Moab, Utah is a rugged and red-rocked paradise nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Located on the east bank of the Colorado River in the Colorado Plateau, it is a haven for nature enthusiasts, hikers, bikers, climbers, adrenaline junkies, campers, and boondockers alike. If you’re ready for a journey filled with jaw-dropping landscapes, outdoor adventures, and a pinch of the Wild West, then saddle up for this Moab Travel Guide and let us break down what you need to know before you go.
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MST/MDT (Mountain Standard Time/Mountain Daylight Time)
Before you start packing, it’s important to understand the local climate. Summers in Moab can be scorching, with temperatures frequently soaring into the triple digits. On the flip side, winter can get pretty chilly, with snow-capped red rocks adding a layer of serious magic to the scenery. Spring and fall offer that perfect balance with temperatures ranging from 50 to 80 degrees fahrenheit. So, plan your trip accordingly and pack accordingly too.
Best Time To Visit Moab
This is subjective and depends on what your definition of “best” is. If pleasant weather is your priority, the best time to visit this red-rock wonderland is during the spring and fall. From March to May and September to November, the weather is pleasantly mild, making it perfect for outdoor activities. Not too hot, not too cold – even Goldilocks would approve. If avoiding crowds is your main motivation, then shoulder season would be February (for springtime-ish activities) and November (for autumnal fun). You might even catch some of the iconic arches, canyons, and rock towers wearing a coat of snow.
Getting To Moab
Having driven through much of Utah in our campervan – ooh-ing & ahh-ing most of the way – we could see why it’s such a popular road trip destination. It’s about a 3.5-hour drive from Grand Junction, Colorado, and just over 5 hours from Salt Lake City. With awe-inspiring landscapes, the drive itself is an adventure.
If you’re flying in, the closest major airport is Salt Lake City International, roughly a 4.5-hour drive from Moab. Once you land, you can rent a car, catch a shuttle, or even book a flight to the Canyonlands Field Airport, which is about 18 miles north of Moab – and right next to a sweet booncocking spot, as you’ll see below. There are also several bus companies that offer service to Moab, if you’re so inclined.
Things To Do In Moab
Moab is a warm and welcoming little city with so much to offer, that you could easily spend a few days just kicking around town – without even touching on all of the nature and outdoor activities that you’ve surely also come for. The beauty of it is, you can easily bounce between just hanging in town, or getting out there and getting red-dirty. Depending on your level of adventure, here’s a taste of what you can get into in and around Moab:
Moab is a mecca for hikers and bikers. Arches National Park, with over 2,000 natural stone arches, offers some of the most iconic trails, like Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch. Canyonlands National Park, with its rugged terrain, is another hiking paradise. As for mountain biking, the famous Slickrock Bike Trail is an otherworldly ride on a surreal landscape that any biker is sure to love. If E-bikes are more of your thing and you’re into petroglyphs, look into this Guided 2-Hour Moab Petroglyoph E-bike Tour.
If you’re an off-road enthusiast, Moab arguably has some of the best trails in the world. The slick rock formations and red dirt paths are ideal for ATV adventures, and there are plenty of Jeep and 4×4 rental options, too. Here’s a Guided You-Drive Hell’s Revenge UTV Tour you can check out for starters.
For the daredevils in the house (a.k.a., not us!), Moab is one of the best places to jump out of and off of things. If skydiving is on your list, you might not find a better place for it. Whether you’re seasoned or a first-timer, Moab’s unique geography provides an unmatched backdrop for an unforgettable jump. It’s an opportunity to gain a whole new perspective on the stunning beauty of this desert oasis.
Base jumping in Moab, Utah is not for the faint of heart (like us!) but offers an adrenaline rush like no other. With its towering red cliffs and breathtaking canyons, Moab’s base jumping scene has got to be one of the best in the U.S. for those seeking the ultimate thrill. It might not be for us, but any time we mentioned visiting Moab to other road trippers, base jumping always comes up. If this is your jam, you’re headed to the right place.
Ok, if you’re talking “rock,” Moab is a climber’s dream. See above mentioned towering red cliffs, not to mention unique formations, there are routes for every level climber. And be sure to check out Wall Street, a super-popular climbing area, and dig those views from the summit. Check out this Medieval Chamber Slot Canyon Rappelling Adventure!
