Moab: The Most Fun You Can Have in One Syllable
Okay, so it’s not actually pronounced Mobe, but Moab really is an awesome desert destination in eastern Utah. With 2 National Parks, a TON of federal land and a fun town center, Moab is an adventurer’s oasis. In the 14 months that Cody & I have lived in Colorado we’ve made the trip to Moab 3 times because it’s that fun! The best times of the year to visit are in late Spring and early Fall when it’s not too hot. It can still get up the 80s during the day and down to 30/40s at night but it’s bearable because (not even kidding, here) it’s a dry heat. Drier than Colorado even!
What To Do
As you know by now, Cody & I are not endurance athletes so Moab is actually really awesome for us! There’s easy access to short hikes, climbing and honestly, just driving around the desert is an activity!
There is some seriously amazing hiking in Moab! There are miles and miles of trails at all difficulties. Arches NP & Canyonlands NP are great places to start. Dogs are allowed in the park but not on trails. Castle Valley also has lots of trails – just take Route 128 out of town and stop on any of the marked BLM areas. There are traditional longer trails but there are also lots of places that you can just putz around and explore. Dogs on leashes are allowed on all BLM trails. More on that later!
As much as it’s fun to explore, don’t forget to stay on the trail at all times! This is especially important because this part of the desert is covered in a biological soil crust. Us biology nerds will find it very interesting but for the rest of you, basically there’s a bunch of moss & bacteria that live in the surface of the dirt. It’s delicate so it’s very important to stay on trails and not disturb our little crusty friends!
Klondike Bluffs & Tower Arch
One of my absolute favorite hikes to date has been to Tower Arch in Klondike Bluffs. You take a dirt road to the north-western corner of the park. Don’t worry about the warnings of it being a difficult road, Taro the Caro had no problems. Why was it my favorite hike? You get to do some scrambling, follow cairns (which always feels wild to me), walk among some seriously cool topography and then end your hike in the shade of the huge Tower Arch. It’s about a mile and a half from the trailhead but we took a few hours to do it because there’s lots of places to explore along the way (and if I’m being honest, we got slightly lost following the cairns). I will definitely be going back!
Sunsets & Sunrises
I’ll be the first to admit that I love sunrises (and sunsets) more than your average nature-lover but this desert really does have the BEST sunrises. At least one day, wake up early and head out to watch the sunrise. Both parks are open 24 hours a day so a sunrise hike is a great way to beat the crowds to some of the more popular spots.
Did you really think we wouldn’t be climbing?! Moab has so much climbing we had to get 2 guide books!! High on Moab is good for area overviews and Falcon Guide’s Best Climbs Moab is good for specific routes.
Desert climbing is very different from the limestone & granite we’re used to in the Front Range. It’s sandy and slabby which is an entirely different style of climbing. It’s best practice to actually keep your body away from the wall to distribute your weight to your feet. And smearing! Friction is your friend with slab climbing. More on that later!
Potash Road & Wall Street
Our favorite place to climb in Wall Street. It’s actually the only crag we’ve explored in Moab because we both love it so much. It’s super close to town (just off 191 along the Colorado River), absolutely breathtaking, very easy to get to and seriously fun climbing. The wall is right along the road so there’s no approach. I’ll admit though, this can be a bit loud or distracting with the road right there. On the wall, there’s a mix of difficulties and they’re fairly rated. Although there are a few routes that are downright mean. Also, you’ll definitely want to bring your stick clip! First bolts can be almost 20 feet up for some routes. The wall gets pretty decent sun exposure in the afternoon so be prepared to bake!
From what I’ve heard from locals and long-time visitors, Moab has really grown up recently. What used to be a few blocks with some shops & restaurants has turned into a tourist hot spot. Unlike some other mountain/desert towns, there isn’t a ton of shopping to do in Moab. There are a few t-shirt and souvenir shops but nothing too crazy. If you’re looking for some great Southwestern Desert style art & shopping head to Santa Fe, NM!
If you do find yourself in town and you need a break, head over to the Visitor Center in the middle of town. They have a water bottle filling station and a cool, dark, theater that plays their promo video. During one visit when Cody & I accidentally baked ourselves climbing at Wall Street, we hid in this theater for a full 30 minutes until we cooled back down to a normal body temperature.
Off-Roading & Mountain Biking
Cody & I are neither mountain bikers (cue terror flashbacks to October 2017 and Cody’s broken elbow & separated shoulder) nor off-roaders but I can tell you that almost everyone in Moab is. Just drive down Main Street and you will see at least 100 people in those weird long mountain biking shorts and Jeeps, 4-Runners, ATVs, and dirt bikes galore covered in red sandy mud. At some point, we do plan on renting a 4×4 vehicle and hitting the trails but for now, man-powered activities are more our style.
Where To Stay
If we can sleep in our tent, we do. Moab is basically surrounded by National Parks or federal lands. There are a few campsites in the parks but the waiting lists for those is are probably already 2 years out. BLM land is EVERYWHERE and it’s free to camp on – you just have to know where to look.
The more popular sites like Kane Creek fill up quickly on the weekends so make sure you have a backup site or two. We ended up having to stay at the hostel in town on one visit because the site we were planning on staying at was full and we were too tired/lazy to find another.
There are a bunch of Marriot-type hotels on Main Street in Moab but there are also some really cool ranches farther outside of town. I didn’t stay at the Red Cliff Lodge or the Sorel River Ranch in Castle Valley but they looked absolutely beautiful from afar and seem to be a better option than staying in Moab.
What To Eat
Even though it’s not necessarily a place known for it’s food scene, Moab has some great food. Or maybe we were just so hungry that it seemed good at the time?
Okay please don’t tell but the real reason we always end up here is to use their bathroom. The coffee is actually very good and the best part? The iced coffee is made with coffee cubes instead of regular ice!
Off the beaten path, Milt’s is a treat that needs to be earned. They have great burgers & shakes but you will gain 5 pounds and you will wait an hour. Be prepared but oh so worth it!
Love Muffin has LOTS of sandwich, wrap & salad options for breakfast and lunch. I do think it was a bit overpriced but very tasty!
If you think you 6 mile hike, 20 mile MTB ride or 10-route climbing day deserves some calories, stop here. They have an extensive menu and will customize anything you want. I ordered pasta carbonara with chicken fingers in it (I deserved it, okay? This was the day after my first clean 5.10 outdoor send!). The kicker? There’s also an ice cream shop! So I got a scoop to go to take back to the campsite.
What NOT To Do
Forget Your Sunscreen & Water. Moab is the desert – the real desert like you’d imagine in National Geographic or something. Bring your hat, your water, some more water, a tank top and all the sunscreen. You will bake.