Even if you’ve never been to Moab, you’ve still likely seen some part of it if you’re friends with someone from Utah on Instagram. Its most notable icon is Delicate Arch, a big freestanding sandstone rainbow you probably recognize as either the arch people Photoshop themselves onto doing warrior pose at sunset or the more colorful of the two license plate options at the DMV.
There is a LOT to do in Moab besides seeing Delicate Arch, though. The best way to get to know the place is to talk to veteran red-rockers about their favorite spots. We’ll get you started with 10 of our must-see Moab destinations.
The Colorado River begins in the Rocky Mountains and continues through seven United States and two Mexican states before emptying into the Gulf of California, but we think the river’s prime stretches are in Utah. Take a rafting trip at least once in your life, whether you live in Utah or not. Seriously. And if you do live in Utah, don’t take one of the state’s greatest outdoor experiences for granted. River guides offer are half-, full-, and multi-day tours at varying levels of excitement. It’ll cost you more than, say, hiking, but it’s worth every penny and they’ll even feed you — pretty well in most cases.
2. Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage
Check out all the movies filmed in and around Moab at the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage. It lives in Red Cliffs Lodge — a perfect home base for all your Moab adventures, by the way. The museum tells the story of Utah’s rich filmic history with text and memorabilia. And it’s free.
Perhaps not the sunniest name for a state park — though it is memorable — Dead Horse Point’s beauty belies its morbid name. (The name comes from a time when cowboys used to corral their horses here and the animals would frequently die of exposure.) A sunset at Dead Horse Point is about as dramatic as any you’ll witness on this planet. The park’s landscape was formed by the slow dissipation of ancient seas, and what remains is a panorama of massive cliffs that have set the backdrop for several famous films featured in the museum above.
Walk where dinosaurs stomped along the Dinosaur Tracks Trail at Utah’s real life Jurassic Park. (Actually, that’s too narrow, since the Jurassic is just one of the three periods within the Mesozoic era you’ll learn about. And if you’d been to Moab Giants you’d know that.) The Dinosaur Trail and interactive Tracks Museum are definitely worth the drive if you’d like to take your dinosaur knowledge out of the books and into the desert landscape where these creatures once roamed.
Intersecting with Slick Rock Trail in several places, Hell’s Revenge offers a different type of challenge for outdoor motorheads with the 4X4 bug. Rent a Jeep or bring your own tricked-out rock-crawler and motor up and down the petrified dunes. Just to give you an idea of what you’re up against, the 6.5-mile trail typically takes 2-3 hours to conquer — and that’s if you don’t bust a tie-rod. Drive down and definitely have your spare tire(s) inflated and ready to go.
Not for the beach cruiser, the famous Slickrock Trail is where to test your mountain bike mettle. People on shod horses gave it its slippery name; modern mountain bike tires actually find better-than-average purchase on the sandpaper texture. (So will your skin, though, so try to stay upright.) The trail is a challenging 13-mile loop over prehistoric terrain. You’ll absolutely need your own tools, tubes and H20.
Given Moab’s arid desert climate, you wouldn’t think it would be a great place for a winery, but in the go-go-try-anything 1970s some people figured out that the cool nights and dry hot days above 4,000 feet are perfect for producing tasty grapes. Castle Creek Winery, just like the film museum in #9, is located at Red Cliffs Lodge just up Highway 128 from downtown Moab. It’s a beautiful place to sniff and imbibe the fermented fruit of Utah’s unique desert signature.
Corona Arch is toward the top of the long list of “How are these still standing?” arches in Moab. A stone’s throw from Bowtie Arch (don’t throw rocks), the bowing protrusion looks like a flowing rainbow of liquid rock. It’s just about a mile-and-a-half from the trailhead off UT-279 and the Colorado River. For some reason the site attracts a lot of daredevils. For years, visitors have been attempting to do things like jump off the structure or attach the world’s largest rope swing to it. We recommend definitely not doing that. You could kill yourself, and more importantly, you could damage the arch. Maybe just walk under it and try not to strain your neck instead.
The Colorado and Green Rivers converge in a wiggly Y-shape in the middle of Canyonlands, dividing the park into three districts: the Maze to the west, Island in the Sky to the north and Needles to the southwest. It’s a massive park with enough trails to keep you lost for a lifetime. The quick and easy hikes are in Island in the Sky. If you’re up for something intense, hit the 11-mile Chesler Park Loop in the Needles district, but make sure you go prepared. A slightly easier excursion is a hike into Horseshoe Canyon to see the larger-than-life images painted and etched in the canyon walls by the Desert Archaic culture sometime between 400 – 1100 CE.
Arches, four miles north of Moab, is known for its incredible concentration of sandstone arches (holes in the rock formed by earthquakes, wind, water and other erosion). There are more than 2,000 labeled arches in the park’s 120 square miles. The park features a few celebrity arches accessible by very reasonable day hikes. Check out Landscape Arch, Double O and Windows for more moderate hikes. Or there’s Sand Dune Arch if you want a nice stroll that’s just a 0.3-mile walk from the parking area.
Places to Stay in Moab
You'll need more than a few days to visit all of the above destinations. And if you're not big into camping, make sure to check out some of our favorite lodging options in town: