Moab is commonly called the Adventure Capital of the United States. It’s location in Utah’s red rock country gives it easy access to some of the best trails and most scenic areas in the country. There are so many things to do in Moab (or at least as easily-arranged day trips from Moab) that you may find yourself wishing you could stay longer – and going back again and again – to make sure that you do all of the Moab tours available.
Moab is a great base to explore the area. There are plenty of places to stay in Moab, ranging from upscale hotels to vacation rentals, RV resorts and simple campsites. Moab also has a great selection of restaurants, including upscale bistros and a food truck park, plus good shopping options.
However, it is to get out into the great outdoors and to have the adventure of a lifetime that most people go there. Curious to learn more about what Moab has to offer? Continue reading!
17 Best Things To Do In Moab
Take a day trip to a nearby National Park
Two of the best national parks in the United States and one of the most incredible state parks in Utah are easily visited from Moab.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is famous for the incredible natural arches that give the park its name.
There is nowhere to stay inside the park other than one primitive campground, so most visitors to Arches stay in Moab. The park’s entrance is just five miles from downtown Moab. You can visit Arches National Park in one day and see the highlights, or go back several times to explore the park in more detail.
There is one road in and out of the park. The 36-mile Arches Scenic Drive takes you past all of the major sights and trailheads. Highlights include Park Avenue, a canyon with towering cliffs on each side, like the famous avenue in New York City, and Balanced Rock.
Major sections to visit include the Windows Section, where short hikes take you to the North and South Window arches and the amazing Double Arch. Further along is the Fiery Furnace area, named because it glows like fire in the late afternoon sun. You can take a ranger-led tour through the labyrinth of narrow passageways. If you want to spend an entire day on the trails, then head out early to the Devil’s Garden section at the end of the road, where the epic Devil’s Garden Trail takes you past eight amazing arches, along the top of narrow ridges and through the other-worldly scenery in Fin Canyon.
The most famous arch in the park, the free-standing Delicate Arch, which features on Utah’s license plates, is reached on another hike, best done in the late afternoon so you can see the sun set behind the arch.
With so many amazing hikes and incredible sights, you may want to visit Arches National Park several times.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park, famous for canyons and red rock formations, is the largest of the five national parks in Utah. It has three distinct and unconnected sections that are divided by the Green and Colorado Rivers and each one has its own entrance. Two of those sections are most easily visited as (separate) day trips from Moab.
The closest part of Canyonlands is the Island in the Sky area. It is located 32 miles (40 minutes drive) north of Moab. The main focus is the Island in the Sky mesa, which has a paved scenic road with frequent pullouts where you can stop and soak in the views. The 100-mile unpaved White Rim Road loops around and below the mesa.
There are several easy hikes you can do including the short 0.5-mile hike to the famous Mesa Arch, a large natural arch through which you can see the dramatic Canyonlands scenery.
40 miles (about 1.5 hours drive) south of Moab is the Needles section of Canyonlands, named after the colorful sandstone spires that fill much of this area. This region also has several canyons to explore and no paved roads, so it is a popular destination for four-wheel driving.
A moderate drive is Colorado Overlook, which is also good for mountain bikes. The last 1.5 miles has large rocks and step drops, but you can park and hike to the overlook if you prefer.
More challenging routes include Elephant Hill, a technical 4WD road with loose rock, steep slopes, step drops, and tight turns; and Horse Canyon, which can have deep sand, water and quicksand (a permit is required).
There are also plenty of hikes in the Needles section. One of the best hikes in Canyonlands is the 11-mile Chesler Park Loop from the Elephant Hill Trailhead that goes to the Chesler Park Viewpoint, which has great views of the Needles and continues through deep, narrow crevices in the rocks on the Joint Trail. Another epic hike is the 10-mile trail to Confluence Overlook, where you can see the junction of Green and Colorado Rivers below.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Although the national parks get most of the glory, Dead Horse Point State Park makes another great day trip from Moab. It is a short 33-mile (45-minute) drive from Moab. The highlight of the park is a long, skinny mesa with cliffs dropping off steeply on three sides.
The best view in the park is from Dead Horse Point Overlook, where you will be 2,000 feet above a gooseneck bend in the Colorado River. The views are truly spectacular. (The best view is looking southwest.)
You can drive to the overlook, but if you like to hike, walk from the park’s Visitor Center along the 2-mile East Rim Trail to Dead Horse Point Overlook, then return to the visitor center along the 3.5-mile West Rim Trail. There are stunning views along the entire length of both the trails. Meander Overlook, Big Horn Overlook, Rim Overlook, and Shafer Canyon Overlook are highlights.
For a guided tour of Dead Horse Point State Park departing from Moab, click here.
Things to do in Moab for Adrenaline Junkies
Moab is famous as an adventure sports destination for a reason. The surrounding area is laced with canyons, cliffs and rivers. From the thrill of rock climbing and rappelling; the adrenaline pumping action of mountain biking and four-wheel driving; and getting wet with white water rafting and paddle boarding, there is a Moab adventure for you. You don’t need to choose one – stay longer and try them all!
