Moab is a small town in southeast Utah. It’s the gateway to two of the best National Parks in the Southwest but is also jam-packed with fun activities to keep you entertained for days.
In this post, I describe 10 of the best things to do in Moab. I include detailed activity descriptions, and accommodation options and suggest the best time of year to visit.
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Why Visit Moab?
Right I’ll come right out and say it – I absolutely love Moab! I’ve always said that Moab is the gateway to a huge, outdoor adventure playground and that’s exactly why I love it.
I discovered Moab on my very first US road trip back in 2012. After finishing some voluntary work I rented a car and spent 3 weeks driving from Flagstaff, Arizona to New York City.
There were so many amazing things on this trip as you might imagine, but one of the big highlights for me was Moab. So much so that I’ve been back many times since.
What makes Moab special is that it’s surrounded by simply spectacular scenery. If you love the outdoors, you’ll love Moab!
And whilst you don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy a visit here, it certainly helps! The array of activities on offer in Moab include hiking, mounting biking, climbing, canyoneering and rafting to name just a few.
For the ultimate American Southwest road trip itinerary, take a look at this guide.
Moab Activities at a Glance
|Arches National Park
|Islands in the Sky, Canyonlands
|The Needles, Canyonlands
|Sunset at Dead Horse State Park
|Hike Corona Arch
|Hike Fisher Towers Trail
|Sunset Hummer Tour
The Best Things to do in Moab
1. Visit Arches National Park.
Of the places to visit near Moab, this is probably the most famous and should definitely be included on your itinerary. Arches National Park has over 2000 sandstone arches which visitors are able to explore and the entrance costs $30 per vehicle.
Top sights to see in Arches National Park include:
- Balanced Rock
- Park Avenue
- Windows Arches
- Landscape Arch
- Delicate Arch
Top highlights on my trips to Arches include clambering around Windows and Landscape arches, before finishing the day hiking to Utah’s most famous icon, Delicate Arch.
Delicate arch is a unique free standing arch perched on the edge of a cliffside. The hike to Delicate arch is a 3 mile round trip and is very popular at sunset. An early morning hike to Delicate arch is also a great activity to enjoy in Moab with kids.
If you are unable to hike this fairly steep trail, instead drive to the parking lot at the very end of Delicate Arch Road. Here a short, flat walk offers an equally impressive view looking up towards Delicate Arch from below.
If you love the national parks around Moab, you’ll love the national parks of the west coast!
2. Drive the scenic road at Island in the Sky
Canyonlands is one of the lesser visited National Parks in the US but in my opinion, one of the best. As it isn’t as popular as nearby Arches National Park, there are often less crowds which provides visitors with the real sense of escaping into the wilderness.
Canyonlands National Park is actually a park that’s broken up into 3 different areas. These areas are separated by the Green and Colorado rivers and there are no roads linking them together. Therefore it’s only practical to visit one area in one day.
One great option for a day trip from Moab, is to meander along the scenic drive at Island in Sky. This area of Canyonlands National Park is a 30 mile drive from Moab and again costs $30 per vehicle.
Island in the Sky is a huge sandstone mesa that overlooks the deserted wilderness for which Canyonlands is famous for. On the scenic drive there are well marked spots where visitors are able to park and to take short hikes to the breathtaking view points.
Some of the highlights include:
- Upheavel Dome, which is a large crater likely caused by a meteor collision.
- Grand View Point Overlook which as the name suggests provides an epic view over the canyon lands below.
- Mesa arch which is a rock arch balanced right on the edge of the mesa cliff edge.
3. Explore the Needles district
At the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park you are able to look out over the vast wilderness of canyons and gorges stretched out for as far as the eye can see. The views from Grand View Point Overlook are, for me, unparalleled anywhere else in the park.
However, if you want to get in amongst everything and observe the rock formations from up close, you need to pay a visit to the Needles district. The Needles definitely has that remote feel to it.
The Needles visitor centre is 74 miles from Moab and takes around 1.5 hours to reach. At the Needles area there aren’t many paved roads so hiking, mountain biking and four-wheel driving are the main activities on offer.
