Utah's Holey Land Region
One trip to the Holey Land and you’re sure to be a believer. Whether theological or geological, the region is a trifecta of sorts. Three of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks are located here: Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. Delicate Arch may get all the license plate love, but sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands is also worthy of praise. Thousands of lesser known arches outside of park boundaries (lookin’ at you, Corona!) are just as glorious as those that are widely known. Slot canyons, spired cathedrals and otherworldly rock formations add to the area’s heavenly appeal.
Of course, there’s a yin to every yang. Hell’s Revenge, anyone? This difficult off-road trail in Moab boasts obstacles capable of taking three of your wheels off the ground simultaneously. (If you’re not an experienced driver, consider a guided ride.) Then there’s Excommunication, a 5.13a climbing route in Castle Valley described as “devious and cryptic.” Awesome for some; awful for others. But no worries — the entire area is a craggy, cracky climbing mecca with routes for all ages and abilities. Same goes for the dozens of mountain bike trails here. Even if you can’t handle quadbusting inclines on the Whole Enchilada, there are moderate and easy trails to pedal.
On rest days, brag about your bodacious adventures while wine tasting in Moab at a winery overlooking the Colorado River. The dry climate is ideal for growing grapes and there are a handful of vineyards in the area. Or head over to Capitol Reef National Park and get a famous fruit pie from Gifford House. It’s one of three historical buildings on the homestead. If you visit in spring, the valley is lush and green, the fruit trees blushing with pink and white blossoms. Herds of deer frequently visit the orchards, too.
Planning Your Trip to the Holey Land
Driving Directions to Moab
FROM THE NORTH
It’s almost a 4-hour drive (239 miles) from the Salt Lake City International Airport to Moab. Make your way to I-15 S, then keep on truckin’ until you reach exit 257. Head toward Price on U.S. Route 6 E and take exit 182. Travel for 31 miles on U.S. Route 191 S until you reach Moab.
FROM THE EAST
The Grand Junction Regional Airport is a mere 1.5-hour drive to Moab. Hop on I-70 W and go. Slow your roll at exit 182 and follow U.S. Route 191 down to the town.
FROM THE SOUTH
Las Vegas is a 6.5-hour drive (453 miles) to Moab if you drive straight there via I-15 N, 1-70 E and U.S. Route 191. Many people coming from the south choose to take a slight detour and visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park before hitting Arches and Canyonlands, however.
Things To Do
Racecation in red rock country? Yes, please! From 10Ks for women only to ultramarathons for all, there are dozens of running events in Utah’s Holey Land. The scenery and spectators along the way are incredibly inspiring. Drummers on one course set the pace as you make that last climb before the finish line.
If your idea of fun doesn’t include running, it’s all good. There are plenty of other things to do here. And carb loading before any activity is always encouraged at the amazing bakeries, breweries and other eateries in town. (Can you say vacation satiation? Five times fast now.) Have another slice of pizza then go:
- Whitewater rafting
- Rock climbing/rappelling
- Mountain biking
- Horseback riding
If you’re looking for an air-conditioned experience (outdoor temps often hit triple digits in the summer), check out the Museum of Moab or Paleosafari Moab Giants.
The Holey Land Region | Photo Gallery
Delicate Arch Hike (Aerial View)
Where to Stay in Utah's Holey Land
What type of traveler are you? A camper or a glamper? A fan of the #vanlife? Or more of a WiFi wife? The Holey Land has options for everyone, all within a sandstone’s throw of adventure. Here’s the highlight reel.
MOAB CAMPGROUNDS AND LODGING
Bad news first. Always. There is only one campground inside Arches National Park (Devils Garden), and with just 52 sites (50 individual, 2 group) it fills up fast! The good news? There are plenty of places to stay outside of the park. We’ve got the skinny on all things Arches, including hotels in Moab.
Vacation rentals in the area have exploded in recent years and there are RV resorts in every direction. Several non-reservable campgrounds are found right off Scenic Byway 128 (often referred to as the River Road by locals), where you can fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the Colorado River. Red Cliffs Lodge is located on this road as well.
SAND FLATS RECREATION AREA CAMPGROUND
Located just 10 minutes from Moab, SFRA is a popular basecamp. It’s home to the famous Porcupine Rim and Slickrock bike trails and offers access to miles of 4x4 roads. There are 124 non-reservable campsites and two reservable group sites. Click here for more information.