Still can’t get enough of those red rocks from high above? Then why not give ziplining a go? Get a bird’s-eye view of the majestic canyons, ancient rock formations, and the mighty Colorado River below as you soar high above the rugged terrain. Moab’s ziplining tours are on offer for adventure seekers of all levels, making it a perfect activity to add to your Moab bucket list.
Speaking of the Colorado RIver, if you’re perhaps a little more into ground-level excitement, there are plenty of thrilling white-water rafting adventures to be had in Moab. Whether you’re looking for a calm float or an adrenaline-pumping rapid experience, there are various trips for you to choose from. Here’s a great Half-Day Morning Rafting On the Colorado package in Moab that’s great for the whole fam!
Not all of your Moab activities have to be thrill chasing nail-biters. The most beautiful part of Moab – and Utah as a whole – is its delightfulness to the eye. And its bonafide dark skies could not put a finer point on that sentiment. The low light pollution and clear skies make it a fantastic place for stargazing. Book one of the local astronomy tours or simply lay back and count the shooting stars.
What To See In Moab
As mentioned, the unique beauty of Moab isn’t limited to its adventurous activities. The area is also home to some awe-inspiring natural wonders and historical sites. Dinosaur tracks? Got ‘em. Lots of ‘em. National Parks? Please! Even the oft overlooked State Parks will absolutely blow your mind. Here are just a handful of things you should see in Moab.
Obviously. This is non-negotiable and a must-see. You’ve probably heard all the hype, as Arches is one of the most talked about national parks in the country – and for good reason. We can attest firsthand that it 100% lives up to the hype, and then some. Don’t miss the iconic Delicate Arch, whose image you might recognize from Utah’s license plates. It’s quite the hike (at least for non-avid hikers like ourselves), but so worth it. The park’s fiery red arches and windows, formed by millions of years of erosion, are a sight to behold. Balanced Rock and the Windows Section are other absolute must-see spots, and happen to be easy hikes. If this place doesn’t bring out the wannabe geologist in you, nothing will. Here’s an inexpensive tip for ya that we wish we’d known about at the time of our visit: A Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour of Arches National Park – for under fifteen bucks!
Canyonlands is another must-visit for any and every Moab travel guide. Divided into four districts, Island in the Sky (the closest to Moab), The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers, Canyonlands boasts a diverse range of landscapes. Mesa Arch, Grand View Point Overlook, and the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers are some of the park’s most captivating features.
Just a short 30 miles outside of Moab is Dead Horse Point State Park. Honestly, the drive itself is nothing short of awe-inspiring. But once you get to the park and drive up to Dead Horse Point, you will be rewarded again. Standing on the edge of a 2,000-foot cliff with the Colorado River below is a sight and experience you won’t forget. Dead Horse Point State Park is renowned for its breathtaking overlook, providing a unique perspective of the Colorado Plateau. If you only go for this one thing, it’s worth every cent of the $10 (per vehicle) price of admission.
A couple of hours and 100 miles or so outside of Moab lies Goblin Valley State Park. Woefully under the radar in comparison to the region’s more famous attractions, this place will leave you gobsmacked – we promise. Goblin Valley’s otherworldly landscape is known for its thousands of hoodoos – which are distinctive sandstone rock formations, whimsically shaped like goblins.The best part? Visitors can get right in among them, exploring the park’s labyrinth of winding trails, which lead to hidden alcoves and fantastic rock sculptures. You can nab a super-cheap self-guided driving audio tour of the park, but we can’t stress enough how much you should get in there and walk around the great goblins. This is an absolute paradise for hikers, photographers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to behold Goblin Valley’s surreal beauty. Our vote? Sunset. If it’s been a minute since you’ve been on a playground, do yourself a favor and go get lost in this one.
Museums aren’t always on our list of things to do when we travel, especially in a place where the great outdoors is so, well… fantastically great. But if you’re in town long enough and have a little time, discover the history and culture of Moab at the Moab Museum. Exhibits cover everything from prehistoric times (and man, can Utah flex on that tip!) to the early settlers, making it a great way to gain a deeper appreciation of this fascinating area.
