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Top Adventure Sports in Red Rocking Moab, Utah

Daniel DawsonDecember 11, 2019

Situated in the midst of the Colorado Plateau, Moab sits at the very eastern end of the great state of Utah.

The small town, with a full-time population of roughly 5,000, is less than 50 kilometers west of the border with Colorado and sits on the southern bank of the mighty Colorado River.

Moab has long been a tourist attraction due to its close proximity to some of Utah’s most incredible natural beauty, including two national parks, one state park and a national forest. The town is also the perfect starting point for all sorts of incredible outdoor sports adventures, including canyoning, rock climbing, and mountain biking.


Keep reading: Best Rock Climbing Spots in the U.S.

Part of what attracts so many tourists and outdoor adventurers to the town are the iconic red rocks that surround Moab. The Colorado Plateau is mostly composed of sedimentary rocks that are rich in iron and hematite. When these minerals are exposed to the air, they oxidize, which turns the rocks red.

While Moab is growing in popularity for its reputation as a haven for extreme outdoor sports enthusiasts, the town is perfect for family holidays too. Hiking is a great way to get out and see the two stunning national parks. Introductory courses to extreme sports are also widely available.

However, Moab’s bread and butter is getting out into the canyons and participating in one or more of its incredible outdoor sports. In order to help you decide how to spend your next adventure holiday in Moab, we’ve written about some of the top spots and sports that it has to offer.

Top spots in Moab

With views of red rocks in one direction and snowcapped mountain peaks in the other, it’s hard to decide where to look in Moab. Photo courtesy of Enrico Bonino.

1| Arches National Park

 

Situated just 6.5 kilometers north of Moab, Arches National Park is one of Moab’s top tourist destinations. Rock climbing, canyoning and mountain biking (although the first two require permits) in the park are all very popular.

The park boasts more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, the highest density of natural arches anywhere in the world, along with numerous other geological formations.

While climbing on any arch in the park is prohibited by law, there are plenty of other massive formations to climb that yield incredible views of the park.

The park also boasts 46 different hiking trails, which lead past some of the most iconic arches in the park, including Delicate Arch. These trails also take hikers to various scenic vistas and points of interest within the park.

2| Canyonlands National Park

 

Described as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth” by American author and environmental activist Edward Abbey, Canyonlands National Park easily earns the monicker.

The park encompasses four distinct areas: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Each of the areas is completely unique from the others, but no less stunningly scenic.

The unique geological attributes of these areas, as well as of those of Arches National Park and Moab, in general, were formed during the Tertiary Period.

Due to extremely high pressure, salt began to flow up from the Earth’s crust, pushing the sedimentary rock upwards and creating a massive rock dome. Overtime, fissures formed in the dome and pieces of rock fell away, leading to the spires and arches of the park.

Finally, a rift in the rock formed where Moab is today and sunk the land around the town to form a valley in between the uplifted fragments of sandstone.

Spanning over 1,300 square kilometers and complete with all of its diverse landscapes, it is not hard to understand why mountain biking, hiking and canyoning are also extremely popular sports in Canyonlands.

3| Dead Horse Point State Park

 

Tucked in between Canyonlands National Park and Moab, Dead Horse Point State Park offers some of the best views available in the area.

Hiking part or all of the 13-kilometer loop trail is among the most popular activities. The loop brings you up to a dramatic overlook with views into Canyonlands as well as out over the mighty Colorado River.

Mountain biking is also extremely popular. The park is home to the Intrepid Trail System, which boasts 27 kilometers of single-track trails and loops of varying difficulty. Perfect for those looking for a scenic ride as well as riders who want to get their adrenaline pumping.

Top adventure sports in Moab

Rock Climbing

 

Moab abounds with plentiful rock climbing opportunities for participants of every level. From introductory days in Indian Creek to adrenaline-pumping ascents of one of the area’s iconic spires, there is no shortage of incredible climbing routes.

Indian Creek offers a variety of climbing options from easy walls to much more complex multi-pitch ascents. Photo courtesy of Enrico Bonino.

For first-time and novice climbers, there is no better place to be than Moab. With more than 4,000 different routes all around the town, there are plenty of great climbing options to choose from.


For those who want to explore the rest of this stunning state, check out some of Utah’s other rock climbing hot spots!

Plenty of guides offer day-long introductory courses that cover the basics of climbing and seamlessly integrate instruction with experience. You’ll be at the top of a wall, crag or spire in no time at all!

This 1-day rock climbing program in Moab was recently selected as one of the “20 most adventurous tours in the world” and is a great option for those looking for fun in this red rock location.

If you have slightly more experience than a novice climber and are looking to put your skills to the test, then Moab has something for you as well.

Crack climbing in nearby Indian Creek is a popular draw. As is heading to the Moab Towers, at the northern end of Arches National Park, to try out your skills on the high-quality slabs of sandstone.

For advanced rock climbers looking for a real challenge, Moab remains the place to be. Following the Ancient Art route up the Fisher Towers, just outside of Arches National Park, is one of the top draws in the area. The one-day crag climbing experience yields great views, especially at sunset.

