Your Guide to Hiking around Moab, Utah
Updated: Jan 15
Moab, Utah is the home base for an outdoor playground. Hiking, biking, ATVing, Jeep cruising, thousands of acres of National Park, State Park and Bureau of Land Management land. Moab is a bucket list item for any outdoor lover or adrenaline junkies!
Key Take Away: If Moab, Utah is not on your radar, you definitely should! On the Southeast side of Utah, this outdoor heaven is a must do. The gate way to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse State Park and so much more. This suggested itinerary covers 3 days at the end of November in Moab, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.
When to Visit: Keep in mind, these hikes are all very exposed with very little shade. I could imagine that during the summer these hikes would be very tough especially midday. November was a great time, the sunshine was out and mornings were cold (19-24 degrees Fahrenheit) but it was lovely during the day.
Suggested Duration: 3 Days, a long weekend for sure (especially if driving). I would recommend at least a day to hike Arches National Park, a day to explore Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point State Park. I would recommend additional days to do other activities such as mountain biking, ATV or Jeep excursions.
Day 1: Arrive in Moab, on your way in and if time allows catch sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park. A 20 dollar fee for three days but the sunset was impressive and well worth it. I’ve seen pictures at sunrise as well and that would be a good time to visit.
Keep the receipt they give you for your 3 day park pass just in case you'd like to go back! They are also an International Dark Sky Park, so if you are prepared you can stay for sunset and stargazing!
Check in and grab dinner at Spoke. Tomorrow is a full day so do yourself a favor and hydrate and rest up.
Spoke : A bicycle-themed restaurant that offers burgers the size of your head and classic American meals. A good place to fuel for your next day of adventures.
Enter Arches, just outside of Moab. Make sure you have a full tank of gas as there will be quite a bit of driving.
My first question driving through these magnificent places was: how is all of this created? I love chatting to park rangers at the end of the day and rapid firing all my random questions that have come to mind throughout my exploration (they probably don't like it as much). But All of these rock formation and arches have been formed by salt erosion (weird to think an ocean covered all of this, huh), rain and freezing water eroding the sand stone.
1st stop: The Windows: You’ll get your first taste of arches here. The North WIndow, South Window, Turret Arch and Double Arch (one of my personal favorites). These are all short walks from the parking lot, restroom facilities are here.
2nd stop: Delicate Arch hike (3 miles round trip), try to plan your day so you get here fairly early. We got lucky around 10 am and just barely found a spot. For how popular this hike is, the parking lot fills up quick! When we ended our hike about noon, there were a handful of spots so noon may be a good time (but the warmest time of day as well). Bring lots of water and good shoes, it’s well worth it (crowded but for good reasons).
This is the arch on the Utah license plate. On a clear day you can see the La Sal mountain range behind and this place would make an epic place for star gazing with the appropriate equipment.
3rd stop: Devil’s garden. A 7.9 mile loop and a very scenic route. You’ll see at least 8 arches along the whole route and if you skip the primitive trail, you can do an out and back to see 6 arches. If you’re up for a bit of an adventure and have hiking shoes I recommend the full primitive trail as it’s a lot of fun and gorgeous. You’ll follow Cairns for a portion and walk on your fair share of slick rock.
This hike is worth it. You can pick how far you want to go in and you start seeing arches within the first quarter of mile, if you have kids the first handful of arches if definitely accessible. My personal favorite is Private Arch.
4th stop: Sand Dune arch, 0.3 miles in, in the afternoon it was shaded by the huge rocks surrounding this arch, but great for all ages.
You’re probably exhausted at this point, the traffic back to Moab can back up so we chose to leave about 4:45 pm (missed sunset in the park, but if you have happy campers, stay for sunset it won’t disappoint) and refueled with pizza on our way back in to town.
We ate pizza at Antica Forma, personal sized pizzas but very authentic and amazing combos, wish I somehow could have eaten more than one pizza.
We found that the limited restaurants in Moab (particularly limited in the winter due to off season closures) leads to long waits during dinner times, tonight we had an earlier dinner and were full and happy.
We aren’t done yet: After eating and throwing on more layers, we headed back out to Arches for star gazing and astrophotography (Don’t be too impressed, this was our first attempt at iPhone stargazing. Turned out better than expected). But regardless if you’re looking to photograph arches and the stars or just catch some stars away from the city lights this is the place to do it. You can hike the windows and double arch or to delicate arch (the park rangers told us it would be pretty crowded to star gaze here).
Day 3: I hope you’re not too sore from the day before! Early wake up call to the Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. Sunrise is amazing from here, it’s only 0.3 miles away from the trailhead and about 50 minutes away from Moab. Keep in mind, it’s known for being amazing at sunrise, you will not be alone (lucky you if you are) but there will be lots of tripods and photographers competing for the best spot. I urge you to remember manners, be polite and patient. We’re all here for the same reason and no need to step in front of others or ruin other’s timelapses. We had quite a few oblivious people who showed up way after us cut people off and that’s just not cool.
You’re up, you saw the sunrise now time to explore the rest of the Canyonlands while you’re here. Check out these view points, hike the crater, hike the grand observation point. On our way out we checked out Dead Horse Point one more time and we were on our way back to St. George at noon.
Being my first time to Moab and surrounding areas this was a phenomenal trip. I know I’ll be back as there is so much else to do here. Next time I’m trying mountain biking, UTVing and going to the Needles in Canyonlands. Enjoy your time in Moab, it truly is a special place.
What to Pack: Bring A LOT of water! Lots of layers, sunscreen and snacks. There's a lot of hiking bring hiking boots/shoes, shoes to change out of after long hikes and you're going to want a good camera! The mornings were as cold as 15 degrees, we packed hand warmers, gloves, hats and wool socks. The town of Moab was very casual, everyone coming off of dusty adventures and casual chic
Where to Stay: I recommend staying in Moab. I highly recommend staying at the Rustic Moab Inn, it's rustic but has a kitchenette, great location and no frills but all the necessities. There's plenty of hotels/motels/inns in Moab. We booked too late to find any good Airbnb's but booking.com had some great options.
Shafer Canyon Overlook in Canyonlands National Park