Last Updated on September 17, 2022
Moab, Utah is an outdoor lover’s paradise. It is home to two national parks, one state park, the Colorado River, and so much more. There is hiking, biking, off-roading, rafting, and much, much more – you can definitely find something that interests you! A trip to Moab, Utah is a must for all nature lovers as the desert environment is jampacked with stunning natural views and rock formations.
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How Many Days Do You Need in Moab?
You could easily spend a week or more exploring Moab, but three days in Moab is the minimum to really see both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks while also seeing and doing other great hikes and activities in the area. Three days gives you plenty of time so you do not have to rush too much to see everything.
What is the Best Month to Visit Moab?
The shoulder seasons are the best time to visit Moab, particularly April, May, September, October, and November. No matter the time of year, you will want to avoid major holidays, including spring break and Jeep Week which is around Easter. Holidays are always a lot busier in the national parks. More detail on the best time to visit Moab can be seen below.
Directions to Moab
Moab is not really close to anything and will require driving no matter where you are coming from but it is worth any effort required to get there. It is a small town in Grand County in the southeast corner of Utah.
Salt Lake City to Moab
From the Salt Lake City International Airport, the drive to Moab is three hours and forty-five minutes. It is 237 miles (381 km) along Interstate and state highways. It is a beautiful drive through mountains and varying desert landscapes. There are plenty of rental car options in Salt Lake City. Check out RentalCars.com for a comparison of all the top brands to find the best price for your trip!
Denver to Moab
The drive to Moab from Denver International Airport is a little longer at six hours. It is 378 miles (608 km) through the Rocky Mountains and desert. If you are coming from Denver, keep an eye on the weather because it can be scary driving through the Rocky Mountains in bad weather. RentalCars.com is a great site to compare prices amongst the top brands for Denver International Airport.
Las Vegas to Moab
Finally, the drive from the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas to Moab is the longest. It is a seven hour drive, covering 464 miles (746 km) almost entirely on Interstate 15 and Interstate 70. It is an easy drive and there are plenty of rental car options to get you there from Las Vegas. Check out RentalCars.com for a comparison of all the top brands to find the best price from Las Vegas for your trip!
Ultimate 3 Day Moab Utah Itinerary
This 3 day Moab Utah itinerary will let you see a lot of the area including the famous Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dead Horse Point State Park, ancient rock art, the Colorado River, and Corona Arch. Your days will be packed full of adventure but it will be worth the early mornings and long days.
Day 1 of 3 Day Moab Itinerary
The first day of your Moab, Utah itinerary will take you to Canyonlands National Park nice and early for a sunrise hike and some stunning viewpoints, followed by a visit to nearby Dead Horse Point State Park or an adventurous drive on the Shafer Trail, as long as you have a 4WD vehicle.
Sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch is an amazing place to watch the sunrise, but it is also extremely popular. This is the most famous spot in the park for sunrise because the sun rises below the arch causing the arch to glow bright orange on its underside. This is a great easy hike, at just 0.7 miles (1.1 km) in a loop. If you are hiking here at sunrise, you will need a couple of hours total for this as there are some great areas to explore all around Mesa Arch for alternative viewpoints.
Location on Google Maps: Mesa Arch Trailhead
Cost: There is a $30 USD Canyonlands National Park entrance fee but if you plan to visit three or more national park sites on your trip or within the next year, the $80 USD annual national park pass is a great deal. It will save you a lot of money if you go to more than three US National Parks in a year.
What to Bring: A sweater, it can be very cold in the morning, a headlamp if you will be hiking in the dark, patience as you wait for the sun to rise.
Helpful Tips: If you want the perfect photo, you will have to arrive at least 30 mins to 1 hour before sunrise to stake your spot. This is one of the best things to have on your 3 day Moab itinerary, but it’s not for everyone. For the diehard photographers and the Instagrammers that want the perfect shot – be prepared to get up early!
