Looking to experience Utah’s adventure-land? The town and area of Moab is a wonderful place to begin. Just under a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Moab is the perfect destination for a long-weekend camping trip or a week-long vacation. Located near two national parks, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, the town is also surrounded by BLM land that provides additional adventures like off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails and rock climbing.
With so much to offer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed planning a camping trip to Moab. I’m here to tell you that no matter how much you cram into your itinerary, you won’t see it all, and that’s okay! One of the most special things about this area is that you can come back time and time again and still find something new and exciting. With that being said, I hope that this guide helps steer you in the direction of your desired adventures in this magical Redrock land.
Where to Stay:
The not-so-great news is that finding a place to stay in Moab can be tricky because of its popularity, especially during the busy spring, summer, and fall seasons. The good news is that by using Campspot, you’ll have access to hundreds of campsites across the Moab area. Over the years, we’ve stayed at Slickrock Campground, Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground, and OK RV Park, each providing incredible views of the surrounding mesas.
As of March 2021, the following campgrounds can be found on Campspot’s online booking platform:
What to Do: Arches National Park
For a deeper dive into where to hike and what to see in the park, please visit our Guide to Arches National Park.
One of the grandest yet easiest trails in the park is the Windows Loop and Turret Arch Trail. An unpaved 1.2-mile loop, you’ll visit Turret Arch along with the North and South Windows. The trail varies, hard and flat at times, then changing to climbing up Slickrock. When the sun begins to set, the arches seem to glow, and as the sun falls near the horizon, Turret casts a shadow on the Windows.
Due to its short trail and look out to both the mountains in the east and horizon to the west, the location is popular during sunset. Its trail also lends handy for night photography and stargazing.
Arguably the most iconic arch of the park is Delicate Arch, one of Utah’s symbols and one of the most recognizable rock formations. There are two different ways to see the arch: from a distance on the Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail or up close by hiking the Delicate Arch Trail.
If you only have a day in the park, a convenient but still impactful way to see Delicate Arch is from its viewpoint area. Right off the parking area, a flat accessible trail takes you to a lower viewpoint where you can see the free-standing arch in the sky. The upper viewpoint located just 0.5 miles up a relatively strenuous trail gives you a closer perspective of the arch from across the canyon.
If you’re interested in hiking the Delicate Arch trail, plan for 3 hours for the 3.5-mile out-and-back hike roundtrip. Rated as moderate, the trail has an elevation of 626 feet and doesn’t provide hikers with any shade as you’ll be mostly climbing up steep Slickrock. Because of this, it’s recommended that each person take at least one liter of water. For those who have a serious fear of heights, be aware that the trail goes along a rock ledge for about 200 yards at the very end. With this being said, the hike is safe with standard hiking vigilance and is completely doable for various ages.
At the end of the park’s scenic 18-mile drive is the Devils Garden, an area packed with arches, spires, and “fins,” narrow rock walls. Activities and trails within Devils Garden vary from easy to difficult. Arches within the area include the Tunnel, Pine Tree, Landscape, Navajo, Private, and Double O Arches. The easiest arch to get to on the Devils Garden Trail is Landscape Arch. Anything beyond that is rated difficult.
What to Do: Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is separated into three districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. The most accessible district to visit is Island in the Sky. The Island in the Sky mesa sits on sandstone cliffs that overlook canyons carved by mother nature. Having only half-day to spend in the park, we focused on these three areas when visiting the Island in the park’s Sky area.
Shafer Canyon Overlook
Just past the visitor center is the Shafer Canyon Overlook that gives you a welcoming view of the Canyonlands. A short 0.3-mile path from the parking area leads you to the edge of the cliff. This goes for all of the trails and areas within Canyonlands National Park, be mindful and aware of your surroundings. Most overlooks lead to drop-off edges, including all those listed here. Know that in the winter, there may be snow and ice on trails.
What Delicate Arch is to Arches National Park, Mesa Arch is to Canyonlands National Park. The famous arch sits at the edge of a cliff that overlooks canyons, rock spires, and the La Sal Mountains. The unpaved trail to the arch is just a half-mile long and is a quick stop that packs a punch. The arch is particularly popular for photographers during sunrise. Many line up, waiting for that first ray to make its way over the La Sal mountains and through Mesa Arch.
