moab travel guide

Moab, Utah: The Complete Travel Guide

Moab is a haven for outdoor adventure enthusiasts. Between the hundreds of miles of multi-use trails, two national parks, the raging colorado river, and towering sandstone cliffs for rock climbing—it is no wonder Moab attracts over 1.8 million visitors a year.

If you are looking to book a trip to the stunning desert town, we have broken down everything you need to get planning your first Moab trip.

Best Time to Visit Moab

Weather in Moab varies dramatically from season to season. Winters are cold enough for snow, and summers are dangerously hot. The best times to visit Moab are in the fall and spring.

If you are looking to raft or kayak the colorado river, know that it will have bigger and more intense rapids in the spring, but particularly in May and June. Fall on the Colorado river is much milder. 

Also, unless you are visiting Moab specifically for an event, be sure to avoid visiting during events like Jeep Safari. This tiny town bursts at the seams with all of the travelers out exploring the trails and city. These events turn this rather mellow town into a madhouse. 

How to Get to Moab

If you can drive to Moab, great! If not there are a few airports nearby you can fly into. The best airports to fly into are:

  • Canyonlands Regional Airport: 10 minutes from Moab city center
  • Grand Junction Regional Airport: 2-hour drive from Moab
  • Salt Lake City International Airport: 4-hour drive to the city 

From all three airports, there are shuttles and buses that will take you to Moab, however, the preferred way to travel to Moab is to rent a car. While downtown Moab is incredibly walkable, getting around to the national parks and trails throughout the region is fairly difficult without your own form of transportation.  

7 Best Things to Do in Moab

Here are the top things that you can’t miss on your trip to Moab:

1. Arches National Park

Arches National Park
Arches National Park

Arches National Park is iconic. It is home to the delicate arch which is on roughly half of all Utah license plates. It is the most famous natural arch in the world!  Arches national park boasts being home to over 2,000 documented natural arches, so there are plenty of hikes for everyone. 

The top arches to see while you are there are:

  • Delicate Arch
  • Double Arch
  • Windows Section
  • Landscape Arch
  • Sand Dune Arch
  • Tunnel Arch

Also, check out our guide to the best hikes in Arches National Park

2. Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands national park is Utah’s largest national park (23rd in the country) but draws the least amount of traffic annually. This vast national park is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon and is divided into three districts by the Green and Colorado rivers. The three districts are the island in the sky, the needles, and the maze. 

Some of the best must-do things in Canyonlands National Park are:

  • Visit Dead Horse point state park
  • See the White Rim Trail
  • See Grand View Point
  • Visit Mesa Arch
  • Green River Overlook
  • Broken Arch
  • Go to Shafer Canyon and Shafer canyon overlook
  • Explore Castle Valley

3. Explore the Colorado River

Colorado River
Colorado River

From Spring to Fall, the colorado river is a fantastic way to beat the heat (and the crounds) in Moab. Some of the most popular activities to do are kayaking, swimming, rafting, and stand-up paddleboarding. 

It is recommended that you check in with a local river expert at one of the rental shops to figure out what sections of the river are going to best serve you based on your gear, preferences, and skill levels. 

If you are looking to do some big rapids, you’ll want to visit in the spring and grab a map to know where they are located. If you are looking for some mellow paddling and swimming, the fall may be ideal for you. 

4. Walk Downtown Moab

Downtown Moab is a dream for those who love art and supporting local businesses. There are art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, shops featuring local artists, clothing stores, and gift shops that line the streets. This is a fun way to spend an afternoon in downtown Moab. 

Some of the best places to grab a pick-me-up near the main street Moab are:

  • Milt’s Stop
  • Red Rock Bakery 
  • Moab Diner
  • Doughbird
  • Love Muffin Cafe

5. Recharge at Moab Brewery

There is nothing better than Moab Brewery after a long day of kayaking, mountain biking, or off-roading. As someone who has visited Moab dozens of times, Moab Brewery is hands down one of the best restaurants. The food is stellar and the local brews are crafted to perfectly hit the spot after a long day of adventuring. Just be sure to save some room for gelato after!

