It was April 2011 when I fell head-over-heels in love with Moab, Utah. I had lived in desert climates, outdoor meccas, and red rock sanctuaries before, but Moab had something different. Maybe it was the two National Parks, plus the Colorado River. Maybe it was the unique population of born-and-bred locals with transplants from all over the country.
Whatever the attraction, I always came back, and, with each passing year, would continue to find something new to explore. So when my Utahan friends say, “We go to Moab every year, but we always hike Delicate Arch,” I’m the first to beg them to let me plan their next trip and see something new of this amazing country.
1. Moab Rim: Are you an avid trail runner (and thus, in my book, crazy)? Or just want a close-to-town hike with a view? The Moab Rim is only a five-minute drive out of Moab. Heading south, turn right at the McDonald’s onto Kane Creek Blvd. After the Matheson Wetlands Preserve, you’ll see a small trailhead sign “Moab Rim Trail” and a parking lot on the left-hand side. The hike is steep (about 1.5 miles straight up), but it puts you right above the city for great sunset views. A flat trail along the rim is great for any early morning run.
2. Fisher Towers: This hike offers an out-of-the-park experience, with Martian, red rock spires unlike anything else in Moab. Head up Highway 128, and around the 21-mile marker the parking will be on your right. About 4 miles out-and-back, this hike weaves you in and out of the impressive towers. I love this hike, even in inclement weather—I’ve had some good, healthy mud wars at Fisher Towers.
3. Corona Arch: This arch was made famous by the YouTube “Rope Swing” videos (an activity since been banned, due to safety concerns). As you head north out of Moab, turn left at Highway 279/Pot Ash Road: you’ll find the trailhead parking after 10 miles. The 3-mile hike (out-and-back) ends in a spectacular up-and-close arch (along with its neighbor, Bow Tie Arch). I think it’s the perfect hike for any large group—you don’t have to worry about park fees, and it’s long enough for the intense hikers and short enough for the slow-pokes in the group (like me!).
4. Needles District: This is where I send people who want longer hikes in undisturbed nature. Drive 1.5 hours south of Moab to the Canyonlands Needles District, a friendly place for backpackers, hikers, and nature lovers alike. The entire area is a web of small, connecting trails. I like to start at the Squaw Flat Campground and do a 6-mile hike (throughout Chesler Park) or even a 10-mile (to include the Joint Trail and Elephant Canyon). The best part about Needles is, while there are some “destination” arches and sites, the whole hike is gorgeous and unforgettable, meaning you can make it as long or as short as you’d like.