Skiers and snowboarders have long flocked to Park City, but over in the eastern corner of the state lies an adventure-driven destination that’s more rugged than the ever-popular winter resort near Salt Lake City.
Best known as the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Moab is a dream world for extreme outdoor activities, with sandstone cliffs to scale, hiking trails to scenic overlooks, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River and mountain biking over craggy peaks.
Even if you don’t fall into the full-throttle category, there are still plenty of low-key (dare we say less treacherous), ways to get your fix of fresh air, thrills and staggering beautiful scenery. To get the full rundown on all the amazing adventures awaiting in Moab, I spoke with Corinne Lewis, the Guest Experience Coordinator at ULUM Moab.
Here’s how to really plan the perfect, action-packed weekend trip to Moab:
How to Get There
Travelers have a few ways to access Moab. You can fly into Salt Lake City (SLC) and drive four hours. Alternatively, many people opt to connect through hubs such as Denver (DEN), Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas (DFW), Las Vegas (LAS) or Phoenix (PHX) before continuing on to Grand Junction Colorado (GJT), which cuts time on the road to just one hour 45 minutes. Also, SkyWest Airlines operates daily commuter flights between Denver and Canyonlands Regional Airport (CNY), the closest touchdown point to Moab.
Where to Stay
Framed by 200 acres of dramatic red-rock scenery, ULUM Moab, open seasonally from early April through late October, is a next-level glamping property that flaunts suite-style tents outfitted with West Elm furnishings, Parachute linens, Pendelton blankets, wood-burning stoves and en-suite bathrooms, plus farm-to-table food and cocktails at the lobby restaurant, fire pits for roasting s’mores, hot and cold dipping pools, an outdoor yoga deck and unobstructed views of Looking Glass Arch. It’s my personal favorite and I dream of returning all the time.
If you don’t require all the plush perks of a place that’s effectively a five-star outdoor resort, Under Canvas Moab tenders a more traditional tented setup that’s far from roughing it. The canvas tents feature comfy beds, hot showers, flush toilets and wood-burning stoves. Guests also have access to grab-n-go snacks for a little sustenance and communal grills to prepare hearty camp meals.
This Utah Adventure Ranch Literally Offers a Skydive EntranceIn the outdoor playground of Moab, Utah’s Sorrel River Ranch blends luxury with action-packed itineraries
What to Do
When I think of Moab (and my own personal experiences there) the word bold comes to mind. It’s a place that conjures bravery and a sense of adventure like nowhere else.
Let’s start with what many folks would consider the biggest draw: access to Arches National Park. Most people beeline it to the famous and cinematic Delicate Arch. If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path exploit, though, Lewis recommends Fiery Furnace.
“You can’t go without acquiring the requisite permit, so it’s essential to plan a few months in advance,” she says. “It’s also rather challenging to access as the route comprises a labyrinth of narrow passages, ledges and slick rock — but that’s all part of the thrill.” Another highlight, Devil’s Garden is an 8-mile loop. “You can go as far as you want and then come back.” (Pro tip: go counterclockwise to frontload the hike with unimaginably beautiful scenery. )
Canyonlands National Park has two main areas. Island in the Sky offers many beginner-friendly options, such as the quick and easy half-mile walk to Mesa Arch and White Rim Overlook, which Lewis favors. The Needles District supplies longer hikes such as the 9.7-mile trek to Druid Arch, one of the most iconic in the area.
Moab is also really well known for mountain biking, with trails for every skill level. Newbies will enjoy a guided ride around Courthouse Loop. Bar Em delivers all different varieties, from double track for beginners to more technical intermediate and advanced routes.
Biking the White Rim Trail With the God of MoabAnswering the call to the Canyonlands
With red rock formations that rival Sedona (or anywhere else for that matter), it’s no surprise that people make the pilgrimage to Moab specifically for rock climbing. Whether the setting unearthed some primal desire to get closer to the unrivaled natural beauty or some of the collective adrenaline-seeking wore off on me, I ended up climbing Looking Glass Arch.
“It’s an awesome excursion that’s close to ULUM Moab and one of the most iconic locations in the area. Locals go here and it’s also serviced by many tour operators that guide the climbs and provide gear like repelling gloves and climbing shoes.” Other spots to push your limits and defy gravity include Indian Creek, Ice Cream Parlor and Potash Road.
Another fun activity to try? Canyoneering, which combines hiking, scrambling, rock climbing and rappelling. Entrajo Canyon is really popular with the opportunity to explore the breathtaking scenery and ancient geology. “Great for first-timers, Medieval Chamber includes two 100-foot repels and views of Morning Glory Arch,” says Lewis.
Interested in even more exciting escapades? Consider whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, sunrise hot air balloon, ATV tours, horseback riding, paddleboarding on Kens Lake and skydiving.
Of course, an escape to Moab isn’t just about working up a sweat and pushing beyond your comfort zones. Yoga classes and sound baths are an ideal way to calm your nervous system.
Where to Eat and Drink
All that adventure is guaranteed to work up your appetite. Jailhouse Café, also known as “Moab’s Breakfast Place,” draws early risers with its signature chorizo scramble and Southwestern eggs bennedict. People love the burgers and atmosphere at The Spoke on Center. For a little something sweet, grab a soft serve from the ice cream window out front. Trailhead Public House and Eatery serves bar classics like wings and chicken nachos. Craving a variety? Check out Moab Food Truck Park in downtown to sample a bit of everything for everything from paninis and pizza to Mongolian beef and rainbow smoothie bowls.
Back at ULUM Moab, guests get to savor elevated, seasonal fare that spotlights Southwest ingredients like honey corn cakes with bison sausage gravy for breakfast. Later on in the day, the culinary philosophy takes the form of a beet and cold smoked avocado that’s impossible to order just once as well as slow-roasted carrots and chicken mole.
It’s also worth noting that while Utah does have rather strict alcohol laws, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some interesting stuff happening in the booze space. Head to Spanish Valley Vineyard & Winery to sip single-vineyard estate-bottled wines such as dry riesling and rich Cabernet Sauvignon. Beer lovers can choose from Dead Horse Amber, Johnny FrUTah and Black Raven Stout at Moab Brewery.
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