A Quick and Dirty Guide to Moab

An Outdoor Guide to  Moab, Utah

From “Go Utah”

Moab is a popular tourist destination nestled in southeast Utah about four hours from Salt Lake City and five hours from Denver.

Around Moab is an outdoors person playground.  We have the world-class Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dead Horse Point State Park, much BLM land, and even National Forest Land surrounding the town. And there are ample opportunities for hiking, backpacking, climbing, biking, and water sports. And in the winter, even a bit of skiing!

This article distills much information into a concise format. Be sure to check out Discover Moab for more detailed info.

Important Update for 2023 – As of April this past year, there’s timed entry in Arches National Park between April 1st and October 31st. See the Arches NP website for more details. You’ll need a reservation for peak hours.

Be sure to check out the “Do it like a local” page for other ideas and tips, too.

When To Come

From Discover Moab

President’s Day Weekend through Memorial Day Weekend is the traditional high season in Moab.  The license plates turn Colorado green, and you can’t make left-hand turns on Main Street.  Both sure signs spring is here in Moab. 🙂  Easter Week is Jeep Safari Week and will be esp busy as an FYI. The hotels, campgrounds, and similar will be full and the places will be a bit hectic.


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After Memorial Day and through the summer, the temps become much too hot for most people to enjoy outdoor activities. Though that does not stop people from coming! The numbers do drop off, however. The nearby La Sal mountains have cooler temps, naturally.

From about mid-September until Thanksgiving, Moab has a bump in visitation that is not as busy as in spring.

From some time in January until President’s Day Weekend, the winter in Moab is a slow time. The temps can dip into the single digits but typically in the twenties. Other than Christmas Week, Moab turns into a locals’ town. You might need traction devices to hike.  Snowshoeing and Nordic and Backcountry skiing are excellent up in the La Sal mountains.

Need some gear info? I wrote some thoughts on gear considerations for Utah hiking, with hiking, backpacking, and camping focused, on the Colorado Plateau area.


Getting There

The River Road drive. From Discover Moab

If you drive from Denver or Salt Lake City (SLC), Moab is thirty miles from I70.  Taking the River Road (SH 128) makes for a slightly longer route, but the road is considered one of the more scenic drives in the country.

In addition to the SLC or Denver airports, Moab itself has the small Canyonlands Airport where you can pick up a rental car. Flights come in daily from both Denver and SLC as of Spring 2021.

Durango, CO, and Grand Junction, CO have good-sized regional airports about two hours away with car rentals available. Montrose, CO is another option about three-hours away.

Prefer not to use a car rental? The Red Rock Express offers shuttles to Moab from both Durango and Grand Junction.   Moab Express offers shuttles from Grand Junction for $50, too.

Once in Moab, many private shuttles and taxis exist to get from the Canyonlands Airport or the town itself and to your hotel or even a trailhead.   Lyft and Uber service is currently sporadic concerning availability.

As of Dec 2021, there’s now a bus service from/to Moab and from/to SLC and other area places for just over $50.

If you have unlimited funds, you could use the $1200+ luxury train from Denver!

Other types of shuttle info found here.

Lodging and Camping

from Planet Ware

If your tastes run more to day use activities with a hot shower and a bed at night, Moab has many lodging options. 

The Lazy Lizard is a hostel selection that offers shower and laundry, too.

Air BnB and VRBO are always possibilities.

Prefer camping? Much dispersed camping abounds in Moab in addition to many paid BLM sites. Some USFS, NPS, and State Park campgrounds also provide options.  If you want some amenities, private campgrounds offer some choices.   (Note: The USFS campgrounds in the La Sal mountains aren’t available until the snow melts out. :) )   Please see the DISPERSED CAMPING portion of the Moab page for more information. The included map that shows where Moab/BLM/Grand County allows dispersed camping is particularly informative.  Note that you have to pack out all solid waste with a wag bag or similar.  As of June 3rd, you may dispose of your wag bag at specific locations in Moab.

If you need a shower and laundry after camping, the previously mentioned Lazy Lizard Hostel offers these services.  Showers available in other places, too. Coin-op laundries exist in town, and the Moab Aquatic and Fitness Center offers showers and a place to swim.

Canine Friends?

