Moab is well-known for its classic Jeep, off-road, and mountain biking trails. These epic trails draw people in from all over the world. It hosts two national parks, and some would say it is the mecca of wheeling. Because of all this, the town is rapidly growing. Once dubbed a "sleepy town and a hidden secret" to tourists no longer applies. Our crew here at Trails Offroad enjoys Moab just like everyone else does. We have been fortunate to experience it in all seasons and spanning almost two decades. We also hold this town dear in our heart as this was the location for our first trail guide and where we first unveiled the concept of Trails Offroad to the world. We wanted to share with you some of our top favorites and tips and tricks when we visit so you can make the most of your recreation and vacation time. While there are many choices when visiting, our recommendations are strictly from our own experiences.
Moab was once a frontier town. From the early to mid-1850s, the area served as the Colorado River crossing along the Old Spanish Trail. Latter-day Saint settlers attempted to establish a trading fort at the river crossing called the Elk Mountain Mission in April 1855 to trade with travelers trying to cross the river. Forty men were on this mission. With repeated Indian attacks, including one on September 23, 1855, in which James Hunt, a companion to Peter Stubbs, was shot and killed by a Native American. A new round of settlers from Rich County, led by Randolph Hockaday Stewart, established a permanent settlement in 1878 under the direction of Brigham Young. Moab was officially incorporated as a town on December 20, 1902.
Shortly after incorporation, uranium and vanadium were discovered, and mining rush of the 1910s and 20s commenced. Later, Potash and Manganese were found, creating a thriving mining industry. During the 1950s, the town became known as the Uranium Capital of the World. Many of our favorite off-road trails, such as the White Rim are a direct result of the early mining days. Today, Potash is still mined from the area, as witnessed from either Hurrah Pass or Potash Road.
Now, in 2020, it is a growing tourist destination with plenty for all types of people to do and experience.
Best Times to Visit:
Here at Trails Offroad, we have visited and enjoyed the Moab area every month of the year. Our favorite time to visit is in late September to mid-October. Still, it’s important to point out that October happens to have the most precipitation. The high country in the La Sal Mountains is covered in snow during the typical snow months. That same snow causes runoff in the spring, which can be problematic for some trails around Canyonlands Needles District. June is the driest month of the year, but temperatures start climbing. We experienced 114-degree temperatures late June one year on the White Rim Trail. Late November through the middle of February, you can have the place to yourself, but you may contend with snow.
Remember, many of these trails in Utah can become impassable and subject to flash flooding when wet!
Emergency and Medical Needs:
The Moab Regional Hospital is not only equipped with ER with a Level IV trauma center, but also urgent care. Luckily none of us has ever needed the ER and trauma unit, but we have used the urgent care for a case of the strep throat. We can say that on that particular Friday night, service was quick, easy, and efficient to the point that we were wheeling the next day.
Between the local police, fire, and rangers, there is plenty of public servants for emergent situations. As always, dial 911. Luckily, we have never needed these services.
Short Cut Around Town:
During an event or busy weekend, Moab can be somewhat congested. If you need to get from the north end of the town to the south, or vice versa, try taking the 500W that practically takes you from the McDonalds on the south end of town to the Denny's/Super 8 on the north end.
Vehicle Repair, Parts, and Recovery:
Moab does host several repair, and tire facilities and the most notable for the offroader are:
Rory Irish runs Moab Motorsports, and he does one heck of a job. He offers 24/7 recovery services and, typically, during Easter Jeep Safari, a 24/7 repair operation. We have had to drop in for unexpected repairs, and they have always been more than helpful with getting us up and running and back up on the trail.
Dixie 4 Wheel Drive:
A regional retailer and shop, Dixie is a relative newcomer to having a location in Moab. Although we do not have any personal experience with Dixie, we have had our Trails Offroad Community say good things about them.
O’Reilly Auto Parts:
What we like about O'Reilly Auto Parts in Moab is that they are well stocked with all the standard Jeep Wrangler parts that you may need. We have been here for a power steering pump during a busy Easter Jeep Safari and had no problem getting the items we needed. They also have free air to fill your tires in the back of the building.