Grand View Point
Located at the southernmost point in the Island in the Sky, the Grand View Point offers breathtaking views of the Canyonlands area. At 6,080 feet elevation, the viewpoint gives you a rare birds-eye view of the canyons, basins, the La Sal Mountains, and more. An accessible 100-yard trail from the parking lot leads you to different viewpoints and plaques that explain the area’s history and geology. Stemming from the paved trail is an unpaved path that takes you to a second viewpoint.
If you’re crunched on time, drive straight from the visitor center to the Grand View Point, about a fifteen-minute drive.
What to Do: La Sal Loop Drive
The scenic drive begins just across the street from the Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground on Scenic Byway 128 and takes you through various canyon country areas. You’ll make your way through the winding canyon, following the Colorado River until you reach Castle Valley, where you’ll turn right onto La Sal Loop Road.
The views from the valley are absolutely incredible. The area’s iconic red rock mesas, buttes, and pinnacles are juxtaposed with a towering mountain range. If visiting during the winter, the snowcapped mountains stand out even more against the desert-land.
La Sal Mountains
After driving through the valley, La Sal Loop road enters the Manti-La Sal National Forest and winds its way up the La Sal mountains. You’ll notice how quickly the vegetation changes to an alpine climate of aspens and an assortment of pine trees. When visiting during the winter months, check the Maint-La Sal National Forest’s road conditions. It had just snowed a couple of days earlier, so the ground was covered in beautiful crisp snow, yet there had been enough time that the road was almost completely cleared. There were snow-covered portions of the road in some higher-elevation points, so I’d still recommend having four-wheel-drive when visiting during the winter.
After a dozen or so miles of winding its way through the mountains, the La Sal Loop road descends its way into Moab’s valley. On your way down, you’ll notice the vegetation begin to change again. Take the time to take in the views of the town and Canyonlands National Park in the distance. The road will lead you right back to highway 191, just south of town.
What to Do: Shopping Downtown Moab
Not everything in your trip to Moab needs to be go, go, go. Treat yourself by spending an afternoon shopping Moab’s downtown area!
We. Love. Local. Bookstores. Don’t you? There’s something so comforting about getting lost in an independent bookstore. Back of Beyond Books not only gives you access to the top books of the times, but it also is a great resource to find more information on local attractions, trails, and history. This shop also featured a great section of art supplies for those feeling inspired by Moab’s beauty and beyond.
With a sign that pays homage to America’s National Parks and Forests’ iconic style, we were moths to a flame with the store Desert Wild. From clothing and accessories to mugs and hiking merchandise, the store has all things outdoors.
What to Do: Rent a 4×4 Jeep from Canyonlands Jeep Rental
Wanting an experience off the beaten path, we rented a 4×4 jeep to go on the trails that require high-clearance vehicles. We found Canyonlands Jeep Rental, located on Main Street next to the Moab Diner. Locally owned, Canyonlands Jeep Rental has been servicing the Moab area since 2004. With an inventory that includes Wranglers, Rubicons, and Gladiators, Canyonlands also offers compact, midsize, full-size, and minivan rentals. You can also choose to be part of a guided tour.
After speaking to Sabrina on the phone, whose family owns the business, we selected this beautiful bright green Rubicon that she adoringly calls Kermit. On the morning of, she walked us through every aspect of the jeep and explained the trails we could take the jeep on to avoid due to extreme difficulty. When all was said and done, she sent us on our way.
Gemini Bridges (OHV Trail)
Our first OHV trail of the day was Gemini Bridges. Sabrina recommended that we do it first to find our bearings driving an OHV. This trail is super easy but has the most incredible views and, of course, takes you to the Gemini Bridges. In total, the trail is 13 miles and goes from Highway 191 to Highway 313.
The OHV trail will take you right to the Gemini Bridges hiking trial that’s a quick walk to the bridges area. Be careful of where you walk once you’re there, especially on the bridges. They are wide enough to walk on and offer a unique perspective but be mindful of where you step.
