Moab has been on my wish list for years, especially since we’ve had to cancel not one but two previously planned trips, which meant that the third time would be the charm, right? Given that we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic it seems as if now was the perfect time for an outdoor adventure where we could be mindful of social distancing and other safety precautions. With that we found a private condo on the edge of downtown Moab that was both spacious and easy to sanitize (my new pandemic-inspired criteria when looking for accommodations). It also appeared to be low season in February as we found both the city and popular attractions to be particularly empty, and we couldn’t have asked for more mild weather while we were there.
Moab’s larger-than-life landscape left me awestruck. A spectrum of shades ranging from reds to browns seemed to surround us wherever we went, providing a distinctive and dramatic backdrop during our 4-day visit. Here are 4 different places that we hiked, each offering a variety of scenery and difficulty, as well as a good introduction to the area. There truly is so much to see that we’re already planning our next adventure.
We would be remiss if we did not make Corona Arch our first destination given that the virus-that-shall-not-be-named has all but dominated our lives for the past year. It’s one of the largest arches in the area with an opening that spans an impressive 140 feet across by 105 feet high. Located off highway 279 about 20 minutes from Moab, the Corona Arch Trail is moderate in difficulty and clearly marked as you cross railroad tracks, sandstone slabs and even a cable assist and ladder. The rust brown landscape is beyond striking as you make your way to Corona and the nearby Bowtie Arch. Pass the spot dotted with dozens of carefully stacked rock cairns and both arches come into view, although they can be easy to miss against the similarly colored background of the canyon. There were few people on the trail and we even had the massive sandstone arch to ourselves before other hikers became visible. The entire hike took us about 2 hours total including the optional detour to the secluded Pinto Arch, which is a bit more strenuous and adds another 1.2 miles round trip.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Corona Arch Trail
Distance: 3 miles round trip
Location: 38.574873, -109.632375
How to get there: From Moab head north on US 191, make a left on UT 279-S and continue alongside the Colorado River until you reach the trail head parking lot on the right.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is one of the most popular destinations in Moab and for good reason. It’s a quick 10 minute drive from downtown and home to more than 2,000 beautiful sandstone arches – the largest concentration in the world. What’s particularly great about this park is that it has a wide variety of trails, ranging from easy half-mile walks to longer and more adventurous hikes like the Devil’s Garden Trail. We headed here first to see Landscape Arch, after which the trail becomes more challenging (and fun) as you make your way to Double O Arch. From here you can continue along the Primitive Trail for the full 7.8 miles or turn back like we did and explore some of the other side trails to visit a handful of other distinctive arches. For many people the top draw is the Delicate Arch Trail, which gives you an up close and personal look at one of the most iconic and ubiquitous images in Utah. You can read more about these trails and other highlights in my full post about visiting Arches National Park here.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Devils Garden Trail and Delicate Arch Trail
Distance: Devils Garden is a 7.8 mile loop (via the Primitive Loop) or 4.2 miles round trip to Double O Arch and back (with additional side trip options to other arches) and Delicate Arch is 3 miles round trip
Location: 38.782926, -109.594616 and 38.735957, -109.521295
How to get there: From Moab head north on US 191 and make a right onto the Arches National Park entrance road.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is the largest national park in Utah and a worthwhile 40 minute drive from Moab. The park is divided into 4 districts – Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze and Horseshoe Canyon. The most accessible area for day hikers is Island in the Sky, which sits high atop a 1,500-foot mesa and offers visitors incredible views as far as the eye can see. While there are many hiking trails and overlooks throughout the park one of the most popular spots is the easy Mesa Arch Trail to the picture-perfect arch that acts as a window to the vast canyon below (best early morning when the sunlight hits the arch just right). At the end of the park’s main road is the Grand View Point Trail, a moderate trail across sandstone rocks with views that seem to go on forever in almost every direction. We also hiked the White Rim Overlook Trail and Upheaval Dome Trail, which you can read about in my full post about visiting Canyonlands National Park here. If you have time you can add on a visit to the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park for even more hikes with a view.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Mesa Arch Trail and Grand View Point Trail
Distance: Mesa Arch is 0.5 miles round trip and Grand View Point is 2 miles round trip
Location: 38.389262, -109.868281 and 38.310770, -109.856301
How to get there: From Moab head north on US 191, turn left onto UT 313-W and continue to the park entrance.
Mill Creek Waterfall
On the last day of our trip we were looking for a short and easy hike on our way out of town and the Mill Creek Waterfall Trail was just that. The trail follows the Mill Creek and is relatively flat after the initial scramble across a smooth rock ledge on your right (it looks more intimidating than it actually is). There are three river crossings before you reach the beautiful 30-foot waterfall. The trail would be especially nice in the spring and summer when things are green, and you can even take a dip in pool at the foot of the falls in warmer weather. As you turn back look for some sandstone slabs on the right that you can climb for a view above the falls. It’s an extra 5 minute side trip that’s worth the effort (thanks to the fisherman who passed along this tip!). We reached the waterfall in about 25 minutes and spent just under an hour in total on the trail.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Mill Creek Waterfall Trail
Distance: 1.8 miles round trip
Location: 38.561909, -109.516841
How to get there: From Moab head to South Mill Creek Drive, turn left onto Powerhouse Lane and continue as the road transitions from pavement to dirt leading to the parking area.
ON THE MAP