Summer Road Trip – Moab, Utah
The next destination on our summer road trip was a little different to our previous stops in Zion, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks. We planned to spend three nights in Moab as a base to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. This was by far the biggest town we had seen since Las Vegas. We were definitely ready for a bit more “civilization” after spending time in the more remote areas of Utah. Moab offered a wider selection of restaurants, and even the chance to do some shopping. Because it is more of a base for the surrounding natural wonders than a destination in it’s own right, this post will start with the logistics section that you would find at the end of most of the other posts on this site.
Where to Stay in Moab
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We stayed at the Cali Cochitta Bed & Breakfast, which turned out to be a great choice. It’s centrally located, serves a great breakfast and has comfy rooms and lovely grounds. There is a wide range of accommodation in Moab, from budget motels to high-end lodges. You’re sure to find something to suit your taste.
Where to Eat in Moab
Like accommodation, there are plenty of restaurant options in Moab. They range from casual to classy, with a focus on classic American and Southwestern options. As you would expect with so many people coming to Moab for outdoor activities, there are healthy organic restaurant options, too.
Here are a few places we tried and would recommend:
Moab Brewery – After a hot day’s hiking there is nothing like a cold local beer to cool off. The food is fairly straightforward pub fare, but good and hearty. This is a family-friendly dining option (although most restaurants in Moab are fine for kids).
The Atomic – Gourmet burgers and a cocktail lounge with a vaguely 50s theme. This place is a very handy place to stop for dinner on your way back from Arches National Park or any of the sights north of town.
Peace Tree Juice Cafe – If you’re getting tired of road food that isn’t particularly healthy, check out this place for organic salads, wraps and more. As the name suggests, they have great juice and smoothie combinations as well.
Moab Diner – If you haven’t yet had your fill of classic road food, head for this place for all the standards. If you want something semi-healthy, I recommend the Crispy Chicken Taco Salad. I’m not sure how healthy it really is, but it’s tasty.
There are plenty of other options, so this is a good place to splurge on a nice meal or two before you head back out into more remote and restaurant-less areas
What to buy in Moab
As well as more dining options than anywhere else we’d been in Utah, Moab provided more shopping options than previous stops. If you’re looking to pick up a Utah souvenir, this is a good place to look. You can find everything from cheesy tourist-trap souvenirs to high-end artwork. Here are some places where we browsed and bought:
The T-shirt Shop – This place has been selling old-school transfer print t-shirts since 1982. You choose the color and size you want, grab it off the rack and select a design from the hundreds plastered all over the walls. It doesn’t look like they’ve retired any of the designs since they opened, so you can get great retro designs. They also sell stickers and other fun novelty items.
Triassic – For more classy momentos, Triassic has amazing products made from local natural materials. They have a tree service which sources raw material for their own sawmill. They turn the resulting timber into awesome products ranging from kitchen spoons to furniture. We picked up a couple of spoons, as they were a bit more practical to take home than the furniture (and a bit less expensive, to boot).
Moab Made – There are many art galleries and gift stores along Main St, so your best bet is to wander and check out as many as you have time and stamina to see. Moab Made was a standout for us. We bought a print depicting Delicate Arch in a psychedelic style that Lachlan took a liking to. They have lots of other fun things, all made by local artisans and artists.
This just scratches the surface, so you’ll have to explore for yourself and see what the many stores of Moab have to offer. As well as souvenirs, you’ll find gear for outdoor adventures, photographic supplies and other practicalities.
Things to See Around Moab
The main attractions that draw people here are Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. We’ll deal with each of those in a separate blog post. There are other things to see in the area, so it’s worth setting aside some time for exploring outside the parks.
After checking in to our accommodation and resting up from our day’s driving, we decided to take advantage of the early evening sunshine and see some sights. We decided to take a drive down Utah Scenic Hwy 279, also known as the Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway.
Branching off from the highway just north of town, this road follows the Colorado River. There are a number of things to see along the way. The first reason to stop was to check out some Fremont Indian petroglyphs. These are well-preserved as they are high off the ground, so aren’t vulnerable to modern day graffiti. Apparently there was a lot of debris resting against the cliffs when these were carved, so “ground level” at the base of the cliff was higher than it is now. This debris was all cleared away when the road was built.
A little further down the road are some dinosaur tracks. It’s a short but steep hike up to see them. This was good for us, as we had spent so much time if the car traveling from Capitol Reef National Park, it was nice to stretch our legs.
The last sight on our scenic drive was the aptly-named Jug Handle Arch. Although it looked impressive to us at the time, this was really nothing more than a taster to whet our appetite for the next day’s adventures in Arches National Park.
Shortly after Jug Handle Arch, the sealed road ends and a gravel road winds it’s way up into Canyonlands National Park. At the time we didn’t realize we’d be back here in a couple of days on our 4X4 adventure into Canyonlands – but that’s a story for another post.
This was the only scenic drive we had time for while we were in Moab, but there are other places worth seeing outside the national parks. One place we definitely will make sure to get to Moab is Dead Horse Point State Park. The pictures we saw from this place look amazing.
The Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (Utah Highway 128) also looks like it’s well worth checking out.
Things to do around Moab
Moab is an active outdoor enthusiast’s mecca. You can try out calm-water or white-water rafting, and the mountain biking is considered to be some of the best on the planet. The world-famous Slickrock Trail is here, for the avid mountain biker. There are plenty of outfitters in town who will sell or rent you any gear you need, or take you on an organized adventure.
If you prefer your outdoor activities motorized, there are 4X4 trails to try out. If you haven’t brought your own 4X4 you can rent one. You can also go sky diving, hot air ballooning or go golfing or fishing for a more sedate activity. The list of activities you can do here is pretty impressive.
To wrap up, there is a lot more to Moab than just the national parks. You should definitely build some time into your Moab itinerary to spend some time outside the national parks. Next time we’re there we’ll definitely try to stay longer.