When people say Moab is the “gateway to Arches National Park,” they aren’t exaggerating. The small town in Eastern Utah is basically steps away from the park\’s entrance. However, Moab offers visitors much more than one relatively small yet popular national park. I visited Moab for five days in early November. There is plenty to do in and around Moab. Planning is sometimes the most challenging part of any vacation, so here is a fantastic itinerary for your visit to Moab!
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Table of Contents
- 1 When Should You Visit Moab?
- 2 Getting Around Moab
- 3 Where to Stay in Moab
- 4 Days 1-3: Arches National Park
- 5 Easy Sites to See in Arches National Park
- 6 Park Avenue Viewpoint
- 7 Balanced Rock
- 8 Double Arch and The Windows
- 9 Delicate Arch
- 10 Landscape Arch
- 11 Day 4: Canyonlands National Park
- 12 Where to Eat in Moab
- 13 Moab Brewery
- 14 Quesadilla Mobilla
- 15 Moab Coffee Roasters
- 16 The Spoke on Center
- 17 Antica Forma
- 18 Desert Bistro
- 19 Trailhead Public House
- 20 Other Things To Do in Moab
- 21 Overall Thoughts on Moab
When Should You Visit Moab?
Tourism in Moab is very seasonal. This is due mainly to the climate. Moab is located in the western foothills of the Rocky Mountains, at an elevation of around 4,025 feet (1,226 meters). It looks desert-like but still gets a good amount of rain and snow. In the winter, the average temperature is around 32°F. This rises to over 80°F in the summer, with an average high of over 100!
People tend to visit much more in the summer, followed by spring, fall, and winter. Because there is such little tourism in the winter, businesses tend to close for the season – typically starting just after Halloween. When I was there during the first week in November, I did notice some restaurants close up and/or running out of food. More on that later.
The months that I recommend are late May-June and late October. You should be able to avoid the summer heat and crowds from March through April and September.
Getting Around Moab
You will definitely want to have a car or truck to get around. Visiting the surrounding national parks is only feasible if you have one. Moab does have a “downtown,” which is very walkable. Parking, however, may be an issue when it is crowded. Even in November, there were a couple of times that I had to circle the block to find a parking space.
Where to Stay in Moab
There are a ton of hotels in Moab. I stayed at Hyatt Place Moab, which was quite good. All of the major hotel chains have at least one property there. So you can’t really go wrong with any of them. It just depends on what kind of points you have.
Days 1-3: Arches National Park
Southern Utah has five national parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion. Arches National Park is closest to Moab at ~2 miles away, followed by Canyonlands at ~30 miles. Entering the park during Moab\’s busy months can take a long time. Some days it even closes so it doesn’t get overcrowded. Plan accordingly. Try to get to the park early to beat the rush. Also, purchase one of the annual passes available at the park entrance. It will pay for itself if you go to more than two parks within a year. They are nearly a no-brainer if you go to more than one park!
Easy Sites to See in Arches National Park
There are a ton of hikes and things to see in Arches. Most of the less strenuous hikes are 1-1.5 hours at maximum. Unfortunately, it is necessary to drive between the trailheads. I saw people biking, but the park roads are pretty hilly.
Park Avenue Viewpoint
This is the first significant stop once you enter the park. You will be amazed at the tall rock structures mere steps away from the parking lot, even if you don’t do the easy out-and-back hike. The location is convenient on the way in or out of the park. Therefore, it can get crowded, but it is easy to go when there are fewer people.
Even though Balanced Rock is visible from the road, I highly recommend doing the quarter-mile hike. It is very flat, so it only takes 15-30 minutes. During the walk, you will better appreciate the scale and fragility of a large rock precariously balancing on top of a hoodoo.
Double Arch and The Windows
These are two different hikes, but they share a parking lot, so doing one after the other makes sense. Double Arch is the tallest arch in the park. It is nearly 125 feet tall and is easily visible from the parking lot. The half-mile walk is well worth it as the rear arch is more easily visible.
The Windows are a pair of arches that aren’t nearly as massive as Double Arch. However, looking through them will give you a stunning view of the valley and distant mountains. The trail is roughly a mile and relatively flat unless you go around the back of The Windows.
Delicate Arch is the arch that is most famously pictured. However, to get the same picturesque view of the arch, you must do the strenuous three-mile hike with an elevation gain of over 530 feet. Nevertheless, it is possible to get a decent sight of it by going to one of two viewpoints.