See Real Dinosaur Tracks
That’s right! Moab (and Utah in general) is an excellent place for getting your Jurassic on. The region is home to several sites with well-preserved dinosaur tracks, such as the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite and the Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracks. Gaze upon these massive, imprinted tracks left behind by dinosaurs that roamed the area millions of years ago, and imagine sharing the same terrain with these prehistoric giants. That’s pretty wild!
Where To Eat In Moab
Exploring Moab’s natural wonders can work up quite an appetite. Don’t worry, there’s as much delicious food and drink to be had as there is nature and activities. Here’s just a taste (see what we did there?) of what we found:
We’re always on the hunt for a legit Neapolitan pizza, and it’s not as often as we’d like that we actually find it. Many pizzerias claim “Neapolitan” but don’t even come close. Antica Forma is on-point, in a big way. We came for the pizza and it did not disappoint. Legit. Neapolitan. The menu as a whole looked fantastic, but we kept it to a pizza and an app between us. The app was something even our own half-Neapolitan Stephen hadn’t had before: Girella – which is basil, pesto, roasted pepper, and artichokes, wrapped in (legit) homemade mozzarella.Truly, after a long day of hiking and exploring, Antica Forma was the basil leaf on top of our Arches pizza.
The environment and decor of this spot live up to it’s adorable name. You might see a charming “Hot Muffs” sign out front before stepping into this fun throwback to the ’60s. Order at the bar, choose your own table, and enjoy the people watching – as you’ll find all walks of life here. “The Muff” features breakfast and lunch menus “for healthy and active people of Moab,” including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. What’s not to love?
Everybody loves a good food truck, and the Moab Food Truck Park has a great variety of them. Set up like an outdoor food court, with the trucks around the perimeter and a lovely seating area in the center. Located just off of Main Street, between W. 100 North and W. Center Streets. You can’t miss it.
If you’re a fan of fresh Mexican food that’s big on flavor without all the b.s. and trappings of a brick-and-mortar restaurant (or website), walk on up to this spicy little food trailer located at the equally as little Moab Backyard Theater. We enjoyed a couple of fresh, veggie burritos – which btw, were not on the menu, but since everything is made to order, the kind gentleman adapted his veggie tacos into burrito form for us. So. Good. Also, dude’s fresh salsa will knock your socks off.
Housed in an historic building, the Jailhouse Cafe serves up hearty breakfast fests. Their corned beef hash and huevos rancheros are a local favorite.
Craft beer lovers, this one’s for you! Moab Brewery serves up a fantastic selection of local brews, and their menu includes hearty pub fare. Grab a burger and a pint after a day of outdoor adventure – you’ve earned it.
Where To Stay In Moab
The good news is that whatever your style of travel accommodations is, Moab has something for you. There is a wide variety of hotels, motels, vacation rentals and cabins, campgrounds, RV parks, RV resorts, plus lots and lots of boondocking options – you name it! Below are some options, and we’re just scratching the surface. There’s quite a lot more available in town.
As #vanlifers, this is our favorite type of stay, whenever we can find it. Some states are, shall we say, “less campervan friendly” than others, but Utah welcomes campervans, RVs, and tenters with open arms. And Moab is no exception. There are plenty of public lands where you can camp for free, as long as you follow Leave No Trace principles. Below are just a few.
- Klondike Bluffs Road
Plug these coordinates into your GPS: 38.7536, -109.7296. This ample boondocking location is about 14 miles to the northwest of Arches National Park off of U.S. 191 North. In fact, there are areas available on both the East and West sides of 191 here. It’s right by Canyonlands Field Airport. On the West side (Ten Mile Pt. Rd.) it abuts the airport property. On the East side (Klondike Bluffs Rd./BLM 142, coordinates above) it’s directly across from the airport, and will eventually take you to Klondike Bluffs Trailhead. Keep an eye out for groups of parachutes floating down from the sky, as SkyDive Moab operates out of that airfield! This was our spot for an entire week and we loved it. FYI, you’ll likely see rigs parked up at other various spots along 191 between Arches and even farther North than Canyonlands Airport.