Long Canyon (OHV Trail)
The Long Canyon trail is a fun yet easy trail for those looking for something to ease their way into off-roading. We did this trail on our way back to Moab after doing Gemini Bridges. For the best experience, you’ll want to experience the trail top to bottom where you’ll drive down into Long Canyon. From Moab, you’ll take highway 191 going north and then turn onto highway 313 towards Canyonlands National Park. You’ll drive for about 144.5 miles and then turn left for Dead Horse Point State Park where you’ll drive 1.6 until reaching the trail on your left.
Note that in the winter, the trail might be icy and closed. We were lucky that the snow and ice had melted and it was safe to drive down.
One of the coolest things about the trail is driving under this boulder. This is the part of the trail that you’ll be thankful for a high-clearance vehicle as the rock underneath drops off a bit.
Fins & Things (OHV Trail)
Fins & Things is a one-way trail that begins 1.8 miles from the Sand Flats Recreation Area entrance station. The trail is marked with a big sign so you won’t miss it but when you’re on the trail, pay attention to the white arrows painted on the slick rock surface for direction. Rated a 5 out of 10 by the Red Rock Four Wheelers, I would rate it an 8 for a novice like me. Sabrina from Canyonlands Jeep Rental recommended that we “warm-up” with other trails before doing Fins & Things and I’m so glad we did. Due to limited-timing, we did the first portion of the trail, sections 1-3. In its entirety, the trail is 9.4 miles long.
The trail will definitely push you out of your comfort zone. It was about here that I freaked out a bit. Pictures do not do it justice.
Where to Eat in Moab
While you could take the traditional route of making your meals outside on the campfire or your grill/camp stove, be mindful that many campgrounds and RV parks in the area do not allow fires due to local environmental laws. For instance, one of the campgrounds is located in a protected wetlands area of the Colorado River. With so many restaurant options in the area, why not use it as an opportunity to channel your inner foodie?
This cafe located right on Main Street in downtown Moab has incredible breakfast sandwiches made with homemade bagels. We grabbed some after we picked up our jeep rental from Canyonlands Jeep Rental and I have a great video of Tyler trying to eat his sandwich on a rocky, bumpy road.
Sadly, this place was still closed for the winter when we were there, but it’s on the list for next time! It has great reviews, and the food looks delicious. While the inside area of the cafe seemed small, there’s a big outdoor eating area just to the right.
Again, this place was closed for the winter, and we were SO bummed about it because it looked so darn cute. I was craving donuts so badly afterward.
If you’re with a group of people and looking for one location with a lot of variety, the Moab Food Truck Park is your place. Burgers, donuts, Mexican food, and more- this place has it all.
Thanks to a tip from Campspotter Rachel Garant, one of our Marketing Specialists, we visited Thai Bella Moab and absolutely loved it. We get Thai food a lot when we travel, and this restaurant makes it on my top five list. We got some Pad Thai to go and planned the activities we wanted to do the next day in Arches National Park.
In addition to Thai food, Tyler and I get pizza, a lot- like, a lot, a lot. We have a running joke that we should start a website solely dedicated to rating Margherita pizzas from across the country. Antica Forma’s pizza was a delicious wood-fired Neapolitan pizza with a chewy crust and a perfect cheese-to-sauce ratio. 10/10. Would recommend.
What to Do: Watch the Sunset on the La Sal Mountains
Do not leave Moab without watching the sun go down on the La Sal Mountains. Whether your viewpoint is in Arches National Park or BLM land west of the town, there are plenty of options to watch the mountains glow.
With the car loaded up with the camp stove, a cooler of food, our new REI camp chairs, and large wool Pendleton blankets to keep us warm, we made our way to a camping and picnic area north of Dead Horse Point State Park. It was actually an area we came across when we were headed to the Long Canyon OHV trail the day before.
Wherever you decide to go, pay attention to signs where you can and cannot go as some areas that seem to be camping locations are now closed for habitat regrowth.
For dinner, we fixed some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.
Tyler put his chair on an uneven surface and totally wiped out when he leaned back. Yes, it was hilarious, but I’m glad he didn’t hurt himself.
We’ve been to Moab late in the summer and in the winter. While the cold air in the winter can be brutal, the snow makes the mountains and sandstone that much more beautiful.