Monday, July 16, 2018

My five recommendations for visiting Moab

Three years ago I spent nearly ten days exploring the mighty five national parks in Utah: Arches, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Zion and Bryce. 

Mix that itinerary with a side trip to a Natural Bridges National Monument, the stunning Manti-La Sal National Forest, Grand Staircase Escalante-National Monument and what is now, Bears Ears National Monument....and it was nothing short of public lands bliss.

During the beginning of my trip, I spent a few days around Moab, a town that was just fascinating and full of spirited life. It's the mecca for outdoor recreation, destination for drifters, wanderers, transplants and anyone trying to find their own "purpose" in this crazy life we all try to live. Moab is fun, Moab is wild, and Moab is a place to feel free.

Here are five places you should know.
  • Dead Horse Point State Park. This is an excellent state park that you literally drive right past its entrance on your way to Canyonlands National Park's Island in the Sky district. Take an hour or two and follow the sheer steep cliffs as you hike around the park's rim that sits 2,000ft above a dramatic curve in the Colorado River. The lands this state park encompasses have quite the crazy history. Mesmerizing views down below and out west towards the snowy La Sal mountain range, plus numerous spots for a perfect  picnic lunch mean you can't not stop here before entering into neighboring Canyonlands. There's also camping and mountain biking trails.
  • Moab Coffee Roasters. Grab a delicious mug of morning joe under the hot Utah sun and sit out on the patio at this sweet little coffee shop right on Moab's main drag. This is a fun way to strike up some quality conversation with other travelers or locals. They roast their own tasty beans, blend their own gelato and espresso and there's a menu of small bites too. Ask the barista for the free wifi password 
  • Arches National Park is a "red rock wonderland," a staple of our national parks system, with 2,000 natural arches and mind-blowing finned rock formations, spires and pinnacles, all bearing creative, bold names like Grand Avenue, Fiery Furnace, Devils Garden and Skyline Arch. Head to The Windows area and Turret Arch at sunset (see below photo) and watch everything glow red, pink, and copper. If you have a full day, hike deep into the park from the Devils Garden trailhead to explore gems like 300ft Landscape Arch, Double O Arch and a mysterious distant dark burnt red tower called Dark Angel. The park can get super crowded at the entrance station, so arrive early and don't be shy about venturing away along the remote trails in the park. Oh! And don't miss catching the sunset at Delicate Arch.
  • Canyonlands National Park the biggest national park in Utah is quite possibly the wildest. This feels like God's country, with gigantic open canyons, craggy buttes and mesas, towers of burnt red and orange rock, slot canyons, and desolation to the max. The land here is raw, untamed, unreal. At 337,598 acres, Canyonlands is divided up into three districts: The Needles, Island in the Sky, and The Maze.  If you've only got a few hours or a day to spend in Canyonlands, I'd suggest stopping first at the Island in the Sky visitor area. The majority of the people that trek to Canyonlands, stay here and only here, so expect possible crowds as its the easiest district to travel to and closest to Moab. Island in the Sky sits some 1,000ft high on a mesa above the dry valley below, with distant views of the La Sal mountains, the Green River, Make sure you hike to the stammeringly cool Mesa Arch (pictured below) and trace the edge of the cliffs as towards Grand View Point, where you can stare down into the desert and the other two mentioned districts of the park. If time allows, get over to The Needles, you probably won't see terrain anywhere like it in the world. And if you do hike through The Needles or even The Maze, bring a ton of water and a map- you'll be in no man's land.
  • Gearheads Outdoor Store is a sweet, friendly little local gear shop in downtown Moab, also right on the main drag. While I'm a fanboy of REI and my nearby Erehwon, smaller outdoor gear shops are hidden gems, packed with good products at attractive prices, stickers of course, and local character. Before heading into Canyonlands to backpack, I stopped here to stocked my pack with supplies. You should too. They also have a free filtered water fill-up station and plenty of trusty advice to make your adventure here in Moab even better.