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If you are researching tips on what to do in Moab, keep reading because after our 2 week visit we have some great insights to share.
With so many cool and fun things to do in Moab, many people stop here when visiting this desert state, mostly due to its proximity to three awesome USA national parks: Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef.
Doesn’t that make for a spectacular region on its own.
We first came to visit Moab in 2006, but was so oblivious to anything outside the national parks, we didn’t remember Moab at all and wasn’t sure if we even stopped in.
But after spending 2 weeks based in Moab Utah on our recent 1 year USA road trip, we recommend you base yourself here for awhile and experience the many Moab activities outside of the national parks.
They are just as outstanding and full of adventure. And downtown Moab is pretty cool.
Many RV travelers base themselves for long periods of time. Not just for the proximity to adventure, but also a town that has loads of amenities and LOADS of free camping, or boondocking.
We enjoyed getting to know it on a deeper level, and we’re excited to share with you the many unique things to do in Moab – national parks and beyond. Several of the experiences mentioned in this post on Moab things to do also made our list of places to see in Utah that no one tells you about.
Things to Do in Moab: National & State Parks
Arches National Park
You do not want to miss visiting Arches National Park. It is one of the United States most popular national parks for a reason.
It is also right on Moab’s doorstep so easy to explore. I recommend at least two full days in Arches NP so you can experience the depth of her arch beauty.
Exploring Arches National Park is one of the most popular things to do in Moab.
Read more in our in-depth guide to visiting Arches National Park.
Canyonlands National Park: Needles and Islands in the Sky
The other popular Moab attraction is the second national park on its doorstep, Canyonlands National Park.
Canyonlands NP is divided into three sections: Islands in the Sky, The Needles District and the Maze.
The first two are most accessible to every day travelers. The Maze is for 4WD experienced explorers only.
There is over a three hour drive between Islands in the Sky and the Needles District so we recommend splitting this park two explore in two days, one for each section. If you are short on time, we recommend the Islands in the Sky section for its ease and canyon views.
You can read more in our guide on things to do in Canyonlands National Park
Sunset at Dead Horse State Park
So this is one of my favorite experiences in the USA, not just in Utah or Moab.
Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the USA. The overlook towers 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, providing a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands’ sculpted pinnacles and buttes.
Dead Horse State Park is often overlooked for Canyonlands next door (and all the other incredible things to do in Moab area.) But do not miss it!
As it is next door to Canyonlands, we recommend timing your visit there for sunset when you have finished.
Pack a picnic and find a spot on the edge of the mesa and enjoy the magic of the setting sun lighting up the spectacular horseshoe bend in the Colorado River as it carves out the surrounding canyonlands.
When Craig and I visited in 2006 it was only us and two other people there. This time there were more people but still crowds were pretty low.
It’s very similar to Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, but I enjoy the experience of this Moab attraction so much more.
Corona Arch Hike
The Corona Arch hike was one of my favorite hikes in Moab. Thankfully, we only knew about it as our friends had done it before and took us there.
You won’t find it in too many things to do in Moab lists, but it is one of the best Moab activities.
This is a great Moab hike with kids as it’s relatively easy, and with ladders to climb, slickrocks to maneuver with cables, caves to explore and cairns to build they’ll be thoroughly entertained.
It was just as spectacular and fun as any hike in Arches National Park, and you will have way fewer people joining you!
I think late afternoon is probably the best time hike Corona Arch as the sun is in a good position for lighting up its many colors.
The 3-mile round trip hike starts in the parking lot across from the Colorado River and goes up a short hill, across the railroad tracks and then up into the canyon.
See if you can spot Corona Arch in the distance. It’s quite camouflaged until you walk more around the corner and the space behind the arch opens up so you can actually see the arch rather than have it blend with the rocks behind it from the other perspective.
Just past the ladder and along the large bench, be sure to look up at Bowtie Arch, the pothole-type arch located high on the cliff above the trail.
Corona Arch, with an opening of 140 by 105 feet, is also known as Little Rainbow because of its resemblance to Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell.
Corona Arch is gigantic.
You will appreciate the perspective as you sit under the arch and enjoy a few snacks and the stunning views out to the surrounding landscape.
Be sure to get photos of you under the arch so you can see the scale of just how big this arch is.
Scenic Drives in Moab, Utah
Drive the Shafer Trail
To get a closer look at Horseshoe Bend, be sure to drive the Shafer Trail from the top of Islands in the Sky in Canyonlands, down to the middle canyon floor, around the edge of the rim past Horseshoe Bend, and back out to the Colorado River, which eventually takes you back into downtown Moab.
It is an adventurous and picturesque scenic drive.
You will definitely want a little bit of courage and an adventurous spirit to tackle those switchback coming down from Islands in the Sky. Be assured, they look worse than what they are. Drive with caution.
It is so peaceful down on the canyon floor that I recommend you go down to experience that perspective.
If you want to complete the trail into Moab, you will need a 4WD.
Check with the Canyonlands Island in the Sky visitor center to be sure of current conditions. It can get pretty bumpy down there and the road can sometimes be covered in water. It will bring you back onto the Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway, which is spectacular. (see below)
Drive the LA Sal Mountains
A drive through the La Sal Mountains will give you a good perspective of the diversity of the Moab region.
20 miles south of Moab are the Lal Sal Mountains, part of the Manti-LA Sal National Forest and our views every day from our campsite.
With their snow covered peaks (in winter) and dramatic moon rises and colorful sunsets they are truly spectacular and worth exploring further.
It offers a different Moab experience with its pine and aspen forests. You’ll find plenty of hiking and mountain bike trails as well as trout fishing in its beautiful lakes and streams.
The La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Byway begins six miles south of Moab winding up through the La Sal mountains and ending at the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway.
The 60-mile loop drive finishes in Moab. You could spend all day exploring this area. It offers spectacular and diverse scenery with the forests at its height and expansive views over the red rocky landscape typical of Moab.
Drive the Moab Scenic Byways
The Moab area has three State Scenic Byways and we recommended spending a few hours enjoying the beauty of them.
You can easily incorporate all three with the hiking and national/state parks we have included in this best things to do in Moab list.
Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (U-128) 44 miles
Allow about 2-hours for this spectacular drive alongside the Colorado River.
After the first 13-miles beside the river through a narrow gorge, the gorge widens through the Castle and Professor Valleys which have been the locations for Western films, including the popular Rio Grande.
We only went us far as the stunning Fisher Towers (see below for the hike we did there.) The views of the red sandstone cliffs along this drive are stunning. It’s a classic, rugged Western landscape.
Leave room to stop in for wine tasting amongst the lush green vineyards of Castle Creek Winery, Utah’s largest winery. It overlooks the rapids of the Colorado River at the foot of the dramatic red rock cliffs.
This is a real treat and a Moab bucket list item (possibly even Utah bucket list) because wineries are few and far between in Moab. Moab has super strict drinking laws.
Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway (U-279) (17 miles)
Another beautiful Moab scenic drive we stumbled upon on our drive out to Corona Arch (see our hike for that down below).
If you do the Shaffer Trail you will incorporate this on the way back.
On this Scenic Byway in Moab you will have picturesque views of the Colorado River as well as ancient rock art and dinosaur tracks you can stop off to look at.
I loved stopping to watch the lines of rock climbers scrambling up the sheer pink and orange rock walls here. You can’t miss them, they start right on the edge of the road.
Sunset will be most rewarding time with the soft light illuminating the reddish-orange sandstone cliffs.
Deadhorse Point Mesa Scenic Byway (U-313) 35 miles
This Moab scenic drive is easy to incorporate with a visit to Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park as it is the road that takes you to both!
Hairpin turns you through the red rock canyon will take you up to the plateau, which makes easy scenery viewing.
See above for more on the views at Dead Horse State Park, one of my favorite in the US.
Unique Things to Do in Moab: Outdoor Adventures & Moab Hikes
Rock Crawling and Jeep Adventures in Moab
Moab has to have the highest concentration of Jeeps in the world – well at least when we visited during the popular Jeep Week.
If you are a mad Jeeper you want to be in Moab for Jeep week. We waited until that madness was over before we hired some jeeps and joined a convoy of 13 families to go off-roading.
