Adventure awaits among the red rocks of the Utah desert in Moab. Over time, forces such as wind and water have carved out incredible features in the red sandstone. The canyon and rock features that make up the Moab landscape make numerous outdoor adventures possible.
Cliff walls can be scaled rock climbing or base jumped off of. Trails for hiking, biking, or jeeps zig-zag through the slick rock with difficulties for all levels. The Colorado River offers even more possibilities for adventures rafting or fishing. There is so much to do in Moab you won’t even scratch the surface with one trip.
No matter what your level of adventure is, there is something for everyone in Moab. Here are some of the best things to do in Moab, Utah.
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The best-known attraction of Moab is Arches National Park. Delicate Arch, which balances on the edge of slick rock is highly photographed. Chances are even if you’ve never been to Arches, you’ve seen photographs of Delicate Arch.
In addition to Delicate Arch, there are great hikes and other stunning arches to see. Take the time to drive through the park to see all it has to offer. There are many cool hikes that take you to other arches in the park as well.
Address: Moab, Utah
Moab is known for its world class sandstone climbing. The red sandstone gives climbers incredible grip in order to not slide off the rock. There are two types of climbing Moab is known for; friction slab climbing and crack climbing.
Friction slab climbing is a typically a positive angle to vertical wall with very small holds. Climber used grippy rubber shoes and chalky palms to press into the rock to stay on. In some areas there are no clear hand or foot holds, so climber must trust that their hands and feet will stick to the rough sandstone. Crack climbing is exactly what it sounds like, climbing the vertical cracks that form in the sandstone. Climbers use techniques such as hand or foot jams to shimmy their way up the crack.
Whether you are an experienced climber or are looking to get into something new, there are numerous crags for all abilities to climb in Moab. You can request guided trips through outfitters in town as well. Guides will teach you the ropes and keep you safe while learning a new sport.
The desert is an amazing place to mountain bike. Rather than a typical forested mountain bike trail, in the desert everything is open. Rides offer incredible views of the surrounding red desert. Typically, trails in the desert consist of short ups and downs that provide great flowy riding.
On desert trails, the red sandstone comes to the surface forming slick rock. Riding on slick rock is a lot like riding on pavement when it’s flat, but can be challenging when the rock becomes steeper. The smooth exposed rock also makes desert riding flowy.
Moab’s mountain bike trail systems are easy to follow. In the past couple years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which manages the public land surrounding Moab, has put in new trail signs and maps at each trail junction. This way you always know where you are before hopping on a new trail.
The Colorado River comes through just north of town carving out spectacular canyons along its journey. Rafting is a great way to explore the river and canyons. If you have your own boat, stop in a gear shop in town to see where you can and cannot put in/take out and see what’s running that time of year.
If you’re new to rafting there are many options and outfitters to choose from in Moab. From half-day trips to 5-day adventures, you can choose your river experience based on your comfort level. Guides will make sure you’re safe the entire time.
If motorized adventure is more your style, Moab offers numerous jeep trails and jeep rentals. In town it seems there is a jeep or ATV rental company on every corner. Guided jeep tours are offered here too.
Jeeps are so popular in Moab there’s even a week dedicated to them. Jeep Safari week happens right around Easter every year for nine days. People come from all over with their jeeps to hang out for a week of 4-wheeling in the desert.
If you’re not into fancy, expensive toys, and equipment you can still enjoy what Moab and the desert have to offer. Hiking is a great way to explore the desert and notice more of what’s around you.
All trails are open to foot traffic; just be aware of other trail users who may not see you right away. Hiking is also a great way for your dog to tag along on your adventures.
Address: Arches National Park, UT
If you’re going to Moab you should camp. Campgrounds are well designed and can be as close or far from town as you’re hoping to be. It’s a magical experience watching the sunset and waking up to the sunrise in the desert. Although there are campground fees, the money is used to maintain this wonderful natural playground.
It is important to camp only in established sites in the desert. These ecosystems are delicate and excessive trampling will destroy them.
Address: Arches National Park, UT
Fishing isn’t what typically comes to mind when you think of the desert, but there is great fishing in and around Moab. There are two types of fishing in the area; catfish in the Colorado River and trout in the high alpine lakes of the La Sal Mountains southeast of town.
Fishing the Colorado uses bate to attract catfish out of their holes. It is enjoyable to stand along the sandy banks of the river and fish in the desert. Up in the La Sals a different technique is used to catch trout. Typically, a fly fisherman uses only flies and lures to catch fish rather than live bait. In these lakes and reservoirs, you can expect to catch Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat or Brook trout.
Make sure you have the proper fishing license before heading out. The Walker Drug Company sells fishing licenses in town.
If you’re into backcountry skiing, you should check out skiing in the La Sals southeast of town. Mount Tukuhnikivatz is one of the top 50 North American ski descents, but should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers. However, less ambitious descents are also available. Skiing in the La Sals is described in the Backcountry Skiing Utah Falcon Guide which includes maps showing you what is good and where to avoid.
In the springtime you can camp right at the trail head to get a good early start. Many people do this and is a good opportunity to meet new people before you go. It’s always good to bounce ideas and travel plans off other people before attempting something new. They may know something about the mountains that you don’t. As with any backcountry skiing; if you don’t know, don’t go.