Grand View Point in Canyonlands National Park
Grand View Point is one of the most famous views in Canyonlands and for good reason. It is at the most southern point of the Island in the Sky scenic drive and has a paved sidewalk out to the first view. There is an unpaved trail that is one mile (1.6 km) to an additional viewpoint that is even better than the first. From Grand View Point, you can see a lot of southern Utah landmarks including the White Rim Road, The Needles District, Monument Basin, the La Sal Mountains, the Abajo Mountains, and The Maze District.
Location on Google Maps: Grand View Point
What to Bring: Nothing special here
Helpful Tips: Be sure to do the short hike out to the second overlook for an even more impressive view. This is one of the best views in all of Moab and should not be missed. There are signposts that provide reference points on the horizon so that you can identify all of the landmarks that you can see from this point.
Green River Overlook in Canyonlands National Park
The Green River Overlook was our favorite view in the park and cannot be missed while you are in Canyonlands. This stop offers a view of the White Rim Road and The Maze, as well as the beautiful Green River 1,300 feet (396 m) below. It is a must-see on your Moab, Utah itinerary.
Location on Google Maps: Green River Overlook
Facilities: Bathrooms and camping
Helpful Tips: This would be a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch with a view. It is easily one of the best and most beautiful views in Canyonlands.
Upheaval Dome / Syncline Loop in Canyonlands National Park
Upheaval Dome is an interesting stop in Canyonlands where you can see some unusual geology. This mysterious geologic formation is about 3 miles (5 km) across and made up of dramatic rock layers.
There is a 1 mile (1.6 km) hike to the first overlook of Upheaval Dome that is a little steep but worth the effort. If you want to hike a little more, there is another 1 mile (1.6km) long trail you can hike to a second overlook. If you hike to both overlooks, it will be a 4 mile (6.4 km) round-trip moderate hike. This is a great choice if you want a slightly longer and more challenging hike, but not too challenging.
If you want a much more strenuous hike, consider the 8.3 mile (13.3 km) Syncline Loop Trail. This hike will take you around all of Upheaval Dome. It is difficult and includes climbing and scrambling through boulder fields. This hike may be better suited to those that have more time in their Moab itinerary though.
Location on Google Maps: Upheaval Dome and Syncline Loop Trailhead
Facilities: Bathrooms and picnic area
Helpful Tips: If you are not a very experienced desert hiker or rock scrambler, stick to the shorter Upheaval Dome trail. The Syncline Loop trail is strenuous and most park rescues occur on this trail. It is the most difficult trail in Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.
For the rest of your afternoon on the first day of your 3 day Moab itinerary, there are 2 exciting options to choose from! One option is to take in even more stunning views from the nearby Dead Horse State Park, or get really adventurous and drive the 4WD Shafer Trail back to Moab!
Option 1: Dead Horse State Park
On your way up to Island in the Sky, you passed Dead Horse Point State Park on the left and it makes the perfect afternoon activity after exploring Canyonlands. This is a great place to enjoy the sunset over incredible views of the Colorado River far below. There is a super short paved walkway to the Dead Horse point Overlook. If you have time and want to hike even more, there are about seven miles (11.2 km) of trails along the canyon rim of various lengths and difficulties.
Location on Google Maps: Dead Horse Point State Park
Cost: There is a $20 USD entrance fee to the state park.
Facilities: Bathrooms, visitor center, camping, picnic area
Helpful Tips: If you feel very motivated to hike a lot and want to see all of the overlooks, the trails actually connect all of the overlooks together so you could do a big loop hike. This is one of the best places to watch the sunset on a trip to Moab.
Option 2: Shafer Trail
The Shafer Canyon Road is a 4WD road named after the Mormon Pioneer family, the Shafer’s, who starting in 1916 used this trail to move cattle from summer pastures on the mesa to the White Rim Sandstone in the winter.
If you have a 4WD and high-clearance vehicle and are leaving Canyonlands with at least 2-3 hours of daylight before dark, consider taking the Shafer Trail back to Moab. From Canyonlands National Park you can look down the steep cliffs and see twisting and turning switchbacks that go down to the valley below.