Canyoneering is the adventure sport of traversing through narrow slot canyons. These frequently involve rappelling down cliffs, squeezing between narrow crevices, hiking through canyons, climbing around steep drop offs and even swimming through water-filled potholes. Moab is blessed with several very different canyons that are ideal for canyoneering, but that each provide very different experiences. They are consequently suitable for various levels of experience and comfort.
The most popular canyon for beginners is Morning Glory (AKA Ephedra’s Grotto). The 4- to 5-hour trip includes 3.5 miles of hiking and just two rappels, but what drops they are! The first rappel is a 95-foot drop down into a narrow slot canyon, and the second is a stunning 120-foot rappel right next to an enormous natural stone bridge down into Ephedra’s Grotto.
An intermediate level canyoneering experience is the highly interactive Little Sinbad Canyon. The five-hour trip involves squeezing through narrow crevices, clambering over boulders, climbing down steep drops and swimming through narrow channels cut between towering canyon walls. The final rappel drops you into a large deep pool where you swim into a beautiful secret oasis.
For those up for even more of an adventure, a more advanced canyoneering experience will take you through Granary Canyon, named after the ancient Ancestral Puebloan granary that you see at the end of the canyon. The trip includes six miles of hiking and six rappels, ranging from 20 feet to 200 feet. The final rappel is off a 400-foot-high cliff, with the Colorado River far below. The last 200 feet, after visiting the granary perched half way down the cliff, is a steep hike down narrow switchbacks to the nearby banks of the Colorado River.
Canyoneering is all about going down, but you can also go up. The cliffs around Moab are some of the most popular rock-climbing destinations in the US. Guided climbing trips are available for all levels and for several different types of climbing. They all make awesome day trips from Moab.
If you have never climbed before, there are several half-day and full-day trips on which you will learn the basics and then climb, harnessed from above (top-roped), so it is very safe. A popular beginner destination is Looking Glass Rock, just 20 miles south of Moab, where you climb a steep sloped ridge and discover the thrill of rock climbing.
Intermediate level climbers can try multi-pitch climbing at San Rafael Swell – often called fthe Sandstone Alps – or traditional crack climbing at Indian Creek.
Advanced climbers can learn tower climbing. Imagine climbing up a tall, self-standing pillar of rock and then standing on top, with barely enough space for your feet, gazing out at the surrounding countryside far below you. This is tower climbing. There are plenty of rock towers to climb around Moab, including Castleton Tower, Fisher Towers and Tristin’s Tower.
It is also possible to go Rockaneering, which is a combination of rock climbing and rappelling.
For a full day rock climbing experience, check out this tour.
Moab is also one of the most famous destinations for mountain biking. There are literally dozens of trails in the area. Several outfitters in Moab offer organized mountain biking day trip tours.
There are trails for all experience levels, so if you are just a beginner, you will find a trail that is perfect for you. The Bar M Loop Trail is an easy trail that has beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way.
If you are a serious and experienced mountain biker, however, you will definitely want to conquer the Slick Rock Trail. The 9.6-mile loop is perhaps the most famous mountain biking trail in the entire country (and possibly the world). It’s a very challenging and technical trail that is widely considered the ultimate mountain biking experience.
Driving Hell’s Revenge
If you prefer four wheels to two, then there is still a high-thrill adventure trail for you.
Just 15 minutes from Moab, Hell’s Revenge is easy to visit from Moab. This famous 6.5-mile trail is a roller coaster drive up and down steep ridges and petrified dunes.
You can go in a 4WD or a RZR rock buggy. This is for thrill seekers and is very challenging. If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself but don’t want to miss out on all the fun, organized Moab tours do offer this experience as a passenger, with an experienced driver doing the hard work.
Off-roading in an ATV or UTV
Several places in Moab rent out ATVs (single-rider four-wheel All-Terrain Vehicles, also called quads) and UTVs (larger Utility Task Vehicles where you can sit side by side with each other, also called SXS riding). You can also rent trailers to carry them to the trails.
There are plenty of areas around Moab to go off-roading and experience the thrill of riding on rugged terrain.
If you are a beginner, some of the easier areas are along Bartlett Wash Road, Hidden Canyon and Tusher Tunnel. Intermediate riders should head to the 14-mile loop on the Fallen Officer Trail, where there are wonderful views of La Sal Mountains and Arches National Park in addition to the thrills of riding up and down the trail.
For more experienced off-roaders, popular spots include White Wash Sand Dunes, where you can ride over sand dunes, trails and dirt roads; and the Monitor and Merrimac Trails, which have canyon views, sandy washes crossings and dramatic sliprock ledges to navigate.
White Water Rafting
If you are happy to get wet, white-water rafting is one of the best things to do in Moab.
The most popular trip is to Fishers Towers. There are half and full-day trips there on the Colorado River, passing through Class II and III rapids. Class III rapids are lots of fun, but pretty safe even for younger thrill seekers.