During my visit to the Needles I opted to get on foot and hike Chesler Park and the Joint Trail. At 10.5 miles round trip, these two hikes linked together provide a beautiful, full day of hiking in the desert landscape. The trail is mostly flat with a few steeper sections here and there.
Chesler park is a meadow surrounded by white and orange Cedar Mesa sandstone pinnacles.
One of the highlights of the joint trail is walking along the bottom of a 1000ft long narrow ravine, know as a fracture or joint.
To do this hike, drive a further 5 miles on from the visitor centre to Elephant Hill trailhead. The last 3 miles of this journey are on a dirt road, but it’s fine for regular cars with normal ground clearance.
Beyond this point permits and 4 wheeled drive are required. From here the trail to Chesler park begins. For a detailed description of the hike visit this website.
Staying hydrated in the desert is vital, and there’s nothing more off-putting than drinking warm water. This insulated water bottle keeps water ice cold for 24 hours.
If you like big desert hikes you will love the Grand canyon rim to rim hike! Discover everything you need to know about hiking the Grand Canyon in this post.
4. Watch sunset at Dead Horse State Park
Dead Horse State Park is located near the entry/exit point of Island in the Sky. It’s a peninsula of the sandstone mesa that makes up Island in the Sky. This state park provides great views of the Colorado river winding through the canyons, with the La Sal mountains beyond.
The park is open all year with the visitor centre open from 9 – 5 daily, except for holidays. Entrance to the park costs $20. Dead Horse State Park offers mountain biking and hiking trails for all abilities. Dead Horse Point right at the end of the peninsula, offers a breathtaking spot to enjoy sunset colours over the canyons.
This park is also recognised as an International Dark Sky Park making it a fabulous location for star gazing.
5. Hiking in Moab – Corona Arch
After a short drive out of town along Potash road, you can find one of many free things to do in Moab. The hike to Corona and Bow tie arch is a fun, 3 mile out and back hike that is suitable for all abilities. The whole route is clearly marked and includes climbing a small ladder and some Moki steps.
The end point of this hike is the huge corona arch which is attached to the side of a cliff. Enjoy walking under the arch and admire the rock colourations before making your way back to trailhead. This trail has little shade to offer so is best hiked in early morning or late afternoon.
To discover everything I take on a hike such as this one, take a look at this post!
6. Hike the Fisher Towers Trail
Another great free Moab hiking trail outside of the national parks is Fisher Towers trail. The trailhead is located 26 miles from Moab, the last section of which is dirt road. There are no facilities at the trailhead other than pit toilets, so be sure to take plenty of water with you.
The Fisher Towers are a maze of pinnacles and spires made from dark red Cutler and Moenkopi sandstone. The trail is a fairly flat 5 mile out and back hike. This trail winds between the towers and beneath vertical cliffs to an overlook point on a rocky knoll. This viewpoint provides excellent views of the towers and the Colorado river.
There is little shade on this trail so hiking in the midday sun is to be avoided. The Fisher Towers themselves are popular with climbers so keep an eye out for climbers above as you are walking. When I did this hike I chatted to a climber who had already spent several nights on the side of the cliff!
7. Take a sunset hummer tour
One of the most fun things to do in Moab is to get out on the red rocks for some off-roading. One way of doing this is on a Hummer safari. Between February and November Moab Adventure Centre offer several types of Hummer Safaris. The one I enjoyed and always recommended to my groups was the sunset tour.
On this tour, after boarding your Hummer you’ll head out in an areas known as “Hell’s Revenge” and climb up some incredibly steep sandstone hills. It’s honestly unbelievable what these things are capable of! About half way into the tour you’ll climb up to an overlook point where you can enjoy the orange rock glow at sunset.
This tour isn’t the cheapest option at $99 but it’s very unique and certainly worth it in my book.