These sharp switchbacks are the historic Shafer Canyon Road between Dead Horse Point State Park and the Colorado River which continues to Potash Road and then back to town. The drive takes about two hours and is rough so you will not be able to do it in a regular 2WD vehicle. If it has rained or snowed, the road may be impassable.
The road is only recommended for those that have some offroad driving experience, as well as a high-clearance 4WD vehicle that is suitable for the road. There are Jeep rentals available in Moab as well as offroad Jeep tours available that will take you on the Shafer Trail.
Location on Google Maps: Shafer Trail
Facilities: Bathrooms and water at Island in the Sky Visitor Center, nothing until the paved section of Potash Road which also has bathrooms.
Helpful Tips: If you won’t be driving out of the park during daylight, skip this road. It is best done during daylight so you can enjoy the views but it is also safer to drive during the day since it does have steep drop offs on the side of the road. Plus, it is also just easier to see any potholes and obstacles in the road during the day.
Day 2 of 3 Day Moab Itinerary
Day two in Moab will have you enjoying the surrounding area outside of the national parks. You can experience the Colorado River, ancient rock art, and interesting rock formations as well as the lively downtown area.
Paddleboard the Colorado River
There are a lot of places along the Colorado River near Moab that are great for swimming but a great way to experience the river is by floating along on a Stand Up Paddleboard. You can rent them in town and they can direct you to the best spot for your skill level and anything else you are looking for. They are available for half or full day rentals. This would be a great way to cool off on a hot summer afternoon as well as take in the desert environment, cliffs, and rock formations from a new perspective!
Location on Google Maps: Colorado River
Cost: If you have your own Stand Up Paddleboards, there is no fee. Stand Up Paddleboard Rentals start at $58 USD for a half day.
Facilities: Depends on where you go
What to Bring: Water, a dry bag to keep electronics or anything else dry
View Ancient Petroglyphs
Along the Colorado River on Potash Road you will find a surprising amount of cool things to see and do. You can see people rock climb at Wall Street, see petroglyphs, dinosaur tracks, multiple arches, and enjoy the Colorado River. The petroglyphs are marked with a sign but parking is limited so be sure not to block the road. There are a ton of petroglyphs, which are rock carvings chipped into the rock walls by ancestral Puebloan people, here. There are a few others near the dinosaur tracks, which are just a short hike away.
Location on Google Maps: Colorado River Petroglyphs
Facilities: None here, but there are bathrooms and picnic areas along Potash Road
What to Bring: Nothing special here
Hike to Corona Arch
Not far from the dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs is the trail for Corona Arch, sometimes called Little Rainbow Bridge. This is an easy 3 mile (4.8 km) round-trip hike to see not just one, but two arches. Just before Corona Arch, the main draw of the trail, you will see Bowtie Arch, a pothole arch, on your left. This is a fun trail and a little adventurous because it has a couple of ladders. It is not too difficult but can be hard to get big dogs up the ladders. This would be a great way to end your day, enjoying the sunset at the arch, which is a popular activity.
Location on Google Maps: Corona Arch trailhead
What to Bring: Water, a hat to keep the sun off of yourself since there is almost no shade, and a headlamp if you plan to stay for sunset, just in case you are hiking back in the dark.
Walk Through Downtown Moab
Moab may be small, but it has plenty to offer downtown. There are tons of great local shops on the main street and the town gets fairly lively at night. Some of the best places to enjoy dinner are 98 Center, The Spoke, The Trailhead, Quesadilla Mobilla, and the food truck park next door.
Day 3 of 3 Day Moab Itinerary
Finally, you will be finishing your 3 day Moab itinerary in Arches National Park, enjoying a sunrise and sunset in the park while doing some of the most incredible hikes in the area.
Arches National Park does require a timed entry permit (this is different from the national park annual pass) from April 3rd to October 3rd, 2022. They are required between 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM. They must be purchased in advance online but some are set aside to get the day before at 6:00 PM at the park. All are expected to sell out quickly. You do not need an entry permit if you have a camping reservation, a Fiery Furnace permit, or enter before 6:00 AM or after 6:00 PM.