DEAD HORSE POINT STATE PARK CAMPGROUNDS
Don’t let the name scare you. There’s not a catacomb of equine carcasses here, just vertiginous views of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. Dead Horse Point State Park’s scenery rivals that of a national park. But the fact that it’s not a national park is to your benefit. The entire experience is more intimate. And the camping? Unbeatable.
- Kayenta: This campground is made in the shade of junipers. Choose from 21 sites, each with a picnic table and fire ring. Modern amenities include RV hookups and flush toilets. Several popular trails are accessible directly from the Kayenta Campground.
- Wingate: Set atop a mesa, Wingate boasts views for days. There are a total of 31 sites; some have RV hookups, while others are hike-in only tent spots. Four yurts are also available here.
- Moenkopi: Five yurts, each with a futon and bunk beds, make up Moenkopi. The circular structures also have heating and air conditioning you’re never too cold or too hot. Goldilocks approves.
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK CAMPGROUNDS
CNP has two developed campgrounds. Each has its own picnic table and fire ring, as well as shared toilets. The park doesn’t have showers, so you’re gonna have to find a different way to stop the stank.
- Willow Flat: Located in the Island in the Sky district, this year-round campground quickly reaches capacity. None of the 12 sites are reservable. Water is not available in the campground but there are hydration stations at the visitor center, weather permitting.
- The Needles: This campground is only reservable during certain times of the year. Visit recreation.gov for pricing and availability. The rest of the year, the 26 individual and three group sites are claimed on a first-come basis.
Opportunities for backcountry camping exist throughout the park as well. Backcountry permits are highly sought after during spring and fall, so it pays to plan in advance. River permits are also required for those who choose to packraft.
Whatever type of camping you prefer, sleeping under the stars is especially impressive in Canyonlands. This International Dark Sky Park earned Gold-Tier Status in 2015. On a clear night you can see more than 15,000 stars. That’s more than you’ll find on Hollywood Boulevard, baby.
GREEN RIVER LODGING
Many people choose to stay in Green River when exploring Utah’s Holey Land. There are a handful of hotels and motels just off I-70 that offer convenient access to Canyonlands’ Maze district, as well as all of Goblin Valley State Park and the rest of the San Rafael Swell.
GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK CAMPING
Yurts? So good. Reserve one of these circular structures in Goblin Valley’s campground or a traditional campsite of your choosing. The campground offers easy access to designated hiking trails in the park, as well as unscripted adventures. Campers can also play disc golf here (you won’t believe the view from the 9th hole!). If the campground is full, there are miles and miles (and miles!) of land in and around the park where dispersed camping is allowed.
SAN RAFAEL SWELL CAMPING
After you’ve made the 160-foot walk across Swinging Bridge, a dizzying suspension bridge built in 1937, steady yourself at its namesake campground. There are six scenic riverside sites here, each with a fire ring and picnic table. (It is also a good shuttle site for kayakers.) Temple Mountain Campground is more populated, but it makes a nice basecamp for ATVing and mountain biking. If you find designated campgrounds too peopley, grab your canine companion and find yourself a private, primitive spot to squat courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management. As always, recreate responsibly and leave no trace.
CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK CAMPGROUNDS
Fruita Campground is the only developed campground in CRNP. Modern restrooms boast running water and flush toilets, but potable water is not available. The campground has 71 sites around two loops, each with a picnic table and firepit. The campsites are only reservable from March 1 through October 31. Hammock camping is banned in certain sites to protect the nocturnal paths of wildlife; be sure to check with a host if you want to swing and sway your way to dreamland.
Two primitive campgrounds are also found within the park, both with vault toilets. The Cathedral Valley Campground has six non-reservable sites and is usually only accessible in a 4WD vehicle with high clearance. You can often reach the five first-come spots in Cedar Mesa Campground, on the other hand, without 4WD. Be sure to check road conditions before heading to either location.
If you prefer to carry your outdoor abode on your back, there are plenty of pristine places in CRNP where you can hike in and sleep in complete solitude. Backcountry permits are available at the visitor center.
The closest town to CRNP, Torrey is located a mere 10 miles (15 minutes) from the visitor center. Here you’ll find hotels, motels, resorts and RV parks. You can arrange tours from operators in the area or follow our 3-day itinerary.
Start planning your pilgrimage to Utah’s Holey Land. While it’s worthy of weeks of exploration, even quick weekend getaways are good for the soul.
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