It took 65 million years (give or take a few) to shape the desert landscape where we love to escape: Moab! After spending so much time building something — out of rock no less — you’d think it would be strong enough to last forever. Like the third little pig’s house. But all those fins, arches, and spires are fairly fragile. Not to mention the biological soil crust in the area. It’s alive! Or the Colorado River’s hyporheic habitat.
This is why we’re asking (BEGGING) everyone who visits Moab to recreate responsibly, protect public lands, and preserve one of our favorite places on the planet.
Tourism has steadily increased over the past decade, with approximately 3 million people visiting Moab each year. The town’s permanent population, by comparison, is in the neighborhood of 5,300. The residents have graciously invited us to hang out in their backyard, play on their playground. And as their guests, we should show the Moab locals mo love. No one likes it when they can’t back out of their own driveway because a trailer full of toys is illegally parked or they can’t sleep because RZRs, ATVs, or other vehicular acronyms are racing up and down Main Street at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday. And don’t get us started about litter. Fire pits are not garbage cans!
Whether it’s your first time visiting or your fifteenth, the best way to protect Moab is to be considerate of locals and visitors alike, and practice good trail etiquette and leave the area better than you found it.
There are so many different aspects to this one. For starters, the smaller your group, the smaller the environmental impact. Don’t invite everyone you’ve ever met to join you on your Moab trip. Limit your crew to a few of your closest friends ad/or family members, even after the Covid-19 mandates have been lifted.
If you’re camping, stay within the designated campsite boundaries and don’t exceed the campground’s people/vehicle limits. Keep your pets/children/Uncle Eddie from cutting through neighboring sites. It’s annoying. Don’t pitch tents where they don’t belong or tromp through the saltbush to hang your wet towel on a branch way over there. Plants, rocks, and animals deserve as much respect as people, if not more!
Samesies when you’re on the trail. Sure, it’s exciting to see bighorn sheep in the distance. But reel your bro back in when he has Insta-urge to go off course to try and get a better photo of it. Every footfall or tire track causes erosion and kills living organisms. (Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but do you really want murder on your conscience?) If you have to get off the trail for the sake of safety — while changing a flat tire on fast singletrack or yielding to equestrians while hiking, for instance — tread lightly and look for ways to minimize your impact. Hop on that big rock instead of smashing an innocent little desert fern.
Whether you're hiking, biking, climbing or rafting, at some point during the day you’re going to unpack gear, prepare lunch, etc. No one wants to witness a backpack explosion. Try to keep your stuff contained and organized. This prevents unintentional litter and clutter. It’s easy to miss an empty gum wrapper, especially on a windy day, or leave a hat behind that you flung out of the way while looking for your sunscreen. But it’s still your responsibility to pack out everything you pack in.
Ya know those signs with inverted yellow triangles found at the beginning of most multi-use trails? Mountain bikers yield to horses and hikers. Hikers yield to horses. Those are written rules. And most of those rules are best for everyone and everything on the trail. But there are other times when it’s better for the environment to do something different.
If you’re a solitary hiker heading uphill on a narrow trail and you see four bikers quickly coming downhill, the considerate thing to do is to carefully step out of their way. Your two feet have less of an impact than their eight tires.
Similarly, communicating how many people are in your group to those who are yielding so they don’t end up getting on and off the trail multiple times is an unwritten rule. ATVers usually do this with hand signals, the first in the group holding up the number of fingers for their group size and the last holding up a fist. Mountain bikers and hikers generally communicate verbally.
Other dos and don’ts that are often unwritten, but help protect Moab's outdoor recreation areas include:
As with most things in life, common courtesy usually dictates what type of behavior is acceptable on an outdoor adventure.
Moab has lots of amazing places to camp. Even if you think you’re going to claim a spot in an organized campground along Highway 128 with a vault toilet, bring along some human waste bags. As popular as Moab is, campgrounds fill up quickly. You might just find yourself in a primitive campground 20 miles outside of town without any amenities. And we all know what an outdoorsy diet high in protein bars, energy gel, and beef jerky can do to one’s insides. Don’t wanna risk it? Consider making a reservation at a glamping resort or one of the many hotels in the area instead. BUT we urge you to pack some waste bags anyway because you never know when you’ll have to wait longer than expected to tackle that popular multi-pitch route or nature will call when you’re in the middle of nowhere on an epic 4X4 ride. It’s especially important to relieve yourself responsibly and protect Moab’s watershed when paddleboarding on Ken’s Lake, picnicking near Mill Creek, or rafting the Colorado River. Remember, you’ll need to pack out your used TP as well. It’s not biodegradable in Moab’s arid climate and dry dirt.
If you forget to pack or run out of bags, you can purchase some at the Moab Information Center or outdoor retailers in the area. You’ll find yourself in deep shiz — we’re talking up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine — if you don’t dispose of your shiz on public land properly. It’s a health hazard. That goes for shih tzu shiz too, so bring some pet bags.
Some say leave it as you found it. You shouldn’t pick up the rock shaped like Grogu’s head and bring it home as a souvenir; simply take a picture of it instead. Nor should you let kids scratch tic tac toe grids on the red rock in Arches National Park using sharp objects they found along the trail. Sadly, things like this happen all too often. And while we completely agree with leaving it like you found it, we prefer to take it a step further. Show your love for Moab by doing whatever you can to make it better.
Respect the locals and protect Moab's outdoor recreation areas so we can continue enjoying them now and in the future. Nothing would be worse than being uninvited.