Sunrise at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch is the poster child of Utah national parks. It is featured on the Utah license plates, after all. Your 3 day Moab itinerary would not be complete without a hike to Delicate Arch and sunrise is one of the best times to do it. This is the most popular hike in Arches National Park, so it can be very busy. If you want to see Delicate Arch at sunrise, you will need to hike in the dark on your way up, so you will want to bring a headlamp or strong flashlight. The light in your cell phone probably won’t be sufficient, and is best left as a backup device.
The trail is 3 miles (4.8 km) round-trip and moderately difficult. It has no shade so doing this early or late in the day, especially in summer, is crucial. There are some spots on the trail with drop-offs that may be difficult if you have a strong fear of heights. If you are hiking to Delicate Arch in the winter, microspikes may be needed. Once you are there, enjoy the view of the incredible Delicate Arch with the La Sal Mountains towering behind it.
Location on Google Maps: Delicate Arch Trailhead
Cost: Like Canyonlands, Arches has a $30 USD entrance fee but the annual national park pass will cover entry. If you plan to visit both parks plus one more on your trip or within the next year, the park pass is worth the $80 USD price tag and will save you money in the long run.
What to Bring: Headlamp if you are hiking up in the dark, water
Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch
Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch can be reached from the same trailhead and to see both it is just a 1.4 mile (2.2 km) hike. It is an easy trail and you can see two arches easily! Sand Dune Arch is tucked away in a wide slot canyon and you can walk under neath it and behind it. The trail to Sand Dune Arch is fairly deep sand but thankfully it is short so it is not too bad.
Broken Arch is nearby and not actually broken. The trail here is also sand but it is more packed than Sand Dune Arch. There is a trail that connects Broken Arch to the Devils Garden Campground as well so you can easily hike from there if you are camping in the park.
Location on Google Maps: Sand Dune Arch Trailhead
What to Bring: Water
Hiking at Devil’s Garden
The Devils Garden Loop is a difficult 7.9 miles (12.6 km) loop hike with eight arches to see. You can hike as much of this trail as you like but the whole loop is not recommended when it is snowy, wet, or icy or for people uncomfortable with heights. There are a number of arches that you can hike to that are easier though. This area can involve as much or as little hiking as you would like, which makes it great for all types of travelers.
Landscape Arch is one of the world’s longest stone spans at 306 feet (93.3 m) but it is just 11 feet (3.4 m) thick at its center. The trail to Landscape Arch is an easy 1.9 mile (3.1 km) loop trail and a must-see on a trip to Moab, Utah. It is the arch on the park map and while you cannot walk under the arch for safety reasons, it is incredible to see. Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch are two arches you can add to this trail and it is just an additional 0.5 miles (0.8 km). They are close to each other and worth the short extra walk. After Landscape Arch the trail becomes difficult, but is also equally as rewarding for more experienced hikers.
Location on Google Maps: Devils Garden Trailhead
Facilities: Bathrooms, picnic area, camping, water
What to Bring: Water, snacks and a sense of adventure if you are hiking the whole loop trail.
Sunset at Double Arch
Finally, finish your day off at Double Arch and The Windows area. This area has a ton of arches and cool rock formations with a lot of short hikes to enjoy. This is one of the best places to enjoy the sunset in Arches. The walk to Double Arch is just 0.5 miles (0.8 km) and the hike to see both of The Windows arches and Turret Arch is just 0.7 miles (1.1 km). Both trails are very easy and the arches are visible from the parking area.
Location on Google Maps: Double Arch Trailhead
What to Bring: Nothing particular here
More Days in Moab?
More days in Moab is always a good idea if you can make it work. If you have more than three days for a trip to Moab, Utah, you would be able to do more hikes in Arches and Canyonlands or you could visit The Needles district of Canyonlands to do some short hikes or a longer day hike. Another option is a Jeep tour, ATV tour, rafting tour, or helicopter tour if you want to do something a little more adventurous.