Free Air Locations:
When you visit Moab, the trails are all so close, and if we aren't driving a higher speed road, we typically will stay aired down and then fill up before we hit the higher speed roads back home. Several locations offer free and "fast" air that include:
- O’Reilly Auto Parts
- Both 7-11s
When staying overnight in or around Moab, your basic choices are hotels, RV parks, camping, or condos. Camping around Moab is a topic of its own that won't be covered here. Moab has just over 2,500 hotel rooms, so for a big event or high season, it's a good possibility that rooms may be sold out. We would recommend Green River, Utah, as your second choice as its roughly 45 minutes from Moab, and you can drive between Moab and Green River off-road.
At one time, Moab was traditionally home to mostly economy type hotels. But today, it hosts many mid-range and now higher-end hotels with the introduction of the Hoodoo Moab, by Hilton.
Before you choose, you want to consider your needs. For us, when in a small group or solo, we like staying right downtown when possible. Solely for the fact that after a long day of wheeling in dusty and hot weather, we want to park, shower, and "walk" to dinner. However, the few hotels right downtown can become expensive and have limited parking if you are trailering your rigs.
Condominium for large groups or space:
Our other consideration is when we have a larger group. With the new construction of condominiums all across the south end of town, condo rentals have become very easy and convenient to book. Typically, with a larger group, you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars by booking a condo. We have stayed in condominiums a few times, and with the use of a fully equipped kitchen, we have saved even more money by cooking in. Most of these condominiums also have a garage, laundry, and all the other amenities such as the internet. We would highly recommend a condo if you need more than one hotel room for your group.
If you are trailering your rig, you need to think about parking. La Quinta on the south end of town has good trailer parking and restaurants within walking distance. The Holiday Inn, Fairfield Inn, Springhill Suites and Super 8 on the north end of town provide great trailer parking as well.
For location and comfort, we like the two Best Westerns right in the middle of town. If you are not trailering, these places are ideal and comfortable. We have also stayed at the Hotel Moab Downtown, which is a decent middle of the pack hotel, but we never feel compelled to make it a top choice. We have not tried the Homewood Suites yet, but we do like Homewood Suites when we have stayed in them in other areas of the country.
Best for trailering and comfort:
For us, the best trailering and amenities are the Holiday Inn and Springhill Suites on the north end of town. They both provide great parking and are very well-maintained hotels that are clean and comfortable.
Moab has restaurants come and go every year. Over the years, the town has increased the number of restaurants, and the food is getting better. By no means would we deem Moab a "foodie" town, but we always make the most of it. There are so many establishments that we could write about; it could be a subject in itself. Here are our favorites.
Quickest during busy times:
Fiesta Mexicana has always been our go-to for a good, not excellent, sit-down style meal without an exceptionally long wait, even during a busy Easter Jeep Safari week. The food is average but very acceptable. The service is always top-notch.
For a step above a fast-food type meal, we recently started frequenting Giliberto’s Mexican Taco Shop. We have enjoyed every visit for either breakfast, lunch, or for burritos to go into the fridge. It is quick, fast, and tasty.
Hands down, our favorite is Sweet Cravings Bakery and Bistro on the north end of town. Their breakfast is simply fantastic. They only use real butter and handroll all their pie crusts. All of their food is prepared from scratch. The Moab Mania Breakfast Panini is our favorite breakfast sandwich period. It's that good! The coffee is pretty darn good too, and if you didn't know, you can order online ahead of time and just pick your food up before you hit the trail!
Another solid choice is the Moab Diner. Breakfast has always been delicious with good coffee, and they turn tables rather fast, so the waitlist is relatively short. We have had a burger or two here before as well, and they are also consistently decent. Kids and adults alike love their ice cream, sundaes, and floats!
Best Burger and a Rite of Passage:
You have not experienced Moab to its entirety until you have been to Milt’s. Let's put it this way; there have been very few times that we have visited Moab without enjoying Milt's. From the small diner experience to the hand-ground beef and handmade milkshakes, it's one of the better places to visit in all of our favorite wheeling locations across the country. They source their food very carefully using a mix of Waygu with local grass-fed beef and organic buns. They don’t skimp at all on quality! Plenty of parking.
Pizza and Italian:
Pasta Jay's is one of our other favorites. The food is always very consistent, but it can become a bustling and crowded feeling. Over the years, we have enjoyed many of the pasta dishes and pizza varieties. Their sausage is some of the most flavorful we have ever had. Parking is terrible, and wait times can be slow during peak times, but it's worth adding to your list of choices for quality and delicious food.
