Like a Local: Things To Do in Moab, Utah

From national parks to scenic drives, Moab, Utah has no shortage of fun activities for all fitness levels! See the top things to do in Moab!


Closest Airports to Moab

Located just North of Moab, Canyonlands Field Airport is serviced by Boutique Air and has a number of daily flights to the area. Other nearby airports include Salt Lake City Airport (4 hour drive), Denver Airport (5.5 hour drive) and Albuquerque Airport (6 hour drive).

 

Meet Jeff VanCleve: He’s an outdoor enthusiast who moved to the Moab area of Utah in 2009. A native of Portland, Oregon, Jeff frequented Moab for the annual Easter Jeep Safari event. “I always told myself if I ever had the chance to move here, I would,” he says. When he lost his job seven years ago, Jeff decided it was time to make the move. “I came with 300 bucks and my Jeep and found a job immediately,” he says.

Lucky for Jeff and Utah visitors, his job entails sharing his love of the area and exploring Moab with travelers. He works at Arches National Park’s visitor center, the Moab Information Center and the Moab Tourism Center, in addition to leading his own area tours. “I really enjoy showing people this beautiful place where I live,” he says. “I’m just very, very lucky to live and work here.”

We asked Jeff to recommend the top spots for travelers to the Moab area and to share a few local secrets.

Hit the Parks

Jeff suggests first-timers visit three parks: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. These three parks preview the area’s scenery, which Jeff describes as “out of this world.” For example, Dead Horse Point sits 2,000 feet above a gooseneck curve in the Colorado River and Arches boasts more than 2,000 natural stone arches.

But Jeff says there’s more to Arches National Park than just admiring the arches. Travelers can also experience the landscape through canyoneering, hiking or taking an auto tour. “It’s all about the beautiful rock formations you can drive through,” he says. “It’s a different, otherworldly landscape.” Travel tip: Jeff advises visiting Arches before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to avoid large crowds.

Hit the Parks


Take a Scenic Drive

Jeff describes Moab as a place with “just about anything to offer an adventurer.” However, just because you may not care to skydive or rappel down a cliff doesn’t mean you can’t fully explore the area. In fact, Jeff says, “a lot of Utah can be explored by car.”

Hit the Scenic Highways 24 and 12

Jeff recommends driving Highways 24 and 12 to experience a serious taste of Utah’s diverse landscapes. This route is considered one of the most scenic drives in North America, along which travelers can see all five of Utah’s National Parks in two days. After visiting Canyonlands and Arches National Park, head northbound on U.S. Route 191 to Interstate Highway 70 West, then Highway 24 West through Capitol Reef National Park and then through Torrey, “a quaint, little town with lots of great restaurants,” says Jeff.

Next continue onto Highway 12 West and you'll go over Boulder Mountain, where the highway tops out around 9,200 feet. On a clear day, Jeff says you can look east and see Capitol Reef, the East Desert, Henry Mountains and even as far as the La Sal Mountains, which are 32.5 miles southeast of Moab and 220 miles west of Boulder Mountain by car. Then, the route will bring you through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and over Hell’s Backbone before going into Bryce Canyon National Park. Travelers can then continue on toward Zion National Park via Highway 89 South and Highway 9 West.

Drive Along River Road


Drive Along River Road

Jeff lives in Castle Valley, about 25 miles northeast of Moab along what the locals call River Road, aka Highway 128. The 30- to 45-minute drive follows the Colorado River through the Colorado River Canyon. Jeff says he believes it’s one of the prettiest drives in Utah.

Take a Drive Through History

Interested in art and history? Jeff suggests a rock art auto tour, where visitors can drive to see ancient Indian Rock Art, learn about when it was painted and by whom. Print out a map and guide with driving, parking and walking instructions to see rock art sites such as “The Birthing Scene,” featuring images from the Formative to the historic Ute periods. Found on a large rock, “The Birthing Scene” shows an apparent breech birth and various animals.

Even More in Moab

Jeff says there’s something in Moab for everyone. Known as the mountain bike capital of the world, the city is also home to the Moab Music Festival as well as art galleries and museums. For example, the Museum of Moab features exhibits on geology, paleontology, archaeology, pioneer history and mining. Families can zip line, ride on 4x4s, jet boats or even go back in time on a paleo safari at Moab Giants Dinosaur Park, featuring a dinosaur trail and a Tracks Museum, where kids and adults alike can interact with history by making their own tracks next to real life fossilized dinosaur tracks.

After a full day of adventure, you’ll likely work up an appetite. Jeff recommends Moab Burger and the Atomic Lounge’s “Buff Mac Daddy,” which is buffalo meatloaf with black onion gravy served over macaroni and cheese, or Eddie McStiff's on Center and Main for diverse menu options including a southwestern burger, tacos and steaks.

Mountain Biking

About the Author

Jeff Van Cleve

Local to the Moab area, Jeff Van Cleve is an outdoor enthusiast who offers three insider tours of Utah to travelers. In addition to providing tours through Vayable, Jeff works at Arches National Park Visitor Center, Moab Information Center and the Moab Tourism Center. Learn more about Jeff on his Vayable Guide Page.