- Bartlett Wash
For those looking to get closer to the Slickrock Bike Trail, Bartlett Wash is a great option. It offers free dispersed camping, and you can wake up and hit the trail in no time. Here are the closest GPS coordinates: 38.72948490634074, -109.72030579750691
- Willow Springs Trail
This dispersed spot is known for its stunning sunset views. GPS coordinates: 38.69592185898445, -109.67460909004103
For more on the ins and outs of boondocking, check out this post: “Everything You Need to Know About Boondocking.”
Giving “Camping” its own mention is a bit redundant, after “Boondocking” above, but we wanted to mention that there are many other paid-for/reserved camping options available in Moab. One option is that you can camp in the national parks – an example is Devils Garden Campground in Arches National Park – just be sure to make reservations well in advance, especially during the busy season. There are plenty of other campgrounds in the area, a quick Google search should pop up results that cater to your more specific needs.
If you prefer a bit more comfort, Moab has plenty of hotels and motels to choose from. This one’s got a lot of buzz, or you can opt for one of the numerous chain hotels in town for a more familiar experience.
- The Gonzo Inn
With its quirky decor and modern amenities, The Gonzo Inn is a popular choice. And they’re pet-friendly, too!
For those who crave a home-away-from-home experience, vacation rentals and cabins are widely available in Moab. You’ll find properties with various sizes and amenities, making them perfect for families or larger groups.
- Moab Nightly Rentals
Right in Downtown Moab, Moab Nightly Rentals has several different adorable properties to choose from.
For the nomads and road trippers with more of a budget, Moab is stuffed with top-notch RV parks with all the amenities you need to enjoy a comfortable stay. These parks are perfect for those who want to bring their home-on-wheels along for the journey, and have full hookups. During our visit, we noticed that one particular “big name” RV Park appears to have a stranglehold on Moab, with a surprising number of locations for one town. Something about that rubbed us the wrong way, so we’re leaving them out of this Moab travel guide. No shade intended if you’re a member, we know you’ll find them without our recco, and that’s all good! Otherwise, check these out:
- Portal RV Resort
This full-service, luxury RV Resort purportedly has the largest RV sites in Moab. Located on the south side of the Colorado River, Portal is just a few minutes from downtown Moab and a 5-minute drive to Arches National Park. With two RV sections to choose from, the North Side is open to all registered RV’s and the South Side offers premium sites and ownership sites.*Full disclosure: we’re so DIY and budget-minded that we don’t even know what that statement means – but if you do, then this spot might be your jam! And they also have luxury vacation rentals with stunning views of the Moab Rim.
- Moab Rim Campark
Similarly, the more reasonably-priced Moab Rim Campark offers an RV Park with full hookups plus cabins and campsites, too. Located two miles South of Downtown Moab, they boast “open sites with spectacular views of the Spanish Valley and the La Sal Mountains.” They also have a new shower & restroom building with convenience and food items available.
Tips for Visiting Moab
Aside from the usual advice of “stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, sturdy shoes, and pack layers, blah, blah, blah…“, always be respectful of the environment and leave no trace.
Red Hot Tip:
This one’s for you, fellow #vanlifers and RVers! The Marathon gas station at the South end of town, not the North, has – for free – a dump station, rinse water, *and* free potable water. Who does that anymore? They do. Naturally, it gets busy over there, so bring your patience and be kind. It is such a valuable resource – be grateful!
One of the first questions people who don’t call a van their home is: “Wth do you do about going to the bathroom?” A valid question, especially if you’re talking about boondocking and being off-grid for longer than your body can hang on. There’s no one answer to that question as there are many solutions on the market, but ours is this Separett Tiny Compost Toilet. And as high on the #vanlife MVP list as a solid toilet solution is, all joking aside, this is the item that symbolically sums up our time in Moab – thanks to the abundance of *free* potable water we had access to! It’s our Camco TastePURE Premium Water Drinking Hose. If you’re considering a future in van life, this is one of the most essential items you need to have.
Moab is a belter of a place to enjoy outdoor activities and explore Utah’s natural beauty. With its mild climate and variety of activities, Moab is a great destination for any time of year. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or simply looking for serenity, it’s all here for you. Moab is more than a travel destination; it’s an experience you’ll cherish forever. And always remember the old cliche, “it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey” – and in Moab, the journey is nothing short of legendary.
Looking for more travel guides? We’ve got a few more for ya below, and more to come – so check back every month!