Unlike many outdoorsy destinations, Moab, Utah, is not known for green wilderness but rather for its bright-red sandstone landscapes. The city adjoins two national parks—Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park—where towering natural rock formations overlook colorful valleys below. Inside the city, restaurants serve regional Southwestern cuisine and locally brewed beers. The moderate climate of Moab allows for year-round outdoor music and arts events.
Arches National Park lies five miles north of the city along Highway 191. It is a prime Moab sightseeing destination that contains more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, as well as massive balanced rock towers and spires. Despite the ruggedness of the landscape, most of the formations are easily accessible, and the park is one of the most popular destinations for kids visiting Moab.
Canyonlands National Park can be reached by taking Highway 191 north to Highway 313 and then turning southwest. The gem of the park, the Island in the Sky, is a 1,500-foot mesa from which hikers can see more than 100 miles in every direction. Canyonlands is best suited for expert hikers, as the desert terrain is rough and there is little potable water.
First-time visitors to the parks may recognize some of the scenery from the locations of popular movies ranging from Stagecoach to Thelma and Louise. Immerse yourself in the exotic setting by arranging a horseback ride, river rafting trip, safari or sightseeing tour with the Moab Adventure Center, a popular local hiking outfitter. Overnight expeditions to the Colorado River are available.
Vacationers who remain inside the city dine well by sampling the regional flavors. The Jailhouse Café is known for its Southwestern breakfast dishes, such as a chorizo scramble and Southwestern eggs Florentine. Desert Bistro was constructed in 1892 and offers a large wine selection to pair with gourmet Southwestern entrees that include quail quesadillas and rabbit sausage. For drinks, belly up to the bar at Eddie McStiff’s. This brew pub’s Pure Desert Wheat and Canyon Cream ales pay homage to the nearby parks.
The Moab Arts Festival is held in the springtime in Moab City Park and features works inspired by the natural wonders that surround the community. A similar holistic experience awaits those who attend September’s Moab Music Festival, which is billed as “music in concert with the landscape.” This refers to the outdoor canyon stages that are acoustically ideal venues for jazz, classical and Latin music. Finally, the Moab Folk Festival is a late-fall event that hosts famous folk singer-songwriters.
Two museums showcase regional culture and history. The Museum of Moab, on Scenic Byway 128 near Mile Marker 14, exhibits prehistoric artifacts of the area’s original settlers—the Ute Indians. The museum’s dinosaur exhibit is one of Moab’s most popular destinations for kids. The Film Museum at Red Cliffs Ranch celebrates the area’s Hollywood history and contains stills from movies with such Western stars as John Wayne and Ben Johnson.