Desert lovers and outdoor adventurers rejoice! Moab, Utah boasts endless opportunities for outdoor exploration, fun-filled hikes, adrenaline pumping climbs, world-class mountain biking and so much more. There’s are so many things to do in Moab, Utah you’ll find yourself coming again and again to this wonderful desert oasis. Here’s how to plan the perfect weekend (or week) in Moab, Utah.
How to find top-notch Moab lodging
Moab knows that it’s a world-class desert playground and unfortunately that means cheap lodging is tough to come by. Expect to pay at least $120 per night at a hotel and around $150 per night at an AirBnB. Factor in meals and other expenses and staying in town can quickly hike up any budget. However, sometimes it’s nice to have a little luxury.
Camping in Moab, Utah
Camping is the popular choice in and around Moab and it’s easy to see why. Moab offers tons of options for any type of camper, from the full-on RV to the BLM hungry dirtbag. You can reserve a few commercial campgrounds in advance, as well as camping in either Arches or Canyonlands.
Your other option is to try your luck at a BLM campground. These areas require a small fee ($20 per night, cash or check), minimally serviced campsites that are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Be aware that they are almost always full during the spring and fall. Your other option is to find free-dispersed camping near Moab on BLM Land. These sites are typically a coveted secret with fellow BLM camping enthusiasts and take a little digging to find (don’t worry, I’ve written a complete guide to find free camping here – coming soon).
If you plan on camping on BLM land be sure to be prepared for desert camping and boondocking, bring your own water, pack it out, and don’t expect to find a bathroom or hookups. Keep in mind Moab is very strict when it comes to free BLM camping, so be sure to check on local allowable camping areas.
Learn More about camping in the Desert
When to Visit Moab, Utah
When it comes to the desert, you’ll want to avoid the heat. Trust me, nothing screams brutal more than 120 degree days with hot rocks. Avoid the dead of summer, where it is not only unbearably hot, but also surprisingly crowded. Winter is an excellent time for desert exploration if you don’t mind the cold. There will be next to no one around and you might even get a snow-capped desert – a real treat!
For the best weather and beautiful views, visit Moab during the spring or fall. Temperatures are typically less extreme. There are still a fair amount of crowds, but the milder weather makes up for it. Personally, I enjoy visiting the desert between October and March for the best weather and low crowds.
What to Pack for a Trip to Moab, Utah
Packing for the desert is a bit of a challenge. Temps can still be quite chilly at night, even during the summer, so always bring a few warmer layers. If you’re camping, be sure to consider your waste and water. I bring around half a gallon per person per day, and even more if it will be hot. I often use less water, however, I don’t want to be stranded without water. In the desert, you’ll always want sun protection, even in the winter.
If you plan on hiking be sure to have sturdy shoes and a small daypack. You won’t need trekking poles if you plan on wandering through canyons or scrambling lots of rock (unless you’re backpacking or wild camping). Check the local weather and get up-to-date trail info from a website like AllTrails to see if you’ll need any other special gear. Sandstone chews and eats clothing, so don’t bring anything you don’t mind getting torn up.
For more on hiking clothes, check out this guide to outdoor clothing on any budget.
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Things to do in Moab, Utah
With so many outdoor activities, it’s nearly impossible to choose things to do in Moab, Utah. However, I asked outdoor bloggers and wilderness enthusiasts alike what their favorite things to do in Moab. Choose any one of these activities for a fun-filled weekend of desert beauty.
Best Hikes in Utah’s Mighty 5: Murphy’s Loop in Canyonlands
by Sam at Alternative Travelers
Murphy’s Loop is an incredible, 10.8-mile loop trail in Canyonlands National Park. If you’re looking for things to do in Moab with sweeping views and wide open landscapes, look no further! It’s also perfect if you want to get away of the craziness of other more visited Utah national parks like Arches and Zion. We hiked this trail on a Saturday afternoon and only saw one two other hikers the entire time. The trail is not for beginner hikers or those with a severe fear of heights or exposure. That being said, the trail is well-marked, well-maintained, and there are no scrambles.
The trail starts with a flat walk on top of the mesa to the edge, where you’ll get spanning, wide open views and dramatic landscapes. From here, the path snakes down for 1,000 feet into Murphy Basin, with steep switchbacks and sharp descents. At one point, you’ll cross a wooden bridge with no railings that spans a steep drop off. Once you get to the bottom, the trail continues around various rock formations, steep cliffs, and canyons with more otherworldly views. Depending on how fast you walk and how long you linger, this is a solid day hike of 6-7 hours (no permit required). Bring plenty of water and food!
