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Moab was easily one of my favorite stops on my recent campervan road trip with Cabana vans. My mind is still blown away by how much beauty can exist in just a small area. It was definitely a reminder that you don’t need to travel far to find incredible beauty. If you’re thinking about planning a road trip, Moab should absolutely be on that list if it isn’t already. And if you’re already planning a road trip to Moab, Utah, then you’re probably wondering what the best things to do in Moab are. This guide will cover the best things to do in Moab, plus everything else you need to know about planning your Moab itinerary.
There are so many things to do in Moab, but this guide will cover just a few of my favorites if you’re visiting for the first time, and limited on time! But of course, these are only my experiences. If you have other favorites, please make sure to drop them in the comments below. Whether you’re looking to hike all day, go whitewater rafting on the Colorado river, or book an ATV tour, this guide will help you to plan out your days in Moab, Utah.
How Much Time to Spend in Moab?
I would recommend giving yourself at least 2-3 days to explore this area, especially if you’re visiting during the high season. We attempted to visit Arches around noon on our first day, and were turned away due to excessive crowds in the park. The heat is another big factor for exploring these parks early, as temperatures can soar into the hundreds during the day in the warmer months. Because of a little hiccup in our plan we ended up having to visit Canyonlands during the middle of the day. While the park was still amazing, it was incredibly hot and busy. I would personally do a sunrise start in each of the main parks, Arches and Canyonlands, and visit Dead Horse Point at sunset.
Hike at Arches National Park
Hiking in Arches National Park is one of the best things to do in Moab, and definitely the most famous thing to do, so you’re not going to want to miss it. Arches is one of Utah’s Mighty 5, which is a collection of national parks in Utah. The park is located just 4 miles north of Moab so it is an easy stop if you’re visiting the area. I recommend dedicating at least 1 full day to explore Arches. There are so many incredible hikes to explore, and the crowds can make it difficult to navigate the hikes (and find parking) quickly. Ideally I would recommend spending the morning exploring, taking a long break during the hottest point of the day for lunch. Then you can enjoy some late afternoon and sunset hikes. There are plenty of tours, like a 4×4 adventure, that you can book as well, so you aren’t just hiking in the hot sun all day.
Here are some of the parks main highlights: Delicate Arch, The Windows, Double Arch, Balanced Rock, and so many others. However, this list is most definitely not exhaustive. The park actually has over 2,000 arches to explore!
What to know about visiting Arches NP
I cannot stress this point enough, arrive at the park early, especially during the peak season. The peak seasn for arches is considered to be spring through fall. We tried to enter Arches around noon (on a weekday in April when we first arrived in Moab. We were turned away with a sign that let us know that the park had reached capacity. I recommend arriving no later than 7am, but even better if you can make it there for sunrise. Once you’re in the park, you’ll want to visit the more popular spots first because many of these trailhead parking lots fill up as early as 7:30am. On the Arches official website, you can check the status of parking lots, closure information, and traffic webcams. Unlike other parks, Arches is actually open 24/7, so you can technically arrive at any hour.
If you arrive early (which I recommend), definitely start your morning at the Delicate Arch to take in these incredible views. Right before you reach the main view point you’ll come across a little window on your right hand side. Climb up to the window for this “secret” viewpoint, pictured above.
Visit Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park has been on my list for years as one of the best things to do in Moab, and I’m so happy that I finally got the opportunity to visit in 2021. Parts of Canyonlands National Park are super easy to reach from Moab, specifically the Island in the Sky portion of the park. This is by far the most popular part of the park to visit, mostly due to its proximity to Arches and Moab. The park is actually separated into many different areas, so if you don’t have a ton of time I recommend sticking to one area.
During our visit to Canyonlands we did two of the most popular, easy hikes, Mesa Arch and Grand View Point. Both are relatively easy, but they were good options for us as we ended up visiting during the heat of the day.
Grand View Point
Grand View Point is one of the most popular hikes in Canyonlands, and definitely one of my favorite things to do in Moab. The hikes is 2 miles long and can easily be done in 1-1.5 hours. There is no coverage, so make sure to wear sunscreen, a hat and pack plenty of water.The views at the end are super rewarding, with expansive views over the park. A great little photo opportunity!
If you’ve seen photos of Canyonlands before, I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the famous Mesa Arch. This spot is most popular to visit at sunrise, when the light hits the arch perfectly. If you’re planning to visit during sunrise, arrive early because you can best believe there will be a whole lot of tripods out! It is beautiful no matter what time of day though, so this 0.5 mile hike is always worth a visit.
What to know about visiting Canyonlands NP
Similar to Arches, Canyonlands is open for visitors 24/7. That said, you’ll want to plan around crowds and the weather for the best experience. You can find updated information on visitor center hours, closures and more on the park’s official website. It costs $30 per vehicle to enter the park ($15 if you are a single individual entering on foot or by bike). The America the Beautiful pass is valid for the park, so if you’re visiting Moab this pass is 100% worth it!