One of the viewpoints is a moderately strenuous half-mile hike that takes 30-45 minutes. Frankly, I was underwhelmed when I got to this viewpoint. The other viewpoint is one hundred feet from the parking lot. It offers just as good of a view of the arch. So, really, save your time and energy on this one. It wasn’t just me that thought this too!
The trail to Landscape Arch is one of the more strenuous hikes that is still considered easy. The hike is nearly 2 miles round trip. The National Park Service says there is a 40 feet elevation change. While this may be true, it doesn’t include some of the ups and downs you\’ll encounter on the way. Parts of it are on somewhat loose sand too. Don’t let this deter you! I saw many people of varying physical abilities hiking this trail.
Landscape Arch is one of the most expansive arches in the park. I got there just as the sun went down behind the arch, which was quite spectacular.
Devils Garden Trail and Tower Arch Trail are two of the more strenuous hikes that other visitors recommended.
Day 4: Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is further away from Moab and gets fewer visitors. The park\’s geological features look like they are from another world. You only need about a day there, and nearly all accessible hikes are easy.
Read more about visiting Canyonlands here.
Where to Eat in Moab
Moab is a small town, and it is pretty touristy. My expectations for restaurants were reasonably low. The restaurants in Moab surprised me. Some of them were very good! There were even a couple of places that I would love to return to. I didn’t get to eat at all the restaurants, so I\’m sure some other restaurants are just as good.
Let \’s honest… Utah isn’t exactly known for its bars/drinking life. However, it is getting better. The Moab Brewery has better beer than food, but both were quite good.
Don’t let this unassuming food truck cause you not to go. This
taco quesadilla truck is often near the top of the list of places to eat in Moab. It was definitely one of the best meals that I had! The menu has nearly a dozen quesadillas with a variety of high-quality ingredients. I can’t recommend one in particular, as they all sounded good.
Moab Coffee Roasters
The coffee shop across the street from Quesadilla Mobilla serves a delicious cup of coffee & espresso drinks. They also have hearty breakfast burritos and pastries. Everyone working there was friendly and intimately familiar with their coffee products. They definitely scored bonus points for roasting their own coffee beans!
The Spoke on Center
The Spoke on Center serves custom, build-your-own hamburgers. The burger I got was well cooked, but it was nice to see I could have ordered it with various patties. They had chicken, veggie patty, salmon, and portobello mushrooms. Their beer list was extensive, but the highlight of my meal was the ice cream.
I think all of the ice creams are made in-house. They have nearly a dozen flavors. They have a dedicated window to order your ice cream. No need to go inside and/or wait for a table.
Despite the casual decor, Antica Forma is the place in Moab to get pizza and handmade pasta. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven in an open kitchen. All the food we ordered tasted like it was made by people who genuinely care about making good food.
The menu at the Desert Bistro was by far the most interesting of any other restaurant in Moab. The restaurant is slightly more upscale, and the prices reflect that. They serve a variety of fish and game. It all sounded amazing, but I could only eat so much. Ultimately, I ordered the pork loin and was blown away. The food is absolutely worth the cost!
Of course, there are many other restaurants, but I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything. I ate at all the establishments I mentioned and would return to most, if not all, of them.
Trailhead Public House
After trying to go to Jailhouse Cafe for breakfast, we walked across the street to the Trailhead Public House. At first, it was frustrating as it seemed like they didn’t have half the ingredients on the menu. I thought it was because it was at the end of the season, and the restaurant was due to close (like Jailhouse Cafe). However, our server had just started working there a few weeks prior. I ordered the breakfast poutine. It was delicious but, as you can see, had little in common with traditional poutine.
Other Things To Do in Moab
Most people visit Moab for the national parks, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities. In downtown Moab, there are several art galleries and some cute shops. However, most of the shops sell touristy t-shirts and knickknacks. I felt little need to spend more than a minute or two in one of them. On the other hand, there is plenty to do in the surrounding areas.
Overall Thoughts on Moab
I am thrilled that I went to Moab and the nearby national parks. It is a spectacular place to visit, and I highly recommend going. However, as much as I enjoyed myself and the food I ate, I\’m not sure I\’d find myself returning. There are so many other national parks and places that I haven’t been to. The geographical features around Moab are stunning, but there are only so many of the same kinds of rocks you want to see.
No matter when you go, I\’m sure you will be awed by everything you see. So go there, and check it off your list!