Moab Suggestions Advice Itinerary
June 19, 2015 9:32 PM   Subscribe

Going to Moab for 2.5 days/3 nights on the 29th... Canyonlands & Arches, yes, but...

We will be going to Moab on 6/29 for 2.5 days/3 nights. Driving from Colorado will likely take 6-7 hours since we will stop for lunch (anywhere good to stop?). So assuming we will arrive in the early afternoon, what should we do?

First 1/2 day & night - shoud we head to the hotel, then do one of those sunset tours on a boat? Is that good? Anyone know any tour operators that do that but are on a smaller less crowded boat?

Day 2-3 Arches and Canyonlands, I can google the main attractions, but any personal experiences or opinions?

Where can we get good lunches to pack with us, and any dinner recommendations? What time do pubs & restuarants generally close?

Most importantly, what should I skip or not do... I love hearing what others disliked or were critical of, very useful.

C'mon, metafilter I dont trust Yelp or Tripadvisor, you're my go to..
posted by fumbducker to Travel & Transportation around Moab, UT (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Grand Junction is has a few good brewpubs, and you can pick up a growler and take it with you to stash in a cooler or the hotel fridge.

Moab is pretty friendly and it's nice to walk the main drag, look at the different restaurants which are open 9 or 10 -ish. It's a tourism town.
posted by nickggully at 10:04 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

My family was stranded in Moab for a week when our van broke down in the middle of a road trip. Moab doesn't have a whole heck of a lot going on.

I can tell you that 12 years ago, THE place to be was the combo teriyaki on a stick/froyo shop. It was recommended to me by every Moabian (Moabite?) I asked.
posted by phunniemee at 10:35 PM on June 19, 2015

We spent 4 days just in Arches and could easily have spent more. We had planned to go to Canyonlands as well, but never made it because we just weren't done with Arches. Of all the hikes we did, I think Park Avenue is the must do. Just amazing.

One morning, when my spousal dude just could not wake up, I went for a walk in the Scott Matheson Wetlands Preserve on the banks of the Colorado River and was just blown away. This is a completely different view of the desert and the river, and the bird watching was awesome. Another fun random thing we did was go to the public library and look at their amazing collection of Ed Abbey stuff. (10 years ago, the free internet at the library was also a big draw.)

We really loved staying in Moab. We got stuff at the grocery store on the edge of town (I think a Ralph's) for breakfasts and lunches, but we had lots of really nice dinners out. Moab is aimed specifically outdoorsy tourists, and so the dining out is casual and crunchy. It's also just lovely to walk around in the evening. For all that it is touristy, lots of nice folks live and work there, and it has a pleasant small town vibe.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:30 AM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, and Metafilter's Own gottabefunky wrote a guide book to Four Corners that I bought based on him mentioning it here. The most recent version is a few years old, but it was a nice guide to have to leaf through and look for cool ideas for side trips.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:35 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you're driving from Denver. I don't know much about specific restaurants, but I wanted to warn you that the stretch of highway between Grand Junction and Moab is exceptionally empty. So make sure you have lunch either in Grand Junction or before. And it wouldn't hurt to make sure you have a full tank of gas when you leave Grand Junction: gas stations are few and far between on that bit of I-70.

Restaurants in Moab will probably close around 9 pm. If you like wraps, the Peace Tree Juice Cafe is a good lunch spot. The Colorado River runs through a really beautiful little canyon just outside of Moab. I would make sure you get to see some part of it, one way or another. I've never been on a motorized boat tour, so I can't recommend a good company.

If I were you, I think on the first night I would drop my stuff off at the hotel, grab a towel to sit on, and a sweater in case it gets cold. I'd buy some iced tea and a pack of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa, and then I'd drive up to Big Bend Campground . It's 10 miles outside of Moab, up Rt. 128 along the Colorado River. It's got a day-use picnic area and river access. So you can park and get out and stretch your legs and go dip your feet in the river and sit on the beach (if the water level leaves one open) and enjoy the canyon in the evening light. It's been a while since I've been there, but I'm pretty sure there are picnic tables too, so if you want you have a place to sit that isn't the ground. I think that would be more relaxing than a motorized boat ride.

But, just so you know, if you're not used to the desert, campgrounds in Utah can look a bit...dusty and prickly if you're not used to them. And the Colorado River will definitely look muddy and strange to you if you're not used to desert rivers.

Also, general desert advice: bring water with you when you go to Arches and Canyonlands. In fact, bring more than you think you'll need and leave a couple of bottles in the car. Wear sunscreen and a hat even if you don't burn easily. When you have the option, act like the lizards: stand in the shade when possible, don't plan any strenuous hikes between 12-2 pm. Instead, find a nice shady spot (if you're hiking, sitting under a juniper tree is a good option) and take a long, cool lunch and enjoy the scenery. A lot of people who are unfamiliar with the desert come away thinking that it is hot and dusty and unpleasant, but I think that's mostly because they don't want to adjust their habits to the environment, and instead charge around like they're in Massachusetts on a cool spring day.
posted by colfax at 8:16 AM on June 20, 2015

Ok, I used to live in Moab.

First re: pubs/restaurants. Thing is, Utah is weird, and the bars are all "private clubs" and you usually have to buy a membership to get into them. At the restaurants, you'll be limited to 3.2% beer, if that's something that concerns you. The pubs in Moab aren't fun though so I wouldn't really waste your time there.