Rafting on the Colorado River would be a great activity for a hot summer day. Hells Revenge is one of the most popular off-roading routes in Moab and you can join a Jeep tour with someone else driving to experience it yourself. There also UTV Hells Revenge tours where you can drive yourself as part of a group. A helicopter tour or scenic flight is another option if you want to experience Moab in a different way.
Detailed Utah National Park Itineraries:
Canyonlands National Park 1 Day Itinerary
Arches National Park 2 Day Itinerary
Capitol Reef National Park 2 Day Itinerary
Bryce Canyon National Park 1 Day Itinerary
Zion National Park 1 Day Itinerary
Utah Mighty Five 10 Day Itinerary
Best Time to Visit Moab Utah
Moab is great to visit any time of year, but certain times of the year will be more enjoyable than others. Holidays will almost always be busy, but there are ways to escape the crowds to enjoy some solitude. Most activities are accessible year-round but will be more enjoyable in certain seasons.
Winter in Moab
Winters are in Moab are fairly mild and they do not get much snow, though it dies happen, but it is a great time to visit and escape the intense summer crowds and heat. Trails can be snowy and icy (if it has recently snowed) which can make hiking a little tricky so consider bringing microspikes if snow is in the forecast during your trip. Avoid holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s because the area is very busy then. Hiking is very enjoyable in the winter but be sure to dress in layers as it can get quite chilly.
Spring in Moab
Spring is a great time to visit Moab as long as you avoid spring break and Easter, which is Jeep Week. The only downside of spring is that you may experience high winds which can make hiking not so fun. Temperatures start to rise but are still very comfortable and days are a little longer so you have more daylight for activities.
Summer in Moab
The least enjoyable time to visit Moab is definitely summer. Prices, temperatures, and crowds are all very high. This would be the best time for water activities but hiking will not be very pleasant unless you only hike first thing in the morning. If it is the only time you can go, it is still worth it, just be prepared for extreme heat, crowds, and high prices. Avoid holidays like Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend, and Labor Day weekend.
Fall in Moab
Fall is the best time to visit Moab. Temperatures are perfect, crowds are lower, and there is not wind like in the spring. It is still more expensive than winter, but outdoor activities are all much more enjoyable this time of year. You may even be able to see cottonwood trees changing color if you are here at the right time.
Best Place to Stay in Moab
Hotels are not lacking in Moab and there are plenty to choose from whether you want a unique hotel or want to rack up points with your chain of choice. Moab is also a great place to go camping, in the national parks or outside of them, if you would rather do that. In the summer, which is peak season, most hotels are going to be expensive. The only ways to really avoid the high prices are by staying at a very rustic hostel, by going camping, or by visiting in the off-season.
Budget Hotels in Moab
It is hard to find a true budget hotel in Moab in the summer (winter is much easier since it is off season) but here are a couple of somewhat budget choices. Bowen Motel and Big Horn Lodge are two no-frills choices. The Bowen Motel is right downtown and Big Horn Lodge is a little firth but still within walking distance of great shops and restaurants.
Mid-Range Hotels in Moab
Mid-range hotels are much easier to come by in Moab in the summer, especially with popular chains. Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn is great and it is conveniently located right downtown. The Fairfield Inn is another good choice that is located just outside of town, very close to the entrance to Arches. Both of these include breakfast.
Moab Camping Options
Camping in Arches – There is only one campground in Arches National Park, the Devils Garden Campground, that is usually full every night in peak season. It can be reserved from March 1st to October 31st, the rest of the year the sites are first-come, first-served. Firewood and toilets are available here, but there are no showers and no drinking water, so bring plenty for your stay.
This is a great way to experience Arches without crowds since you can start your day even earlier, hitting the trails before everyone else. There is no phone or Internet service here so plan to be off-the-grid for your stay here. If you have a campground reservation you do not need a timed entry permit for Arches.
