Moab, Utah, has long been a sought-after destination among adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. Its stunning red rock landscape has backdropped so many films and TV shows that it should probably be retired at this point: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Thelma and Louise, Mission Impossible: II, Austin Powers III, Star Trek, 127 Hours, The Lone Ranger, Transformers: Age of Instinction, HBO’s Westworld.
But it’s more than just a pretty face. Moab is also a premier destination for rock climbing, skydiving, canyoneering, mountain biking and river rafting. So it should come as no surprise that, as an emerging adventure epicenter — and home to Arches National Park, the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches — its popularity is only snowballing. According to director of the Moab Area Travel Council Elaine Gizler, 2021 saw a record-breaking number of visitors, and while Moab’s average occupancy tends to hover around 62 percent year-round, that number rose to 76 percent this past March — up 10 percent from 2019.
On top of that, it’s a prime destination for anyone in pursuit of a quiet, relaxing vacation, awash with pristine scenery and more than four hours from the nearest major airport (that’d be Salt Lake City). And if you want to experience both of those worlds — a little rigor, a little respite — there’s only one place to stay while you’re there: Moab’s only luxury offering, the Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa.
Choose Your Adventure
The beauty of a trip to Moab is that it has the potential to be anything you want it to be. Fancy a relaxing hike to the property’s apex followed by a guided yoga session? That’s a thing you can do. Prefer to get your views in from 1,200 feet up while freefalling through the air for a minute straight? That is also a thing you can do.
“The Sorrel experience is purposefully designed to provide not just your standard adventures, but ed-ventures,” says Sorrel River Ranch owner and operator Elizabeth Rad. “Education is built into everything we offer because it is crucial to us that our guests leave Moab with more than memories. Our goal is for them to gain a deeper respect for the region’s rich history during their stay, and we take pride in incorporating that message in a novel and exciting way with every new season.”
Through Sorrel River’s Adventure Center, guests can arrange for guided hikes, horseback riding, rock climbing, canyoneering, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, hot air ballooning or paddle boarding. Looking for a laid-back tour of the stunning surroundings, including ? They’ll book you one of those, too — once you choose your vehicle of choice from a menu that includes UTVs, Jeeps, jet boats and helicopters.
In addition to a handful of other seasonal excursions, the resort also recently began offering tandem skydives via Skydive Moab. The excursions take off from the nearby Canyonlands Regional Airport and land directly on the grounds of the resort. Though the experience skews toward the costlier end of the spectrum, it’ll likely be the first and last high-end destination that you arrive at by literally jumping out of a plane.
Once you’re ready to unwind, you can’t go wrong with a yoga session on the rocks with Wild Sol Retreats, an experience your correspondent found to be genuinely therapeutic. And later, because Moab is full of surprises, the same instructor who guided my mountain-top sun salutations also led me through a full-send UTV jaunt across Onion Creek. (Among said instructor’s multi-hyphenate qualifications? American Mountain Guide Association single pitch instructor, Utah whitewater captain, wilderness first responder, Yoga Alliance certified teacher at the 200-hour level, level II Reiki practitioner, ISA certified slackline instructor and a self-proclaimed adventure guide of life.)
All of this to say: Moab is positively exploding with activity, and whatever it is you’re looking for out of your stay, Sorrel can — and will — make happen for you.
Life on the Ranch
Located 33 miles from tiny Canyonlands Regional airport, 21 miles from the town of Moab and 20 miles from Arches National Park, Sorrel River sits on 240 stunning acres that abut one of the last untouched stretches of the Colorado River. Originally a quaint riverside homestead built in 1903, the resort debuted in 1999 hoping to “cater to discerning travelers on a quest to discover the finest culmination of service, adventures and relaxation.” Boasting 59 guest rooms, including eight balcony studios, eight family suites and a ranch house, they’ve achieved just that. You need not even leave the property to get the full Utah ranch experience.
The guest rooms, while befitting their surroundings, exude luxury. Minimalist and Western in design, they feature custom furnishings, claw-foot, jetted tubs, private decks and unparalleled views of either the desert or the river.
The horse-strewn property also plays host to a spa where you can enjoy treatments, saunas and steam showers, as well as a 24-hour fitness center, a number fire pits, an outdoor pool and hot tub, a homestead garden, a petting zoo and stable, a tennis court and an on-site old-fashioned general store. It also bears repeating that, regardless of where on the property you find yourself, you will be greeted with world-class views of the American Southwest.
What to Eat
Treat yourself to libations and local fare at Sorrel’s Epic Bar and River Grill, both located in the main lodge. The latter, which features an eclectic menu (you can expect bison and elk) rich with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients from Sorrel’s own garden, is the offshoot of a partnership between the chef, culinary team and on-site gardener. Open daily, the River Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, though reservations are required for dinner.
J.J.’s Mercantile — the general store — is located just off Highway 128 and sells gifts, groceries and gear to guests of the resort as well as campers, locals and passersby. Although it’s only open seasonally, the open kitchen and bakery offers pastries, hot coffee and espresso, as well as a variety of sandwich and salad options.
Alternatively, about four miles and an eight-minute drive from J.J.’s, lies a second set of lodgings called Red Cliffs Lodge, which Sorrel guests often frequent for The Cowboy Grill. Marginally less formal than the River Grill — you might see a few shirts tucked into jeans, rather than draped over them — the menu contains a number of hearty local favorites, including Rocky Mountain oysters (that’s deep-fried bull testicles, for the unanointed).
And while a trip into the town of Moab is certainly worthwhile, whether in pursuit of regional cuisine or just to swap some stories with the locals, most of the rooms at Sorrel also have their own kitchenettes, rendering it totally unnecessary to leave the resort for food — or anything else, for that matter.
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