8. Mountain bike one of Moab’s famous trails
The most famous mountain bike trail in Moab, possibly the US is the Slickrock trail. The rocks in this area are so named because they are incredibly grippy and allow your tyres to stick unfathomably to the rock.
The Slickrock trail is 12 miles and for advanced level mountain bikers. If you’re an intermediate and fancy your chances, you can try the 3 mile test loop at the start of the trail. This taster section lets you determine if you’re worthy of continuing onto the full trail.
My friend and I tried the taster loop but since we spent a lot of our time pushing our bikes rather than riding our bikes, we bailed and headed for an easier option!
Another epic mountain bike trail for advanced riders is Porcupine ridge, but since the start and finish points are different you will need to arrange a pick up service or have helpful friends with cars. Rim Tours offer this shuttle service. They also offer various guided mountain bike tours and bike rental.
If you are not an advanced rider, there are lots of other mountain bike areas that you can try out. Two areas that I have tried and would recommend are Bar M and Klonzo, as they have great trail systems for beginners, with more more advanced sections branching off.
9. Try canyoneering in Moab
One of the best things to do in Moab if you’ve never tried it before is canyoneering. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, canyoneering often involves a combination of hiking, abseiling, cliff jumping and zip-lining.
When I tried canyoneering in Moab it was my first time. I went with Moab Cliffs and Canyons and can definitely recommend them, as the guides have a great way of putting everyone at ease in order to lower themselves off huge cliffs!
I opted for the half day Ephedra’s Grotto trip ($104) which involved 2 rappels, one of which is next to a huge natural stone bridge and an easy 3 mile hike out.
Moab Cliffs and Canyons offer a wide range of activities and now even offer something called rockaneering, which adds the element of rock climbing into the mix. Sounds pretty awesome to me!
These hiking sandals are perfect canyoneering and hiking in the desert. They’re very grippy and keep your feet cool at the same time.
10. Sky Diving
Ok so here’s one fun Moab activity for the real adrenaline junkies out there. How about admiring the beautiful Moab landscape from 8000ft above ground level? If this sounds like something you would like to try, then I can recommend Skydive Moab.
They offer two types of tandem skydives, one from 8000t for $179 and regular deals from 13,500ft for $199 (on weekdays). Their service was professional we felt safe at all times…. well as safe as you can feel whilst free falling from a plane!
Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance!
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The Best Time To Visit Moab
The best time to visit Moab is in early spring or late fall, when temperatures are neither too hot or too cold. Peak season is from March to May and September to October.
In the summer temperatures can get very hot, which makes hiking unpleasant. The winter months can bring snow but if you’re prepared to wrap up it’s possible to have hiking trails in the national parks all to yourself. Discover all the best national parks to visit during winter in this guide.
Accommodation in Moab
Moab offers accommodation for all needs and budgets with campsites, hostels and hotels available.
Canyonlands RV Resort and Campground
For most of my visits to Moab I stayed at this campground. It has all the amenities you need and is a 10 minute walk from downtown Moab.
For your own private 2 bedroom holiday home with a hot tub, try the Desert Gardens #3, which is situated right in the heart of downtown Moab.
The best value for money hotel in Moab, with a great central location and swimming pool is the Hotel Moab Downtown.
Lazy Lizard Hostel
I have stayed at this hostel and it’s a cheap but basic option. The biggest downside of this hostel is that it’s 1.5 miles from downtown, which can feel a long way in the heat!
Apart from that it has a kitchen and all the facilities you would expect from a decent hostel.
Moab at night
For me the the perfect day of adventure in or around Moab is topped off with a visit to Moab Brewing company. The brewery has a restaurant for dining, or you can simply sit at the bar to enjoy a variety of bar meals, washed down by the best the brewery has to offer.
The FMU double IPA will knock your socks off!
Final Thoughts on Things to do in Moab
Moab is a desert town in Utah that is the home to many adventurous activities. It is the gateway to two spectacular national parks and a relaxed town to visit. So if you’re planning a desert trip and wondering what to do in Moab, I hope I have provided some exciting ideas! If you have any questions about these Moab activities, please get in touch.
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