Experience a Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park
Do not sleep on Dead Horse State Park! Dead Horse Point State Park is located just up the road from the popular Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, but it doesn’t get nearly as much of the fame (or crowds) as the other parks. Trust me when I say, Dead Horse State Park is a serious gem that should not be missed.
What to know about visiting Dead Horse Point State Park
It costs $20 per vehicle to enter the park, and your ticket will be valid for 2 consecutive days. This means you can experience sunset one evening, and if you love the park as much as I do, you can still come back the next day to explore even more! If you are arriving on foot or bicycle, it is $4 per person. There are a number of complimentary parking spots available at the Visitor Center, as well as at the Dead Horse Point Overlook. However, note that the park closes at 10:00PM so no overnight parking is allowed, unless you are parked at your own campground.
If there is only one thing that you do in the park, let it be a visit to the Dead Horse Point Overlook. This overlook is one of the most photographed spots in Utah. It is beautiful at any hour, and always worth a visit, however the colors are best at sunset. You can either access this point by driving down the main scenic road of the park, or by hiking either the East Rim Trail or West Rim Trail.
The East Rim Trail is the shorter of the two rim trails at 1.5 miles. This is a nice, easy alternative to walking the paved road directly to the overlook. The path is relatively flat but there are incredible views along the ridge. There are a few additional overlooks as you make your way to Dead Horse Point overlook if you’re interested in extending your hike. The trail is easy to follow, and appropriate for all fitness levels.
The West Rim Trail is a bit longer than the East Rim Trail, at 2.5 miles each direction, but the views are equally as beautiful. This trail is less popular than the East Rim Trail. We didn’t see any other hikers along the route. The trail isn’t too hard to follow, just make sure to keep an eye out for the cairns. We ventured out to the Rim Overlook on our way back to Visitor Center, which added an additional 0.5 miles to the hike.
Enjoy Beers at Moab Brewery
I’ll admit that a visit to the Moab brewery wasn’t originally part of the itinerary, but after a long morning of breaking my camera and then getting turns away at Arches NP, it was the best afternoon option for us. Moab Brewery serves some amazing local beers, as well as a food menu.
Enjoy the Colorado River
Enjoying the Colorado River is one the best things to do in Moab. In addition to swimming or camping alongside the river, you can also book tours to rafting down the Colorado River. There are a range of options, including half and full day tours. Here is a half-day whitewater rafting tour that you can book online!
Camp in Moab
If there is one thing that I recommend doing in Moab, outside of the popular parks, it is to find a secluded place to camp. We originally planned to stay at Horsethief, an establish paid camping ground, however as a first-come first-serve campground, all spots were taken when we arrived at midday. Nevertheless, we took our chances and followed another van down a long dirt path. We were pleasantly surprised to find an amazing primitive campground at the end of the road – the perfect spot for sunset and an overnight camp.
I am by no means an expert on this topic, so I like to rely on apps like The Dyrt to point me in the right direction.
Where to Stay in Moab
Camping in Moab
We stayed at a primitive campsite about 10 minutes off the main road heading towards Dead Horse Point State Park, past the Lone Mesa Group sites on the left hand side. We checked out this area after our initial plan to snag a first-come first-served spot at Horsethief Campground didn’t work out. One of the best parts of taking a campervan road trip
Hotels in Moab
If camping isn’t your thing, don’t fret. There are tons of awesome hotels, and even airbnbs in Moab that you can check out instead for your adventure. If you’re booking a hotel, I recommend choosing one near town, that will give you close access to the parks.
Tips for Visiting Moab
Download an Offline Map
For any road trip, I always recommend downloading the offline maps for any areas that you plan on visiting. I found that the pre-downloaded offline Google Map works well for me! You can also check out maps.me. While I had some service in parts of Arches National Park, I didn’t have any in Canyonlands or Dead Horse National Park.
Buy a National Parks Pass
If you are planning a visit to Moab, then make sure that you buy a National Parks Pass. Like seriously, if you don’t already own one, stop what you’re doing and go buy one right now! The America the Beautiful pass costs $80 and gives you access to all of the National Parks, plus a number of other parks as well. A single park entrance fee can easily set you back $30, so even if your trip is just a few days long, the pass is worth it. Plus, it is valid for a full calendar year and can me assigned to two different users. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Visit the Parks Early
I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point but the best thing that you can do when visiting Moab is to visit the parks early. There is nothing wose than putting together the best itinerary of things to do in Moab, only to be turned away due to full parks.
Looking for hiking adventures in the US? Here are some other resources to check out:
- Grand Teton Hiking Trails
- Tips for Planning a Campervan Road Trip
- Sedona Hiking: Best Hikes in Sedona, Arizona