We have been enjoying this establishment for years and are a little reluctant to give up the secret. When we first tried it, we were a bit skeptical about having sushi in a desert; it just didn't sound right at all. However, they earned our trust and repeat business, and Sabaku Sushi is our top choice for a higher-end meal in Moab. TJ, our Utah writer and also a chef, says it's some of the best sushi in all of Utah. They fly their fish in overnight several times a week. They also serve regional chicken, elk, beef, and local organic vegetables when in season.
There are now several gas stations in town. All of our crew have their favorite for various reasons, be it price, brand loyalty, or which one has the best coffee. The item you may want to consider here is if you are trailering. The Maverick, which is pro-OHV, on the south end of town, has excellent space for trailers and RVs to maneuver. At this location, you also get a light to turn back onto Main Street. Almost all the stations have firewood, propane, and the typical convenience store items. The 7-11 in the middle of town happens to have a Subway attached to it for sandwiches on the go.
Have you been camping for days on end in the hot, dusty desert without a shower and want to clean up before driving home? The Texaco on Main is attached to the Canyonlands RV Park, and most people don't know that they have an amazing $6 showers and spotless bathrooms.
The two leading and only true grocery stores in town are the City Market and Village Market.
The City Market is the larger of the two. It has an excellent deli, bakery, produce, and meat section along with a pharmacy. They also carry food to go that you can throw in your fridge. The deli will make fresh sandwiches with Boards Head meats and cheeses, but it does open rather late if you are looking for an early start, so plan the night before! They, too, have a gas station that you can use your Kroger shopping points to save a few pennies per gallon.
We recently tried the Village Market and were pleasantly surprised. It had a salad and a taco bar and also food to go. Much smaller, it is more of a boutique-style store with a unique selection of items. They even have kombucha on tap for your gut health!
Forgotten Items and Camping Gear:
Moab is not equipped with a big box store such as Walmart or Best Buy. Be sure to pack everything you may need. If you left something behind or found you needed something you didn't bring, here are a couple of good options.
Walker’s Drug and General Store has just about anything you can need from camping gear, pillows, shoelaces, and even wheelchairs. It also has a True Value Hardware store attached to it for tools and other items.
Gearheads Outdoor Store is one of the better outdoor shops around the country, in our opinion. They don't carry junk but only top of the line products. They also offer free fresh bulk water for your containers. We highly recommend stopping in and seeing what they have!
Freshest and Tastiest Water the Area:
Matrimony Spring is the primary water source for Castle Valley. Known for years as some of the best water around. It comes out of a non-descript indent in the side of the red cliff walls along Highway 128 just a few hundred feet from Highway 191. Drink at your own risk, but we happen to love it!
If you still have questions about hiking, things to do, and places to see, we highly recommend the Moab Information Center. It is an excellent resource, run by locals that know every nook and cranny in the area. To top it off, they have clean restrooms and free wi-fi.
Lin Ottinger’s Moab Rock Shop:
We usually avoid anything remotely touristy. However, Lin Ottinger’s Moab Rock Shop is a must-see and must-do stop when in town. The rock shop started in 1960, but Lin has been digging up dinosaur bones, fossils, and minerals in Utah since the 30s. If you are lucky, you might meet Lin and hear a story or two. He started out prospecting uranium and ended up with a dinosaur named after him, the Iguanadon ottingeri, the first Iguanadon found in the United States. A renowned rock and dinosaur bone hunter, discovered three other species of dinosaur as well. Lin ran the very first tours in the area and probably started it all. We consider his rock shop a museum of sorts. Not only filled with natural history items but history from the old west such as the anvil that was used to fashion horseshoes for Butch Cassidy's horse.
Fly and Rent - Moab Area Jeep Rentals:
United Airlines runs flights into Moab direct from Denver, Colorado which would be the closest you could get to a direct flight. Your other quick option is to fly into Grand Junction and rent a car for a quick two-hour drive to Moab. It is just under a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City which has plenty of flight options so you can go that route as well. There are plenty of Jeep rental companies in town to choose from, here are our choices.
Moab Area Jeep and Off-Road Trails:
It wouldn't be a complete visit to Moab unless you hit some of the most famous trails. But we say "why limit yourself" to just the big name trails? There are hundreds to Moab area jeep trails to explore, and if you have not examined our list of guides, you can find them here.