If you need some kenneling while you are off to NPS units or the river check out Karen’s Canine Campground or Tracey’s Bed and Biscuit.

Restaurants and Cafes

Moab Food Truck Park. From Pinterest.

We do not go out to eat much, but as you can imagine in a tourist town, there are quite a few restaurants, coffee shops, and lunch spots.

But there are some places where I’ve been since I’ve called Moab home.

The Moab Brewery is a safe “pub grub” bet that is family-friendly and where we often meet out-of-town friends.  For lunch or breakfast, the cafeteria-style Gilberto’s makes Mexican food reasonable in price. If you prefer sit-down Mexican, and perhaps a tasty adult beverage, Fiesta Mexicana features tasty food, and a patio.  98 Center offers pho and similar food and Singa Thai next door offers tasty food, too. Just off the main downtown area in Arches Thai within a charming brick building. Both Joan and I enjoy Dewey’s in the Eddie McStiff Plaza.

In season, Moab features a food truck parktoo.  IF you want “pub grub” but with a fancier bent, many of my friends speak well of The Spoke which is around the corner.

Want breakfast? The Jailhouse Cafe is popular.

Finally, the Love Muffin Cafe is a perennial favorite for lunch and breakfast. Great lunch sandwiches with fresh bread made on site! They supplied the lunches for some trail work and I found the sandwiches to be delicious.

Want to something quieter than the downtown area?

The Hidden Cuisine restaurant in the south part of town offers gourmet-type dining by South African chef and receives excellent reviews.

At the very southern edge of town by the Shell Station is the Branding Iron which features American fare and comfort food.  It is on the quiet side vs. the central part of town.

Supplies and services 

First place for info: I suggest the Moab Information Center as an excellent initial first stop. Maps, brochures, and books are available there. And the friendly staff is sure to provide answers to questions you might have about Moab.

Are you looking for groceries?  Moab offers three popular grocery options. City Market and Village Market are traditional grocery stores. Moonflower is a small co-op health-food-type store. Be sure to bring some shopping bags. Moab currently bans plastic bags.

Adult beverages?  Utah’s liquor laws are stringent. Grocery stores and gas stations currently sell up to  5.0 ABV beer only as of Nov 1st, 2019.. Draft beer is only sold at this limit, too.   There is one state-run DABC liquor store for full-strength beer, wine, and hard liquor. Beer is sold by the individual can or bottle at room temp and heavily taxed. Selection is limited. Closed on Sundays. You’ll need to pick up ice purchased elsewhere. Bars and eating establishments and bringing alcohol from out of state for personal consumption have their own Byzantine laws as well.

Outdoor supplies?  Moab Gear Trader (where I worked over the holidays in 2018) and Gear Heads are general outdoor stores if you need items such as maps, fuel, repair kits, or other items.  Moab Gear Trader has an excellent selection of used gear and consigned brand-name clothing. Gear Heads offers free filtered water for your water containers. Very key when the weather gets warmer!    Walker Drug also provides some basic outdoor clothing and supplies.

There are many options to choose from if you need a mountain bike, water sports, 4X4, or climbing-specific store.

Gear rental is available at different stores for different activities.

If you need to fill propane, Farm and City Feed and RV Supply (the main part of town) and the Shell Gas Station (south end of town) both have propane refills.


Outdoor Fun in Moab

With two national parks, a state park, and many other public lands, outdoor activities abound in Moab. Far too many for me to list in one article!

Here are some resources for specific activities in addition to the excellent Discover Moab page; checked under ACTIVITIES.

If you are not comfortable organizing the permits or other logistics, Moab has many area guides for all of the activities above.

Traveling as a family with toddlers or small children?

My friend Malia wrote an excellent article about experiencing the Moab area with small children. She wrote about some excellent suggestions for camping, hiking, mountain biking, and even local parks that work well for the under-12 set.

Other Activities


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Ah… @ramblinghemlock knows me well. 🙂 .. #moab #utah @moablibrary

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If the weather’s not cooperating, or you want some indoor time, here are some other activities that will be enjoyable…


Moab, UT is my new adopted home with lots of outdoor fun.   I hope this guide assists you in enjoying all Moab has to offer!

This article just scratches the surface of what to do in Moab, if in a concise form.  Again, check out Discover Moab for in-depth information.

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