For bigger thrill seekers, there is also a full day trip through Westwater Canyon. The 17-mile trip includes 3.5 miles of whitewater with 12 rapids up to Class IV with names like Onion Creek, Professor Creek, Cloudburst, Rocky Rapid, and Whites Rapid. Class IV rapids are not for the faint-of-heart. These are a seriously rough (and fun) ride!
Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP)
A raft isn’t the only way to travel down the Colorado River. There are also several paddle boarding trips you can take. These involve standing up on a board and paddling with a long oar.
There is a flatwater option, a 3.5-hour trip paddling, floating or swimming along a calm 5-mile stretch of the river past towering sandstone cliffs. If you want to relax and enjoy the scenery without too much effort or anxiety, this is a great choice.
For a flatwater SUP experience, click here.
For something a little more thrilling – let’s call this a “splash” trip – there is a 4-hour, 6-mile trip that includes mild rapids. It’s definitely harder to balance and paddle when the water isn’t flat, so this is definitely more challenging.
For more information on the splash SUP experience, click here.
If that seems too tame, then you can also head through the whitewater Fishers Towers section of the Colorado River on a stand up paddle board. The 7-mile, 6-hour trip includes Class II rapids, which are fun in a raft, but especially thrilling and challenging on a tiny board trying to paddle while balancing standing up!
Ziplining is an adventure the whole family can enjoy. You start your day’s adventure with a four-mile off-roading trip in an ATV or UTV, crawling and climbing over rocks and ridges to get to the zip lines.
There are then six zips where you will fly along a zip line, crossing canyons and valleys, while enjoying spectacular views of the La Sal Mountains, Arches National Park and the Colorado River Canyon. The zips range from 280 feet to a mind-blowing 1,300 feet ‘flight’!
Ride in the footsteps of John Wayne and be guided by a professional western wrangler. Hauer Ranch offers three-hour horseback riding trips (you’ll spend two hours in the saddle) through the beautiful Professor Valley alongside the Colorado River. Enjoy views of Castleton Tower and the experience of riding a horse in the wild west.
This half-day tour is suitable for beginner riders.
Chilled things to do in Moab
If you have had enough adventure – or just want a break from all of the thrills and spills – then don’t despair. There are plenty of more relaxing things to do in Moab.
Visit a Winery
There are a couple of wineries in the area that you can visit. Castle Creek Winery is part of the historic working ranch, Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge. Sitting beside the Colorado River, overlooking some of the river’s major rapids, and nestled at the base of red rock cliffs, this is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. Wine tasting are available daily Monday to Saturday. They have both reds and whites to try and buy.
Spanish Valley Vineyard and Winery also has a beautiful property where you can tour the vineyard and taste their wine. There is a bed and breakfast on the property, but most people visit as a day trip from Moab. They also have reds, whites, and even cherry wine.
Drive along La Sal Mountain Loop Road
Moab is in the middle of a hot, dry desert, but just twenty minutes away is the second highest mountain range in Utah, the La Sal Mountains. Heading up into the forested mountains for a scenic drive is a perfect way to escape the summer heat. The 60-mile drive has multiple scenic overlooks with incredible views of the Moab Valley and Canyonlands National Park.
Start the drive heading south from Moab and turn past Ken’s Lake. You will soon start climbing and enter thick forests. Visit Oowah Lake (down a dirt road), Warner Lake and Desert Overlook before descending a series of switchbacks to the scenic Castle Valley. Take the Colorado River Scenic Byway back to Moab.
Pack a picnic and you will have a lovely day out, with lakes, woods and epic views.
Things to do in Moab for the Whole Family
Families traveling to Moab have plenty of choice for activities. There are several awesome things to do in Moab with kids.
Moab Giants Dinosaur Park
Kids and adults alike will love walking in the steps of the dinosaurs. Dinosaur fossils have been found all around Moab and now you can discover them yourselves by visiting Moab Giants Dinosaur Park.
Wander past 100 life-size dinosaurs and the tracks and footprints they left behind. Visit the interactive museum, learn about the local dinosaurs at the 3D theater and virtual underwater experience, see a paleontologists’ archaeological campsite, and play at the Dino playground.
Just 11 miles (20 minutes drive) south of Moab, this shallow lake is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day and enjoy boating, swimming and fishing. Get there early to watch the sunrise over the nearby La Sal Mountains and stay to soak away the heat of the day.
Nearby are Faux Falls (yes, as the name implies, it’s a manmade waterfall). Hike about 0.5 miles from the campground alongside a narrow stream to the falls. There is a small pool at the base of the falls, and you can walk right up to the waterfall and have a cooling ‘shower’.
Moab Sand Hill is a 100-foot-tall and 100-foot-wide steep sloped sand hill. It is an ideal place to go sand tobogganing. Climb to the top, then slide right down.
There is a large parking area at the base, across the street from the entrance to Arches National Park. Kids and kids-at-heart will love this.
There you have it. There are so many things to do in Moab and the surrounding area that you can easily spend several weeks there and still want more!
James Ian is a travel blogger and national parks expert. He has been to 32 states in the US, 82 countries and all 7 continents. Through his national parks website Parks Collecting, he helps people plan and have amazing vacations to the US national parks, so they can collect their own parks’ experiences.
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