We were with the Fulltime Families group and were lucky to have some expert Jeepers volunteer to take us on some awesome off road trails around Moab and spot us as we crawled over rocks.
Yes. Crawled over them. With Jeep wheels moving out sideways in all directions and us lying way back in the car for what felt like vertical crawls up.
It was intense and something we didn’t realized we’d be doing until we got to the first rock.
Thankfully Matt believed in us and taught us how to do it, pushing our comfort zones to a new level of adventure.
Even after the first couple or rocks, Kalyra managed to control her freak outs and enjoy the experience. Until the very last, steepest rock when both girls nearly tore my hand off with their grips and their cries asked for no more.
It was a day filled with many screams, squeals, and much laughter. And we thought our Broken Arrow pink jeep tour in Sedona was scary!
And after the thrilling rock faces, we got to zip around the sand dunes – another Moab suprise and outdoor adventure laying in wait.
Travel is about breaking out of your comfort zones to grow into a better version of yourself. This Moab jeeping adventure definitely taught us to let go, have faith and enjoy the ride.
Even though it defies all logic that a car can actually drive up a near vertical wall, there is a car that can make it happen. Break down your perceptions of what is possible.
Video: Rock Crawling and Jeep Offroading, Moab
Bike Ride Along the Colorado River
Are you looking for a gentle, tranquil and a beautiful experience in Moab?
Jump on your bike and go for a ride along the Colorado River just outside of town. It’s flat and only about 4 miles return.
Start at the Colorado River Bridge, north of Moab on the U-128 scenic byway and head east.
You will follow the Colorado River and wind past the border of Arches National Park as well so the scenery is spectacular. You will pass a campsite amongst the cotton trees on the edge of the river and eventually come to the end of the bike path.
This is one of the nicest things to do in Moab with kids and very safe.
But, if you want to keep going along the scenic drive, you will have to bike on the road – this is not something we recommend as that can be a busy road with trucks, RV and jeeps whizzing by. Do that in your car instead. (see below)
From the bridge you can also head north to take the Moab Canyon Pathway, which is a 2 mile smooth blacktop path that meanders through the red rock canyon to the entrance of Arches National Park. It’s also great for walkers.
Mountain Biking in Utah
For those looking for a little more adventure with their bike exploration, there are plenty of Moab biking trails.
This is America’s Adventure City so you will find any kind of adventure style you can think of.
- Intrepid Trail System at Dead Horse Point State Park is great for beginners.
- Sand Flats Recreation Area just east of Moab challenges even the best mountain bike riders
- Gemini Bridges Trail of the most scenic of the trails in the Moab area
This is one of those epic things to do in Moab that we didn’t get a chance to do!
Paddle Board / Kayak / Raft the Colorado River
We did not do either considering we visited during the colder months of April. But I loved watching the group of stand up paddle boarders cruising down the Colorado River.
I have also heard that a rafting trip on the Colorado River in the Moab area is one of the best things to do in Moab Utah.
It’s definitely on my USA bucket list experience to raft the Colorado River anywhere, but ultimately through the Grand Canyon. Check out this rafting tour from Moab.
We also saw people whizzing by in a jet boat with arms held high and yelps at full pitch. Looked like a lot of fun. You can book the one hour tour here.
Fishers Tower Hike
I thoroughly enjoyed the first of our hikes in Moab, which is located along the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (U-128).
The Fisher Towers are photogenic rock formations eroded into interesting shapes. Rock climbers love to scale them.
Dark red sandstone has been carved into spires, minarets, soaring fins, gargoyles and strange rock formations here.
It is stunning! We had an eerie dark sky which made it all the more colorful and ominous. It’s quite an open trail so best to avoid it during the heat of the day.
It’s a 5.2 mile round trip trail that does through canyons, beneath sheer vertical cliffs and through the towers. We didn’t make it as far as the towers, but were more than satisfied with the dramatic scenery and outdoor adventure.
The Fisher Towers were filmed in the opening scene of Austin Powers in Goldmember and many other movies, TV commercial and ads have been shot here. .
