Pretty much any season is great for a Moab getaway, of course. But in spring, Salt Lake folks are particularly hungry for a nice roasting session on the redrocks. Cool beers on the banks of the Colorado never tasted so good after months of chilly, smoggy Salt Lake winters.
With close access to multiple national parks, one major river, plenty of dining and drinking options, and tons of hikes and adventures outside the park gates, Moab is a veritable outdoor playground. And there's no sweeter time than spring to take them in, as mid-summer is too piping-hot and mid-winter is a bit too chilly.
Moab attracts tons of northern-Utah folk (and beyond) craving a multi-sport way of life, but you don’t have to move there to enjoy it. (Although if you do move there, do you have a couch you could spare?) Here’s a quick overview guide to can’t-miss outdoor adventures in Moab.
There’s endless adventuring to be done in Moab—and this is, of course, just a tasting menu. The information center in the center of town is the perfect place to get local topo maps, climbing guidebooks, and other beta to help ensure a safe and memorable adventure.
1. Camp along the Colorado River.
There are plenty of camp spots in the national parks, but it’s hard to beat good old-fashioned river camping. The Colorado River winds its way east and west of town, with a wonderful riverbank road curving alongside it. The campsites to the east of town are slightly better, but going west is a decent option too. If you’re hunting early in the day or on a weekday, you’ll be fine. On a weekend, you might need to make a Plan B.
But there’s nothing like waking up along the banks of such a mighty river. You can wade right in to wake up, take a little swim, and commence with your big Moab day. All established campsites have fenced-in latrines for an added touch of luxury.
2. Hike through spectacular rock formations.
It’s hard to skip hiking some of the more popular trails of Arches National Park—they’re well known for a reason. Try to schedule at least one weekday in the area so you can hike to the Delicate Arch and Devil’s Garden, or at least hike at off-peak times, like sunrise.
There’s also an excellent hike in the Klondike Bluffs area on the far west end of the park. You need to take a seven-mile mile dirt road to get to it, which eliminates most tourists. (It’s not rough going, but the prospect of taking a dirt road out into the desert is enough to deter the RV-driving urbanites.) You can check out Marching Men and Tower Arch, then return the way you came. (There’s the option to make a loop of it but the loop return route is less exciting—walking three miles on a 4x4 road.)
There are some superb hikes outside Arches, too. Negro Bill Canyon is an oasis in the rocks that hug the Colorado River’s path. It’s just a two-mile trip each way along the canyon stream, which invites lush green growth and desert flowers growing out of the redrocks.
Farther up the Colorado River road, you’ll get to Fisher Towers, a stellar rock formation jutting out of the desert. A two-mile hiking trail takes you up to a gorgeous overlook. Many rock climbers scale these towers—if you’re skilled accordingly, pick up a local climbing guidebook in town and check it out.
3. Bike the infamous slickrock.
Moab is a veritable mecca of mountain biking. If you have a good bike of your own, be sure to bring it. If not, you can rent a shiny-fancy bike equipped for desert adventuring at one of the town’s many bike shops. The folks at Chile Pepper Bike Shop are extra-friendly and will talk you through the best places to go for your skill level.
The Slickrock Trail is world-famous—but it’s quite challenging, so only try the full loop if you firmly self-identify as a Mountain Biker (yes, capital M and B). For an easier ride, check out the Klondike Bluffs Trail that heads east off Highway 191. You’ll be treated to a lovely landscape of rolling redrocks in the foreground, Arches National Park in the background, and the snow-capped La Sal mountains in the far distance.
4. Climb red rock crags.
There are near-endless climbing options in the Moab area, especially if you’re a fan of interesting spires and crack climbs. You’ll want to pick up a local guidebook for the in-depth nitty-gritty; many (if not the vast majority) of these climbs do require a full or partial trad rack.
The area known as Wall Street is just a ways up Potash Road along the Colorado River. It’s immensely popular, and for good reason: You can drive up to the base of nearly every climb, and the river and camping options are within spitting distance. The River Road Crags (upriver on the Colorado) also boast excellent—if well-known—options. But between these places and Kane Springs Canyon, Fisher Towers, Castle Valley, and Tusher Canyon, there’s plenty to go around.
5. Run the river.
If you want to get your feet (and your face, and the rest of you) wet, spring for a rented SUP or rubber ducky at Canyon Voyages or Moab Adventure Center and get the beta on good launch points upriver. You can enjoy a short, half-day, or full-day river runs and hitchhike back upstream to your car.
If you want to spring for a proper guided river trip, these same shops can give you the low-down on all the options, ranging from mellow to adventuresome and lasting a half day, full day, or multiple days.
6. Enjoy après-desert.
Any calorie-crushing day merits proper fueling (and a cold beer to wash it all down). Of course, an appetite makes the best chef, but you’d be remiss to skip a patio breakfast at Eklecticafe, beers at Eddie McStiff’s, a cheesy pie at Paradox Pizza, or green curry at Sing Ha Thai.