Before you head on your Southwest road trip of a lifetime read these budget-friendly hacks.
Take a Trip Down the Rapids with Whitewater Rafting in Moab
by Leigh of Campfires and Concierges
One of the coolest things to do in Moab is to take a whitewater rafting trip through Canyonlands National Park. My outfitter of choice is OARS Whitewater Rafting and they offer 4 to 6-day trips through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River. Enjoy gourmet food at exquisite beach campsites every night, and days filled with the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation as you make your way from Moab to Lake Powell.
The trips depart from the OARS office on the outskirts of Moab, where everyone boards a shuttle bus to the put-in. Each day will depend on the weather and the itinerary, but the longer the trip you choose, the more time you’ll have for day hikes along the way. Some days may find you in camp early, for happy hour cocktails or a rousing game of horseshoe on the beach. Sleep under the stars and see some of the darkest skies in the world.
After all of this, the icing on the cake is the scenic Cessna flight back to Moab (just look at the photo!). You’ll get to fly over the canyons you just paddled, and see some of the best Utah views you could ever imagine.
Discover the Beauty of Wind and Rain at Arches National Park
By Petro of World Mission 196
With over 2000 natural formed arches in Arches National Park, it certainly lives up to its name. The park is only 5 miles north of Moab. There are several incredible trails throughout the park such as Devil’s Garden and Delicate Arch. AllTrails.com offers a pretty impressive list to browse through. To overnight in the park you will need to get in early to make your reservation otherwise Moab will be home for the night. During summer you may want to get there early for sunrise if you are planning to do some hikes and photography. You do not want to be hiking during the midday heat. Return to your accommodation for lunch and a siesta. Be sure to return again for a breathtaking sunset (check out how you can watch the sunset at Delicate Arch here). If you already have a National Park pass you will not need to pay the private vehicle fee of $30. You only need to take your water, walking shoes and don’t forget your camera for the breathtaking scenery.
Looking for more info on National Parks? Check out these posts:
- Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks Bucket List
- How to make the most of Bryce Canyon in a day
- The best hikes and views in the Grand Canyon
- Ultimate guide to hiking
Take the Kids to Dead Horse Point State Park
by Lori of Fitz 5 on the Go
Don’t let the name discourage you, Dead Horse Park has one of the most beautiful views in Moab (and that’s saying a lot for a city full of amazing views). It’s an easy drive from the main city and getting to the big views is simple. Dead Horse Park is featured in many movies like that ending scene in Thelma and Louis. Because the canyon is not as wide as the Grand Canyon it’s more photogenic, making it one of the best things to do in Moab.For our trip to Dead Horse Park, we chose to go on a family bike ride. The trail itself is easy and family friendly but it’s worth remembering that the park is located at the top of a canyon ridge. I don’t recommend taking kids that are prone to wandering off. It’s also probably not the best choice if you’re afraid of heights (but that knocks out most of the rest of Moab too). The best time to visit the park is at sunset and the experience can be magical. If you’re looking for some outstanding views in the Moab area, Dead horse Park should be at the top of your list.
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Go for a Sunset Hike to Corona Arch
by Megan of Red Around the World
Corona Arch is the perfect afternoon hike just outside of Moab on Potash Road, which is full of cool things like dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs, climbing, and more arches. Coming from Moab, the turnoff for Potash Road is on the left just before the entrance to Arches National Park. The trailhead is about ten miles down the road. There is a sign at the parking area. You will also get to see Bowtie Arch just to the left of Corona Arch.
The hike to Corona Arch is three miles over Slickrock and moderate difficulty, mostly for the end cable sections. There are green lines painted on the ground that mark the trail so it’s pretty easy to follow. There are also a few cairns marking the trail. Just before getting to the arch, you’ll pass two cable sections and have to climb a ladder. The first cable section isn’t too tough, but the second was fairly steep, but nothing impossible. There used to be a rope swing hanging from Corona Arch, but it was removed a few years ago. This is a pretty popular hike, so go early or in the evening. It is also one of the dog-friendly things to do in Moab. If you’re in Moab in the winter, that’s the perfect time to see this. We had it all to ourselves. No special gear or permits are needed.
For more off-the-beaten-path desert destinations, check out this guide to hiking canyons in the San Rafael Swell.
Whether you love sweeping views, big rock formations, or splashing in the water, there’s something for everyone in Moab, Utah. This action-packed list of things to do in Moab, Utah will get even the most hesitant of hiker out on the trail.