10 Must-See Outdoor Activities Near Moab, Utah

The mighty Colorado River weaves its way through Moab, providing an oasis of enjoyment in this beautiful desert landscape. Whether you want to explore on your own or take a guided tour, the outdoors is your Moab vacation playground.

The Colorado River is an adult water park with calm stretches punctuated by crazy rapids. The surrounding desert is filled with intriguing red rock formations that beckon you to explore. There are outdoor activities for all levels of experience. Most activities range from beginner to extreme. You can walk for 10 minutes or 10 days. Rafting down the Colorado can be an afternoon float or a 5-day Class 5 wilderness adventure. Four-wheelers are everywhere in Moab, and you can join a tour and leave the driving to the experts or take the wheel in your own hands.

Moab’s laid-back, adventure-loving, nature-loving vibe is the perfect place to test your limits and expand your experiences. Moab attracts outdoor adventurers of all skill levels from around the world. Its abundant natural resources provide a wonderful getaway you won’t soon forget.

1. International Dark Sky Experience

Arches National Park is an International Dark Sky Certified Park, an award given to parks with exceptional starry night vision. These parks offer protected areas with public viewing of the night sky, providing an illuminating experience.

As you drive north through the park at night, the sky darkens and the stars twinkle in a beautiful light show. Some of the best spots are the Balanced Rock picnic area and the Garden of Eden viewpoint.

Join a stargazing event with a program led by national park rangers. Rangers alternate visits between Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and the Hovenweep and Natural Bridges National Monuments for night tours during the summer months. Gazing at the stars without the ambient city lights is a unique and magical experience.

Emily Barrett

2. Float in Colorado

Whitewater rafting or simply floating down the Colorado River, there are plenty of water-centric excursions to take you downstream.

Adrift Adventures offers class 2 to 4 rapid descents depending on river flow for a half or full day of submerged river fun. Their experienced guides will entertain you as you float and skillfully navigate the challenging rapids. Ask Rose to guide your visit, she delivers her lessons in history and ecology with a good dose of humour.

To experience life on the water with a healthy dose of wild camping, NAVTEC Expeditions offers multi-day Cataract Canyon tours, where you can conquer Class IV and V rapids. The 5-day trip begins in Moab and ends at Hite Marina, over 100 miles downstream.

3. Hit the road

The La Sal Mountains form a majestic backdrop to the Moab area. A trip on the La Sal Mountain Loop takes you on a scenic and winding 3 hour drive. Fuel up your car (no RVs allowed), pack a snack or two, and tackle the switchbacks with jaw-dropping views around every corner. The variety of scenery along this loop includes vast desert, towering mesas, delicate buttes, and the iconic Colorado River.

4. Order a UTV

Hell’s Revenge sounds like a place you might want to avoid, but not when visiting Moab. High Point Hummer and ATV offers guided adventure tours where you can drive your own utility vehicle (UTV) through hell and back. Your guide ascends and descends slippery rock, gliding through sandy passes and other challenging terrain. It’s an invigorating driving experience you won’t soon forget.

UTVs are beefy sci-fi type off-road vehicles that can take you places you never imagined you could go. Driving one is like stepping back into a wild childhood carnival experience, except you’re behind the wheel and the desert is your highway.

A sunset tour via Big Iron Tours in Moab, Utah.

Sandi Barrette

5. Visit at sunset on the rocks

Ready for a bit shake, shake and roll? Big Iron Tours’ ATV tours will take you all stirred! Climb aboard their M35 military transport beast for the 2.5-hour Sunset Tour through the Red Rocks of Moab.

Just when you think you’re ready for a fun adventure, you realize you’re actually on the craziest ride of your life. Climbing, skirting and descending the gigantic rock formations at angles defying gravity, you are amazed at the power of the vehicle capable of tackling the ridiculously rugged terrain.

Sit back and enjoy the ride. Just as the sun sets, you find yourself in the most perfect spot for a perfect desert sunset.

6. Hike for miles

Nature trails, backcountry hikes, and multi-day excursions are high on every Moab outdoor enthusiast’s list.

One of the best places to hike is Arches National Park. Delicate Arch, one of the most visited sites, can be seen from one of two trails ranging from an easy 10-minute walk to a more thrilling 30-minute climb. Another popular hike through the park is Balanced Rock, an easy 20-minute loop trail.

Experience a personal and intimate journey through the Moab desert with Backroads. They offer a 5-day hiking exploration, walking and walking tour of Utah Arches and Canyonlands. Spend your days exploring the various hiking trails in the national parks. Learn about aboriginal history, discover dinosaur tracks, and wrap yourself in the natural wonder of the landscape. You can relax and leave all the details to your guides. Backroads tours include experienced guides, hikes for a variety of fitness levels, all your meals, and a variety of hotel accommodations so you can hike all day and enjoy the evening.

Canyon views in Moab, Utah.

Sandi Barrette

7. Canyoning for beginners

Goblin Valley State Park is home to a huge chamber called Goblin’s Lair. The North American Wilderness School offers a wide range of tours. Their half-day Goblin’s Lair Canyoneering Adventure Tour is suitable for beginners. If abseiling is on your bucket list, this is the perfect place to try it. Dropping 90 feet into Goblin’s Lair is a breathtaking experience. Your canyoning guide is adept at training beginners in the art of abseiling, so you’re in good hands. You will forget your fears when surrounded by the indescribable beauty and vastness of the cave.

A backcountry permit, technical equipment, and canyoning skills are required if you wish to attempt this self-guided adventure.

8. Take the desert on two wheels

If you’ve never experienced mountain biking, now is the time. From beginner’s experiences to thrilling rides, you can find a tour to suit your abilities.

Rim Tours Mountain Bike Adventures offers an introduction to mountain biking, Courthouse Loop Tour. This mostly flat track gives you panoramic views of Arches National Park as you pedal along a wide, busy path. On this half-day tour, you’ll learn the basics of mountain biking while enjoying the immersive experience of the Utah desert.

For a challenging and intermediate mountain bike tour, check out Rim Tours North Klondike Singletrack Tour. This tour comes in different flavors: group or private full-day and half-day tours. The Klondike Bluffs North Trail region’s approximately 80 km of biking trails offer challenging rides and the welcome reward of spectacular views.

9. Scattered Camping

Go out and enjoy the great outdoors. Scattered camping, or dry camping, encompasses self-sufficient camping in the wild outside of a planned campground. The experience is unique insofar as you are completely autonomous. There are no facilities or hook ups, you have to pack everything and everything except liquid waste. However, the true nature bonding experience is unlike any other camping adventure.

To learn more about scattered camping, read Scattered Camping: What It Is and Why You Should Try It.

10. Luxury Ranch Style

If you desire more upscale digs after spending the day exploring Moab’s outdoor gems, retreat to your luxurious accommodations at Sorrel River Ranch.

The ranch is the perfect getaway retreat wrapped in luxurious amenities surrounded by the beauty of Utah’s natural wonders. Start your day with a horseback adventure through the vast open foothills and scenic desert ridges. With rides suitable for beginners and challenging ones for experienced riders, the wranglers will have you sitting in the saddle like all the cowboys and gals from the old western movies.

From your private cabin on the banks of the Colorado River, watch the desert settle in for the evening while sipping on your favorite cocktail. Then head to the ranch’s River Grill for a superb dinner featuring local produce.

Pro tip

Many of these outdoor adventures have options for beginners through to extreme outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re just trying a particular experience for the first time, you’ll find accommodating guides who are happy to share their love of the land, tailored to your physical abilities. There’s plenty to see and do in Moab’s beautiful backcountry, so you can find an adventure or two that suits your speed.

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