Good places to eat: Red Rock Bakery, Eklectica, Desert Bistro, Miguel's Baja Grill, Singha Thai. There's a good food coop that has some sandwiches and such called Moonflower.

Ye Ole Geezer Meat Shop has the best beef jerkey in the world.

Moab Brewery is okay.

Ok, now for nature. God, there's so much. Endless exploration. You really do have to do Delicate Arch. It's a short hike, lots of tourists, crowded. But my god, you have to do it. My favorite hike in Arhces is the Dark Angel, which is at the end of Devil's Playground, which is at the end of the park. It's probably a 4 hour hike. I used to do it a lot starting out just before dawn. It's much less crowded, and the views are insane.

Lots of folks like the Windows. Worth a drive out to them but maybe not a lot of time hiking around.

We used to go out to broken arch at night a lot and watch the moon rise over the desert, which I also highly recommend. You can climb up on the arch and just listen to the coyotes howl. It's a nice hike to end the day with, if you're comfortable with night hiking (bring flashlights!).

Canyonlands is amazing as well, and has some long, epic hikes. There are three main areas to the park. Island in the Sky is the closest to Moab, and is definitely worth a drive to just see the view of the White Rim. My favorite hiking in the park is probably the needles district. The views aren't as epic but it's really out there and it's just incredible. Whatever you choose to do though, just be mindful of the time the hikes can take. Some of the hikes out there are 8 hours +.

Some non Arches/Canyonlands suggestions:

A lot of great hiking can be found out in BLM land around Moab. Newspaper rock is kind of incredible, which is out along Indian Creek. Onion Creek is amazing as well. If you do the Potash Road hike just outside of town, you can see a bunch of dinosaur tracks, which is pretty cool.

The popular locals hike is Mill Creek, which starts at the end of Mill Creek Road. The hike splits into a left hand and a right hand hike. The left hand route takes you to an incredible swimming hole. The right hand route takes you to this place called the Cowboy Jacuzzi, which is like little bathtubs in the creek that are really warm and get kind of bubbly because of the waterfalls in the creek and you can just chill in them and it's awesome.

This is making me miss Moab so much! Everything you see will be lovely and incredibly - you can't go wrong. But you can't fit in what is a lifetime's worth of beauty and exploration into a few days, so just pick a few things and really enjoy them. Don't try to do too much - take your time just being in the expanse and soaking it in.

Oh, one more thing: buy your beer in Colorado before you get to Moab!
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:28 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh and yes, BRING WATER WITH YOU EVERYWHERE! Canyonlands especially doesn't have water. For a special water experience, fill your canteen from Matrimony Spring, which locals are somewhat obsessed with.

posted by Lutoslawski at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2015

Not really an answer to your question (sorry!) but I highly recommend reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. It's about his experiences as a park ranger at Arches.
posted by forkisbetter at 9:42 AM on June 20, 2015

thanks everyone! great answers as usual. anyone else that comes along keep it going if you have something!
posted by fumbducker at 1:29 PM on June 20, 2015

we would actually be drving from mt. princeton area in colorado, i'll have to check if it goes through grand junction or find someplace else to stop. very good tip colfax.
posted by fumbducker at 1:31 PM on June 20, 2015

we do go through GJ. thanks again.
posted by fumbducker at 1:34 PM on June 20, 2015

Arches national park, specifically sand dune arch. If you don't want to go into the park there are several amazing hikes along the canyon up the Colorado river specifically Negro Bill Canyon. Make sure on your way up to hit up Matrimony Springs. It is said that those who drink from those waters will fall in love with Moab and always return. If you have some money to burn hire a jeep guide and go Jeeping, whitewater rafting, or rent a mountain bike and go try out world renowned Slick Rock biking trail.

If you want to relax there are many lovely bed and breakfasts, my favorite being Cali Cochitta. Above they suggest getting a growler at the local micro brewery. I recommend the Scorpion Pale Ale.

If you're tight on funds ask some locals where Powerhouse dam is located. Its a free and local swimming hole.

For dinner hit up Zax pizza for some cheap local ambiance and tasty pie. To the untrained eye Moab is a hole-in-the-wall city but it is packed with hundreds of adventure opportunities for those willing to roll up their pant legs.

Memail if you want more advice and have the best time.
posted by Marinara at 9:48 PM on June 20, 2015

The ranger led hike through Fiery Furnace (Arches) is amazing. It's mostly in the shade, because you are hiking between the tall rock fins & fingers. Register and pay early to get a spot- it sells out quickly.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 3:31 AM on June 21, 2015

Follow up.. Moab rules. Canyonlands & Arches are super cool, even when its 109 degrees. My wife was feeling pretty sick while we were there, so we did not do anything too strenous, but everything is awesome. We got to the parks early in the morning before the heat, headed back to the Motel 6 for the pool mid-day, then went back out to the parks after dinner. It doesnt get dark until 10ish.. Windows section was awesome as was Delicate Arch. Island in the Sky is perfect even if you are not feeling up for hiking. We ate at Eklectik, Desert Bistro, Miguels, Geezer all good thanks for the recommendations. So go....
posted by fumbducker at 12:42 PM on July 22, 2015

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