Named after an isolated area mentioned in the Bible, Moab, Utah, was a uranium-mining town in the 1950s. In recent years, Moab has become one of the biggest adventure-travel centers in the U.S. It is located 240 mi southeast of Salt Lake City.
Visitors interested in mountain biking, hiking, rafting, rock climbing, and four-wheel-drive or motorcycle outings will find Moab an outstanding place to settle in for several days. Others will find it a pleasant town that serves as a good base for exploring nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
Start with a visit to the information center, at the corner of Center and Main in the heart of town. It has oodles of brochures and maps that outline, among other things, the area's mountain biking, hiking and four-wheel-drive trails, movie locations (many feature films have been shot near Moab) and sites with Native American rock art.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles, mountain bikes, canoes, kayaks and most other outdoor equipment are available for rent in town, and outfitters offer guided tours.
There are several four-wheel-drive routes around Moab, some of which share space with mountain-bike or motorcycle trails. Those looking for an extreme vehicle climbing experience should head to the Lion's Back, near the beginning of the Slick Rock Trail. Even if you're not participating, it's a great place to observe the drama of high-performance vehicles trying to overcome gravity on the nearly vertical slope.
Moab also offers a pretty good selection of restaurants, bakeries and espresso shops.
For a taste of local wine, visit Castle Creek Winery or Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery. Tours and tastings are available.
If you prefer hops to grapes, try beer brewed on-site at Moab Brewery
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
The world's largest concentration of natural stone arches (at least 2,000) can be found within Utah's Arches National Park, near Moab (190 mi southeast of Salt Lake City). The area's geology, combined with wind and water erosion, created these magnificent towering stone arches. A scenic drive runs through the park, and pleasant, easy hiking trails lead to the arches. We recommend walking some of the trails, as you get a much better view of the unusual formations and, in some cases, can climb into the lofty openings in the rock.
Be sure to see the enormous Landscape Arch (in Devil's Garden). The most famous formation in the park is Delicate Arch—its silhouette can be seen all over the state, on everything from billboards to license plates. Reaching Delicate Arch requires a one-hour, easy-to-moderate hike (be sure to take plenty of water). The park also contains a visitors center, interpretive trails and areas for picnicking, camping, hiking and climbing.
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Set in southeastern Utah in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, Canyonlands National Park, near Moab (230 mi southeast of Salt Lake City) encompasses the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers and the breathtaking canyons that were created when the rivers eroded the plateau. Those seeking the solitude and magnificence only the high desert can offer will not want to miss this.
You can drive through a portion of Canyonlands on state highways, but we recommend using a four-wheel-drive vehicle to traverse the extensive backcountry roads leading into the heart of the park. A hike along one of the many trails will pay big dividends if you invest the time: The natural arches, Native American ruins, petroglyphs and canyon scenery are spectacular.
There are five distinct sections of the park—the Island in the Sky District, the Needles District, the Maze District, the Rivers District and the Horseshoe Canyon Unit. Island in the Sky, the section farthest north, is probably the best for those who want to take a relatively quick look without venturing too far from their car. While in this area, you might want to stop by Dead Horse Point State Park (named for ill-fated wild horses that perished after being marooned on the park's narrow upland peninsula).
The Needles District offers the best day hikes. We especially liked the 11-mi trail from Elephant Hill to Druid Arch, which leaves you standing high above the needles. The Maze District is a remote, wild area—the only road access is via four-wheel-drive routes on the west side of the rivers. (Be advised it's a long drive from the other parts of the park.)
The River District contains parts of the Green and Colorado rivers, and one of the best (though not necessarily inexpensive) ways to see Canyonlands is on a river trip by raft, canoe, kayak or powerboat. You can choose from a range of adventures—from relatively mild stretches above the rivers' confluence to the wild white-water rapids of Cataract Canyon. Many outfitters and tour companies are located in Moab.
The Horseshoe Canyon Unit is 12 mi northwest of the Maze District. It's actually detached from the rest of the Park, but worth the trip if you're interested in seeing prehistoric pictographs.
The park includes a visitors center (offering guided tours), a museum and interpretive trails. There are areas for picnicking and camping and trails for hiking and horseback riding. On your way into Canyonlands be sure to see the ancient drawings and petroglyphs on a sheer cliff at Newspaper Rock Historical Monument (between Moab and Monticello).
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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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