gear Heads + across from the City Market; 471 S Main St.
Moab is unlike any other place or town we have been, we truly feel like it has the best of everything that the desert has to offer. We are still exploring, still discovering favorite places, trying new hikes, new experiences, and loving life here. We don’t plan on being here for a ton longer, so we are trying our best to make sure every day counts. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask via Instagram @thebeirnes or email, firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to help in any we can! Thank you so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this journey with us!
Please, please remember: the desert is a sacred place that we need to respect and cherish. Consider this thought before stepping off trail in Moab: would it matter if 1,000 other people followed your footprints off trail? Would it destroy the soil, flora, or bust the crust? People follow footprints, it’s human nature. So while you may think “it’s just me”, you could be sparking a figurative match in a highly flammable area.
Stay on trail, respect signage, and Leave No Trace.
For more information on Moab, check out the links below: