You can take a hike or rent a bike. Go whitewater rafting or do absolutely nothing at all under the starry skies in Moab, Utah.
MOAB, Utah – You need to meet a destination that could change your vacation plans. World, meet Moab, Utah. Like Disneyland for the outdoors, Moab is a magical place with sci-fi rock sculptures, fossilized dinosaur footprints, and Mars-red dirt adventures. John Wayne probably described it best, as “Where God put the West.”
Within an hour of the center of Moab, you’ll find some of the most awe-inspiring national and state parks in the United States. And while the epic nature surrounding Moab is the ultimate entertainment, the tiny town of 5,000 is worth exploring for its funky shops, Southwest-centric art galleries, locally owned restaurants, and colorful, down-to-earth characters.
It’s a rare place that appeals to the extremes of travel engagement, great for adrenaline junkies (like me) and relaxation seekers who want to be surrounded by the silence of soothing scenery and star-studded night skies.
Delicate Arch photo by Lanee Lee.
IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING
Hike to Delicate Arch, the Marilyn Monroe of arches, in Arches National Park. After a 45-minute intermediate hike, rounding the corner to be confronted with the 65-foot arch will cause involuntary gasps and giggles of wonder.
WHAT TO DO
Arches National Park
The epitome of a wilderness theme park, with the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. (There are more than 2,000 of them.)
Canyonlands National Park
As theatrical as the Grand Canyon, but even more visceral. It’s easier to access for all ages and fitness levels by foot, bike, or Jeep. Add cinematic to theatrical. Literally: This is where Thelma & Louise drove off their climactic cliff.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Stunning vistas of the sage-green Colorado River, which snakes its way between mesas 2,000 feet below. It's amazing, but it’s extraordinary at sunrise.
If you’ve never mountain biked before, they lead you with the patience of a saint, instructing beginners on basics with Zen-like advice on the family-friendly Moab Brand Trail. If you’re experienced, the three-day excursion along the sandstone White Rim Trail is the ride of a lifetime. They bring the supplies and gear; all you have to do is stay on the bike and enjoy the eye-popping rockscapes.
Moab Adventure Center
Like Cinderella’s castle, it’s a place to make your wildest outdoor fantasies come true. Want to rappel 120 feet off Morning Glory arch? Or face Hell’s Revenge trail via a rough and tumble Hummer safari? Or get wet on a surprisingly tranquil whitewater rafting excursion on the Colorado River? They can arrange all these and more.
Moab Museum of Film
Movie buffs should stop by the exhibition of cinematic memorabilia at Red Cliffs Lodge. 127 Hours, Thelma & Louise, Mission Impossible 2, and countless Westerns took advantage of the vibrant rust-colored terrain in the area.
WHERE TO EAT
Craving authentic Mexican cuisine after a long day of jeeping, canyoneering, biking, and hiking? Miguel’s Baja Grill is a favorite, with potent margaritas to boot.
WHERE TO STAY
Sorrel River Ranch
This is where the urban cowboy and cowgirl can hang their hat in ultimate luxury. Imagine starting your day with a Bourbon Cowboy scrub spa treatment, followed by a quiet moment on your porch swing watching kayakers float by on the Colorado River, then playing a game of tennis flanked by soaring red mountains, with a dip in the pool to cool off. Sunset is time for riverside cocktails, and a gourmet dinner prepared with vegetables from the onsite organic garden. Top off your country-chic day at Sorrel River, stargazing in silence before sliding into your cozy four-poster bed.
Best Western Canyonlands Inn
They offer superior service and amenities (like a complimentary full breakfast with freshly-made waffles, biscuits, and gravy) at budget-friendly prices. The rooms were recently remodeled with sophisticated décor, and the staff is very helpful.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Fly: Great Lakes Airline, Moab’s only scheduled airline service, offers two flights a day from Denver, Colorado. Redtail Aviation has charter flights for small groups. Otherwise, fly into Salt Lake City, Utah, or Grand Junction, Colorado, and rent a car or hire a private shuttle from Moab Luxury Coach.