6. Explore some ATV Trails

ATV Trails
ATV Trails

Arguably the best thing about Moab is the hundreds of miles of multi-use trails that weave through this iconic Utah desert. If you haven’t decked out your own off-roading or overlanding vehicle, there is no shortage of rental companies and guided tours available locally. 

Some of the world’s most iconic ATV trails are located in the Moab area. The top off-roading trails to explore are:

  • Hell’s Revenge Trail
  • Slickrock Trail
  • Fins & Things
  • White Rim Trail

It is worthwhile to note that there are sections of each of these trails that should not be attempted without an experienced driver and knowledgeable spotter. Most of the difficult features such as the hot tub, hells gate, and escalator are hotspots for flipped-over rigs and recovery operations. Know your limits and always come prepared. 

7. Don’t Just Stick to the National Parks

Morning Glory Bridge Trail
Morning Glory Bridge Trail

The fact that Moab is nestled between two incredible national parks is a testament to just how spectacular the Moab desert truly is. It can be tempting to stay in the national parks as much as possible, but you’d be missing out if you did. 

There are so many spectacular outdoor adventures outside of the parks that are accessible to most. Some of the best and lesser-known adventures to go on in Moab outside of Canyonland and Arches national park are:

  • Morning Glory Bridge Trail- Dust off your hiking boots and go on this hike to one of the largest natural land bridges in the country! This hike is considered moderate and will require traversing some steep rocks and hiking through some water passes. 
  • Mary Jane Slot Canyon- This hiking trail isn’t difficult, but it is quite long! This hike requires no technical skills like other slot canyons typically do and it leads to a spectacular double waterfall at the end of the trail! The natural pool at the base is an ideal way to cool off during the warmer months in Moab. 
  • Mill Creek Pools– This “locals only” spot is a hidden gem for cooling off near the city center. Navigate to the Mill Creek North Trailhead and walk down the trail to the river below. These pools are fed by a waterfall and stay cold all year long. 
  • Drink From Matrimony Springs-Drinking from Matrimony springs should be a requirement for anyone’s first trip to Moab. Just about 5 minutes after you turn up the 191 past the Lions Park trailhead you’ll come across a crack in the rock that delivers natural spring water. It is said that once you drink from the spring you are “married to the mountain, and will return for years to come!” 

Just be mindful that the desert can be incredibly unforgiving. It is always recommended that you hike with a buddy, but if that isn’t possible—here is our guide to how to hike alone safely.

Moab Rentals

Here are some top rental companies to rent from during your visit to Moab:

Car rentals

  • Discover Cars– This car rental company makes renting a car a breeze, and they offer incredibly competitive prices compared to some of the larger car rental companies. 

ATV rentals

  • Moab Tour Company– UTV rentals and tours, motorcycle rentals, E-bike rentals, and jeep tours and rentals. 
  • ExOverland– They offer plenty of different overlanding and off-roading vehicles for you to rent.

Water Sports

  • Wild West Voyages– They are a locally owned shop and incredibly knowledgeable. They offer rentals and guided tours of the river.
  • Paddle Moab– This company is a great hub for multiple kinds of adventures in Moab. They also offer guided tours and individual rentals. If you’ve ever wanted to dip your toes into the world of canyoneering, they even offer guided half-day tours of Entrajo Canyon.

Final Thoughts

Moab Utah is a spectacular place to visit. Even after dozens of visits I still find myself craving my next trip.

It is however imperative that you come prepared as the desert can be incredibly unforgiving. Never leave on a trail without adequate water, non-refrigerated food, gear for an emergency shelter, and a plan. 

If you plan on camping there are plenty of campsites and BLM (bureau of land management)  dispersed spots throughout the area. There are also plenty of outdoor adventure and overlanding apps you can download to ensure you get the most out of your trips. They will show you camping spots, hiking trails, water-fill stations, bathrooms, showers, etc. 

Also, check out our camping checklist to ensure you are prepared for your next Moab adventure. 

We try our best to keep travel guides updated as often and accurately possible. However, there's no guarantee that what you find on our site will be 100% correct or current at any given time - so please make sure to cross-check the information with credible sources.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top