Just getting here along the scenic U-128 Scenic Byway is a worthy adventure (see above.)
Backyard Theater Bluegrass
Bluegrass in Moab? Who’d have thought.
Although, this was a rather sedate experience, compared to bluegrass in North Carolina for which the state claims to own, the bluegrass in Moab was still an experience worthy doing. And it was free.
It’s held weekly during the season at the tiny Moab Backyard Theater.
We didn’t stay the entire time as the kids were getting a little crazy playing in the grass out the front. Because this was rather a quiet bluegrass experience you could her them too much.
If it was bluegrass anywhere else they would have been drowned out by the singing, dancing, and wahooing.
Places Near Moab to Visit
Capitol Reef National Park
We recommend staying at least 3 days here so we wouldn’t count it as a day trip from Moab.
Many people skip this Utah national park altogether, which is a BIG mistake. It sits beside Bryce Canyon as our favorite national park in Utah, and very high on our top USA national parks list.
The colors and rock formations are extraordinary in this park and it is filled with incredible hikes and scenic drives.
And the drive here along Scenic Highway 24 is spectacular. I liked it as much as, if not more, than the infamous nearby Scenic Highway 12.
You can read all our tips and things to do in Capitol Reef National Park.
Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is also only 90-minutes from Moab and a small park to explore so definitely doable for a day trip from Moab.
Although we recommend combining it with a visit to Capitol Reef National Park. It’s on the way and there are plenty of camping and boondocking spots in the area.
Our free campsite nestled into the orange cliffs of the nearby of Little Wild Horse Canyon was absolutely stunning.
Goblin Valley Utah is an exquisite area of goblins, dwarves and mushrooms carved out of teh sandstone rocks by the wind. It’s a playground for kids offering endless imaginative fun and games of hide and seek and tag.
Video: Things to do in Moab Playlist
You can watch the videos of our adventures in Moab in the following playlist. Subscribe to our Youtube channel where you’ll find more videos on the USA!
Planning a Trip to Moab and Utah
Places to Stay in Moab
There are many options of places to stay in Moab at several price points. Top rated hotels in Moab on Booking.com include:
- Budget: MainStay Suites and Sleep In & Suites
- Mid-Range: SpringHill Suites by Marriott and Archway Inn
- Top End: Hyatt Place and Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa
We stayed at two boondocking places we stayed in Willow Springs and the Airport.
The Airport boondocking place is only available for two weeks a year and I think they have even closed it down permanently. Check campendium for your favorite place to boondock in Moab.
The Maverick Gas Station as free dumping and potable water. Note – it gets very busy. Avoid hours up to 11am as you may have a good wait.
Down the road has $5 dumping but will be tight for larger RVs.
Tours: Moab and Utah
G Adventures is a highly respected tour company offer a few small group tours that stop in Moab:
- 9 days hiking Utah’s 5 national parks
- 21 day road trip from LA to Seattle
- Hiking the Best of the West’s US national Parks
Other best selling day tours in Moab are available through the Get Your Guide company.
Car Rental Moab
Be sure to check rental conditions as to what roads you can take the rental cars on. 4WD would be the best car to rent in Moab with all the off-road driving options on offer! Check rental options here.
- RV Share is the largest RV rental marketplace with a wide-ranging inventory. See availability and prices here.
Other Places to visit in Utah
- Zion NP: 14 Things To Do in Zion National Park (+ How To Plan a Visit)
- St. George: Thrilling ATV Adventures – Best Things to do in St. George Utah
- Don’t miss: 20 Incredible Places to Visit in Utah and these 13 hidden secret places to see in Utah
Other USA travel destinations:
- Arizona: 8 Helpful Tips for Planning a Trip to the Grand Canyon
- Arizona: 15 Amazing Things To Do In Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
- California: 9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park
- Wyoming: 23 Incredible Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park
- Southwest USA: 14 Epic Adventures in the American Southwest
- USA: 17 Cool Places to Visit in the US for 2020
- 2 Week Southwest Road Trip Itinerary
- 3 Week American Southwest USA road trip itinerary
- 4 Week itinerary for the Desert Southwest USA region