Salt Lake City to Moab
When you think of Moab you may think of hiking the Delicate Arch Trail, gazing over Canyonlands National Park or four wheeling down a slickrock trail. This is Utah’s adventure epicenter — a place where world-renowned natural destinations are scattered around a town that’s brimming with local charm. Be sure to bring a vivid imagination and taste for exploration along with your hiking shoes, sunscreen and water bottle, because this is not your typical retreat. To that end, this is not your typical weekend road trip itinerary.
Imagine being on a movie set with John Wayne as you ride horseback through familiar movie backdrops, or follow the path of explorer John Wesley Powell as you float down the Colorado. Then switch gears with a heart racing 4x4 tour of Hell’s Revenge, or a mountain bike ride on the beloved slickrock trail. Afterwards, with tired legs and an unshakeable smile it’s time to head back into town for a bite to eat before gazing upwards into some of the darkest night skies anywhere in the world. Welcome to an idyllic weekend road trip to Moab.
Start: Salt Lake City
Expect 1-3 hours of driving per day, and 4 hours between Salt Lake City and Moab
- Green River Eats
- Arches National Park
- Moab Dining After Adventure
It takes about four hours to drive from Salt Lake City to Moab. Depending on when you’re able to hit the road you may have enough time for a full afternoon in Arches National Park. If not, you may spring for a quick hike on BLM land alongside State Route 128 or Kane Creek. Either way, you’ll want to make sure you plan enough time for a lunchtime break in Green River at Ray’s Tavern or Tamarisk, which boasts river-side views. As the day winds down, be sure to spend the evening popping into the galleries, gift shops and outfitters that line Main Street for a sense of Moab’s charm.
Spend the day experiencing Arches National Park, whether on the scenic drive or on the hiking trail. There’s no shortage of great hikes to fit your schedule and skill level. For a unique experience, reserve a tour through the Fiery Furnace. This twisting labyrinth of brilliant red rock fissures and spines is so intricate it is highly recommended to find your way through with a guide. With a permit from the visitor center, experienced explorers can enter without a guide.
There are a lot of great places to eat in Moab. Adventures out here can stir up a quite an appetite. For those days, here are a couple of excellent options to replenish the calories spent on the trail.
- Moab Golf Course
- Colorado River Float
- Hummer Tour
Well known for its biking and rugged dirt roads, Moab is less recognized for its golf, yet the Moab Golf Club layout is one of the most spectacular anywhere with the rich green grass accented by the backdrop of rugged red cliffs. Start your day off by playing nine holes, or spend some time floating down the Colorado on a kayak or a paddleboard (either of which can be rented in town.) Then, cap your day off with an adrenaline pumping tour of Hell’s Revenge with a local guide. Tours are available in the evening, at which time you may be able to watch the sky burst with color as the sun sets behind the red rock horizon.
Play 18 on The Moab Golf Course, a course with rich green grass complimented by a rugged red cliff backdrop.
For those looking to chart these untamed waters by raft, a trip down the Colorado offers incredible experiences like those had by explorers of yesteryear — with much better equipment, of course. The Moab Daily is Utah's most popular river trip — a 13-mile stretch of the Colorado River from Hittle Bottom to Takeout Beach.
There are many ways to see Moab. Some take to their feet, others use two wheels, and others soar through the friendly skies. Outside of the military, there may be no better use for the Hummer than crawling the slickrock trails that made Moab famous.
- Slickrock Trail
- Dark Sky Parks
Day three of your weekend retreat is all about seeing some of Moab’s more remote destinations. While heavily trafficked, the 10.5 mile Slickrock Trail leads riders deep into a solitary ocean of rolling slickrock terrain. This is a very strenuous ride, so you might elect to sample the 1.6 mile Slickrock Practice Trail instead, or consult with a local bike shop for a better suited trail. Up next is Canyonlands National Park, the largest national park in Utah. Fully exploring the Canyonlands region calls for a trip all its own, but Gooseberry is an excellent day hike to see the park’s dramatic geology. Finally, end your day with stargazing at RedRock Astronomy for a sense of Southern Utah’s dark skies.
The Sand Flats Recreation Area near Moab is a nationally significant public lands treasure at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. It’s also home to the famous Slickrock Bike Trail. There’s a practice loop for beginners and the highly technical 10.6-mile trail known worldwide.
Even though "Thelma & Louise" took place at the Grand Canyon, the filmmakers went to Dead Horse Point State Park to film the famous last scene when the women drive off the precipice. That said, many visitors find Dead Horse Point and adjacent Canyonlands National Park to be even more captivating than the views at the Grand Canyon — from the safety of the mesa rim.
Explore the certified dark sky parks in Utah, including national and state parks across the state.
- Red Cliffs Lodge and Castle Creek Winery
- Evening River Cruise
- La Sal Loop Drive
As your weekend trip winds down, you may be looking for a relaxing way to ease yourself back into reality. Start your day off at The Moab Movie Museum, then ride through those same movie backdrops on horseback at Red Cliffs Lodge. Or, if you’re looking to cool down, a jet boat tour on the Colorado River promises everything from wildlife views to a ground level vantage point of the Goose Neck. Then, once you’ve packed up your car and you’re headed back home, add the scenic La Sal Mountain Loop to your route for a few last unforgettable photo ops.
The rustic and comfortable lodge is 14 miles up the Colorado River on scenic Hwy 128 in a classic, rugged Western landscape worthy of Hollywood. It’s also an adventure base camp and is home to both the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage and the award-winning Castle Creek Winery.
An evening cruise down the Colorado River is one of the best ways to unwind — enjoy a glass of wine, catch a brilliant sunset, or gaze at the stars in one of Canyonlands by Night and Day’s spectacular outings. Photo courtesy Brendan Bombaci on Flickr.
The La Sal Mountain Loop Road is a 60-mile tour well beyond the bustle of Moab and Arches that takes more than two hours straight-through (longer when planning time for stops). Some of the best views are at overlooks pointed back over Castle Valley as the road winds and climbs to more than 10,000 feet.