Camping in Canyonlands – There is only one campground in Island in the Sky, the Willow Flat campground, and it has just 12 spaces. It is open year-round but it is first-come, first-served and the spaces fill quickly, especially in the summer. There are vault toilets but no water or showers. The Green River Overlook is nearby. If you manage to get a spot here, plan to be out of service for your stay as there is no phone service or Internet here.
BLM camping – Within a 20 mile (32 km) radius of Moab, you can only camp in developed campgrounds. Outside of that range, dispersed camping is allowed in primitive sites. The only BLM campground that can be reserved in advance is at Ken’s Lake Recreation Area, the rest are first-come, first-served and $20 USD per night. All campgrounds have vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings, but there is no drinking water available so be sure to bring enough. These can fill up very quickly in the summer. Phone service is unlikely at most campgrounds but it will depend on where you are.
The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a 3 Day Moab Itinerary
These tips will help make sure you have the best trip to Moab, Utah and will help with traveling on a budget. They will ensure your safety and enjoyment of your trip, especially on scorching summer days.
Start Your Day Early
The best way to beat the heat and crowds in Moab, which can both be intense in the summer, is to get your day started early. That might mean getting up for sunrise every day but it will be worth the early mornings. Mornings are the coolest time of day and avoiding the mid-day heat of summer is worth getting up extra early for.
Pack Snacks or Lunch Every Day
Outside of town, there are almost no food options so you will want to bring snacks or a picnic lunch every day so you do not have to leave the parks to go find food. This is especially important for Arches, now that entry permits are required from April to October. It is good to bring food to Canyonlands as well since the drive back to Moab is a little long and would cut down on everything you could see.
Be Aware of Signs of Heat Stroke
This tip is primarily for summer visits when the temperatures are particularly high. It is important to know the signs of heatstroke, how to avoid it, and what to do if it happens. Heatstroke is caused by excessive heat and rising body temperature. It can be fatal and even very experienced hikers can suffer from it.
Signs of heat stroke include a high body temperature, red, damp, dry, or hot skin, strong and fast pulse, headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, confusion, lack of or excessive sweat, and muscle cramps.
If you or someone you are with is experiencing heat stroke, try to find a shady area, remove unnecessary clothing that may generate additional heat, avoid drinking anything as it may spike the body’s response, and wet the skin. The primary goal is to lower the body temperature while you wait for medical assistance.
Heat stroke risk increases above 90 F (32 C) but there are ways to avoid it. Try to avoid hiking in the peak heat of the day which is usually late afternoon and stay hydrated with water or something with a lot of electrolytes. You could also take advantage of indoor activities or short walks to overlooks instead of hikes during peak heat, try to stay in the shade, and wear light-colored, loose-fitting, moisture-absorbent clothing.
Purchase the America The Beautiful Annual National Park Pass
Getting an America the Beautiful National Park Pass is a must-do for a trip to Moab, Utah, especially if you plan to visit other national parks on this trip or within the next year. The pass will be paid for in three trips to national parks. It covers the entrance fee to all of the NPS sites, including both Arches and Canyonlands. Camping, tours, parking, or reservations would be extra, that just depends on the park. It is definitely worth getting this pass.
Plan to Watch at Least 1 Sunrise and 1 Sunset
Golden hour in Utah is magical so be sure to watch at least one sunrise and one sunset. It is hard to pick a bad spot to enjoy these but sunrise at Mesa Arch is perfect and sunset at Double Arch is a great choice. Some other good options are Dead Horse Point State Park, Corona Arch, and Delicate Arch.
Ultimate 3 Day Moab Itinerary Summary
This Moab, Utah itinerary lets you experience all Moab has to offer with a variety of activities and all of the best hikes. It can be hard to decide what to do with so many great things to choose from but this 3 day Moab itinerary has you covered.
Be sure to pin this post to your Southwest USA Pinterest board so that you have all of these great things to do on a 3 day Moab itinerary right at hand when planning your next trip!