With its red rock towers and unique arches, along with its location near two national parks and the Colorado River, the area in and around Moab offers countless things to do.
Located about two hours west of Grand Junction, Moab is home to unique scenery just waiting to be explored on foot, raft, mountain bike or skydiving from 10,000 feet.
Arches National Park, about five miles north of Moab, has the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches, according to discovermoab. com/archesnationalpark.htm. People can access the park for $10 per vehicle and that pass is good for seven days.
Once inside the park, visitors can hike or drive along the paved 36-mile Scenic Drive. Don’t miss Balanced Rock, Delicate Arch and Double Arch.
Canyonlands National Park, about 32 miles from Moab, also has a $10 vehicle entrance fee. While exploring Canyonlands, which happens to be the largest national park in Utah, visitors should head to the Island in the Sky district atop a 1,500-foot mesa.
Another area park not to miss is Dead Horse Point State Park, also about 32 miles from Moab. Remember the ending of 1991 film “Thelma & Louise,” where Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon’s characters drive their vehicle off the side of a Grand Canyon cliff? That was filmed in Dead Horse Point State Park.
“Thelma & Louise” is far from the only movie filmed in Moab.
For nearly 75 years, Hollywood has used Eastern Utah as a backdrop for Westerns and adventure films such as “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “127 Hours.”
“We have such a strong film history that (filmmakers) know the film permits are easy to turn around for the most part, and we’re over 90 percent public land…because of that our land has gone unchanged for years,” said Tara Penner, Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission director, when talking about the allure of Moab to the film industry. “The land will be just as pristine (for them) as it was years ago.”
But the glamour of Hollywood is far from the Moab area’s more humble origins. Inhabited by Anasazi and eventually Mormon pioneers, the region is synonymous with rugged wilderness. Visitors revel in Moab’s geologic history, recreational opportunities and natural beauty. But don’t shy away from the town’s great restaurants and shops.
Whatever you are looking for in a western vacation, there’s a good chance Moab will help you find it.
Take a movie tour: Hollywood’s intrigue with the unique scenery around Moab dates to 1949 when director John Ford filmed the John Wayne film, “Wagon Master.” Other films with ties to the area include “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “John Carter of Mars” and “127 Hours.” Create your own self-guided movie tour — Castle and Professor valleys north of Moab are a must. Go to discovermoab.com/movie.htm for a compete list of movies and filming sites. And the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission, filmmoab.com, has a museum at Red Cliffs Lodge at mile marker 14 off Utah Highway 128. Admission is free.
Get off road: Hundreds of miles of 4x4 trails of all difficulty levels exist around Moab. Experienced drivers may enjoy Pritchett Canyon and Golden Spike. Beginners may want to steer toward Secret Spire and Chicken Corners. Still others may want to let someone else to do the driving. (discovermoab.com/tour.htm)
Go glamping: No, not camping, glamour camping. Let Moab Under Canvas help you “enjoy Utah’s spectacular desert without giving up the comforts of home.” (moabundercanvas.com)
Hike to glory: Walk the two miles one way in Negro Bill Canyon to see the Morning Glory Natural Bridge. It’s 243 feet long and the sixth-longest natural rock span in the United States, according to discovermoab.com/hiking. htm, where directions to this and other area hikes can be found.
Tip! Ask a local for hike recommendations. They know the best hikes off the beaten path.
Drink in art: The Moab Arts Festival is May 23–24 in Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West, Moab. There is jewelry, pottery, fine art, sculpture and photography as well as live entertainment and food. Admission is free. (moabartsfestival.org)
Beat the heat: Moab is really, really hot in the summer. Retreat into the Colorado River. Consider whitewater rafting trips, paddle boarding or tube rentals from Baja’s Tubes.
(discovermoab.com/tour.htm) Dino sites: Look for dinosaur fossils in these two places.
. See fossils of sauropods, an Allosaurus and more on a self-guided walking tour of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail about 15 miles north of Moab. Warning: the trail is impassible when wet.
. The Copper Ridge Sauropod Tracksite in the Morrison Formation of the western United States wasn’t discovered until 1989. Access is about 23 miles north of Moab.
For information on both spots, go to discovermoab.com.
Scenic drives: Spend a relaxing day on one of the area’s Utah Scenic Byways.
. Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, Utah Highway 128.
. Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway, Utah Highway 279.
. Dead Horse Point Mesa Scenic Byway, Utah Highway 313.
Tip! While on the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, stop near mile marker 21 for a special photo of the Fisher Towers in the foreground with the snow-peaked La Sal Mountains in the distance.