If you have a bit more time on your hands, then nothing beats the 10-day rock climbing tour of Indian Creek. Each day, you’ll head to a different part of Indian Creek or Moab Canyon and climb up high-quality sandstone.

The tour is one of the top places to improve movement and climbing techniques in an exposed environment, all while taking in some of the most dynamic scenery on earth.

Canyoning

 

Even in the more mild seasons of autumn and spring, temperatures can reach 30 ºC (86 ºF) in Moab. While this might make the rocks too hot to climb, it means canyoning will be that much more enjoyable.

Turn your world on its head and try out canyoning! Jump, hike, climb and swim your way through an unforgettable adventure. Photo courtesy of Jerome Smart.

The area’s unique geological history – complete with lots of upheavals and downheavals of the earth – have created a maze of canyons. While some are dry on the bottom, others surround the mighty Colorado and Green Rivers.

Heading out on a canyoning adventure such as this full-day canyoning program in Moab is one of the best ways to get out and explore these fascinating and beautiful formations.

Expect to hike, climb, rappel and swim your way through a series of slot canyons when you head to Moab. From scenic overlooks boasting great views to refreshing pools of running water at the bottom, there are few better ways to get outdoors and experience Moab!

Mountain Biking

 

Finally, for those who want to speed through the cliffs and canyons around Moab, enjoying some of the best views that Utah has to offer, then mountain biking is the thing to do.

Next spring, get on a mountain bike and discover one (or more) of the world-class trails around Moab. Photo courtesy of Colorado Backcountry.

The area around Moab is home to a vast network of trails, some of which lead right through the hearts of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Among the most popular routes is the world-famous 16-kilometer loop of the Slickrock Trail, which is a highly technical ride with some epic downhill runs.

Along the way, riders will enjoy some of the best scenery Utah has to offer, including vistas of rivers, petrified sand dunes, towering mountains and, of course, the iconic natural arches.

Another popular attraction for mountain biking enthusiasts is the Maze. Exploring the series of canyons on a mountain bike will make you feel like a bandit from the Wild West. Spend a day or an entire week traversing the Maze and exploring this stunning part of the world!

For those who want to try out mountain biking for the first time, there are plenty of more basic rides too! Check out this unique half-day mountain bike program for all levels in Moab, Utah!

Weather & Best time to go

 

While many guides offer all kinds of great outdoor adventure trips to Moab year-round, the best time to visit the town is from March to May and September to November.

During the spring and autumn months, average daily temperatures range from 18 ºC (64 ºF) to 28 ºC (82 ºF) and rain is practically non-existent. This combination of warm and dry days is perfect for doing all of the aforementioned activities.

The summer months are generally too hot to spend much time out on the rocks, while winter is the wettest time of year and also gets quite cold, with average daily temperatures well below freezing.

How to get there

 

Unlike many other popular rock climbing destinations in the United States, Moab is a bit farther off the beaten path.

A new airport recently opened right near Moab, but making the drive from a slightly farther starting point is also well worthwhile. Photo courtesy of Enrico Bonino.

Perhaps the simplest way to arrive in the canyon town is to fly into Canyonlands Field Airport (CNY), which offers a direct connection to Denver International Airport (DEN). The latter can be easily reached from most major international airports and most domestic U.S. airports.

Moab can also be reached fairly simply from both Grand Junction, Colorado (about 2 hours away) and Salt Lake City (about 4 hours away). Both of these larger cities have well-connected airports.

From Grand Junction’s airport, you will need to rent a car and make the roughly two-hour drive west on I-70 and then south on US-191 to Moab.

From Salt Lake City, it takes about four hours to reach Moab by car, heading south on I-15, east on US-6 and south on US-191.

Both drives are incredibly scenic and well worth doing, if you have the chance.

Camping in Moab

 

One of the most popular ways to experience Moab is to get out into nature and camp. Many campsites are in simply stunning spots, with excellent views of the surroundings. While it is illegal to camp outside of designated areas, there are plenty of those to go around.

Moab boasts nine different private campsites. Many of these will come with showers, running water, RV hook-ups, and flush toilets. Making a reservation ahead of time is strongly recommended, especially during the spring and autumn months.

Away from private sites, there are two types of public ones: those run by the Bureau of Land Management and those run by the State and National Parks System.

These campgrounds are generally cheaper and located in far more scenic areas of Moab than the privately-owned ones, but have fewer amenities. They also run on a first-come first-serve basis and do not take reservations.

The Bureau of Land Management runs 26 different campgrounds in the Moab area, while the State and National Parks run six (one in each of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park along with three in the National Forest).

So what are you waiting for? Stop daydreaming about your next adventure holiday to Moab . and book a trip now! Photo courtesy of Enrico Bonino.

Regardless of which extreme sport you are passionate about, Moab has something waiting for you! Book your next rock climbing, canyoning or mountain biking trip to the tourist hub now and get ready for a scenic and thrilling adventure of a lifetime!

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