(Photo: Getty Images)
Moab, Utah, where the Colorado River cuts between two National Parks, and miles of bike trails wind through the desert, is known as multisport Mecca, but it also has plenty of options for people who just want to soak up the desert sun. And early summer, when the days aren’t too hot, the river is high, and town hasn’t been overrun with summer break tourists, is the best time to go. Here are 10 reasons why.
1. For the Awe-Inspiring National Parks: Moab is the entry point for two of the most dramatic parks in the country: Arches and Canyonlands. Even though it’s a bit cliché, a sunset hike to the most famous landmark in Arches, Delicate Arch, is worth it—particularly now, when you can still see snow on the peaks in the distance. Make the drive down to the Needles District on the south end of Canyonlands to hike through sandstone spires.
Mountain biking in Moab. (Photo: Yann Ropars/ Flickr)
2. For the Killer Mountain Biking: Moab, with its grippy rock and miles of trail, has been a popular destination for riders since the ‘80s, when fat-tire biking was just getting its start. To this day, the technical Slickrock Trail, right above town, is a tick-off-the-list ride for serious bikers. If you’re a newbie, there are more gentle options, too, like Dead Horse Point, and there are plenty of places to rent bike in town, like Poison Spider Bicycles.
3. For the Camping: Campgrounds are abundant, and one of the most beautiful is the Bureau of Land Management-run Sand Flats Recreation Area Campground, right behind the trailhead for the Slickrock trail, which looks out over town and the valley. There are 120 spots, including ones for RVs.
4. For Options that Don’t Include Camping: Or, if sleeping on the ground isn’t your style, skip the chain motels along the downtown strip and stay at a place like the Hauer Rock House, which melds Moab’s desert surroundings with high-end design.
5. For the Mighty Colorado River: The Colorado is mellow and flat as it runs through town, which makes it perfect for paddleboarding. If you want rapids, head upstream to the scenic Fischer Towers section, or downriver for a multi-day Cataract Canyon trip.
Colorado rapids. (Photo: Getty Images)
6. For the Jeeping, both On- and Off-Road: Driving your jacked-up vehicle on the hundreds of miles of desert double-track roads might be the most popular activity in Moab. Off roading on the endless public land is one of the main reasons people come to Moab, and it’s common to see four wheelers climbing impassable looking rock faces.
7. For the Drinks (yes, even in Utah): Utah has some arcane liquor laws. For instance, you can only buy booze in state-run liquor stores. The Moab Brewery, right downtown, makes good (and strong) beer, like their Dead Horse Amber Ale. They sell tallboy four-packs that you can take with you. You’re gonna need something to drink in the back of the 4x4.
(Photo: Getty Images)
8. For the Surprising Food Options: In true desert dirtbag fashion, the highest Yelp-rated restaurant in town is not actually a restaurant, it’s a quesadilla truck. Owners Carrie Finn and Steven Lucarelli source a lot of their supplies from local farms and make fancied up ‘dillas like the green chile, chicken, and artichoke New Mexican Identity Crisis.
9. For the Movie Settings: Parts of Moab might look mighty familiar, even if you’ve never been there. Due to Utah’s friendly filming laws, the area has been the setting of a bunch of classic movies. You can visit the site where Thelma and Louise launched their car into the river, as well as locations for City Slickers, Indiana Jones, and 127 Hours, based on a true story that took place in the area.
A scene from “Thelma and Louise.” (Courtesy: MGM)
10. For the Culture: Because it’s a little bit off the map, Moab attracts a community of artists, new-agey spiritual seekers, and some straight-up hermits. It’s an eclectic crowd, and that makes for an interesting cross-section of culture—from the Moab Art Walk the second weekend in June to an art gallery dedicated to rock paintings to yoga classes on the butte-top. Downward dogs don’t get much better than that.