By Allison Hogan
Just a four-hour drive from Park City is a little treasure of a town: Moab. With a year-round population of just over 5,000, Moab is in the heart of southern Utah’s red rock country. It’s the perfect place to plant your flag and begin your adventures!
First, a little history. In the 1800’s Moab was the Colorado River crossing on the Old Spanish Trail. Its residents relied on the crossing as a means for commerce and trading opportunities. In 1883, the Denver and Western Rio Grande Railroad was built approximately 40 miles north of Moab. The advent of this new means of transport with its “northerly” route meant the trading and commerce which the settlers depended upon were no longer viable. Moab’s economy, which was based on agriculture for decades, began changing with the needs of the newly-populated west. In the 1950s, rich uranium mines were discovered, which resulted in a significant population increase and newfound economic security for the area.
Director John Ford first “discovered” Moab’s incredible and unique scenery as the perfect backdrop for his specialty, Western movies. This greatly contributed to Moab’s increased tourism presence, which began in earnest in the 1970s. Movies, publications, and word of mouth put Moab on the map for adventure-hunters everywhere. Since that time, tourism has continued to grow, becoming the town’s primary source of economic stability.
If you’re of the mind that “half the fun is getting there,” Moab is the trip for you! Unmatched scenery awaits: wide fields and farmlands gradually give way to less-familiar terrain; grass cedes to rich, dark soil that gives the environs a vibrant hue; steppes and arches appear with stone monoliths in shades of amber. Take notice of your new surroundings and remember where you were just four hours earlier.
Consider a wheel, with Moab as its center. The spokes represent the places you’ve come to check out: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, the La Sal Mountains—all within a few minutes’ drive. These areas each have unique geography and activities. Both National Parks offer these Fee-Free Days for the rest of 2014: August 25th, National Park Service Birthday; September 27th, National Public Lands Day and November 11th, Veterans’ Day. Moab has become a destination playground for cutting-edge sports. While it’s always been a great place to hike, ride horses and mountain bike, Moab is host to several high-performance events. Gemini Events Desert RATS is a 148-mile race starting in Grand Junction, Colorado. The 14th Annual Adventure Xstream Moab Adventure 30hr Finale provides thrilling multi-sport action.
Looking for thrills yourself? Try Raven’s Rim Zip Line Adventure, an adrenaline-packed, two-and-a-half hour guided tour that’ll have you zooming for miles, as high as 75 feet above the ground. Or maybe rock climbing? Take a look around, Moab’s got you covered. White-water rafting appeals to all experience levels and the beautiful Colorado River is right outside your door. There are outfitters for every adventure imaginable, with the knowledge and gear to set you up.
Moab is more than a hip destination for extreme athletes; a calmer, more meditative side also exists. Want to get off your feet for a couple of hours? Moab Trolley Tours takes you off the beaten path for a closer look at the area’s historic sites, landmarks, and movie locations. Due to its geographic diversity, Moab holds a distinction as a movie set. The area has been the shooting location of dozens of American films, from the 1939 Western classic Stagecoach to 2010 Oscar Nominee 127 Hours. Check out the Moab Museum of Film & Western Heritage for up-close-and-personal access to movie sets and memorabilia collected over nearly a century. You’ll never look at a Western movie quite the same.
A highly-anticipated annual event, the Moab Music Festival returns for its 22nd year. This season, the festival runs from August 28th – September 8th. The festival performances take on a new essence set against the red rock backdrop, with the sound acoustically enhanced by the environs. The offerings range from grotto concerts accessed by jet boats to “Musical Hikes”—what better reward at the end of a hike than a glorious symphony of sight and sound?
September 8th, the festival’slast day, begins a four-day musical rafting trip through Cataract Canyon. Professional musicians perform while your eyes feast on some of nature’s most incredible scenes. Check out moabmusicfest.org for detailed concert and venue information.
Don’t underestimate Moab’s trending restaurant scene. The area is vibrant with new establishments and cuisines, yet the downtown area maintains its small-town appeal. Thai restaurants and brew pubs sit alongside steakhouses and bakeries—loads of options for any palate and budget. Start your day with a breakfast burrito filled with locally-sourced ingredients, take a picnic lunch to one of Moab’s three city parks, and cap off the evening with a gourmet dinner of local game and fresh seafood— truly, something for everyone.
Recreationists and connoisseurs alike enjoy Castle Creek Winery, Utah’s oldest and largest producer. Located on the grounds of Red Cliffs Lodge, the winery is open for tours and tastings. Enjoy a glass—or two—of one of its nine varietals while relaxing on the Rio Grande Wine Deck, overlooking the Colorado River.
Red Cliffs Lodge is located just north of Moab, on the banks of the Colorado River. Styled as a “grand lodge,” the setting is exquisite. All guestrooms are ground-level, providing up-close sightings and easy access to the outdoors. With sitting areas, kitchenettes and private patios/decks in each room, you can easily make Red Cliffs Lodge your new home base.
Billed as “Moab’s Adventure Headquarters,” Red Cliffs Lodge offers a full slate of activities both on and off property. Instead of normal tourist activities how about an evening light show aboard a large jet boat on the Colorado? Packages are available, with such offerings as a one-hour scenic flight and a Jet Boat and 4×4 Combo.
Amid activity central, the Lodge is also a stunning, tranquil oasis. And with a pool, restaurant and winery right on the grounds, you can have a fabulous vacation without ever leaving the property!
September brings a unique experience to Moab—the 3rd Annual Red Rockin’ ATV-UTV Event, three days of trail riding like no other. Held September 25–27th and title-sponsored by Yamaha, this year’s theme is “It’s all about the ride!” The trails, the guides, EVERYTHING, will focus on enhancing the experience of some 300 ATV and UTV riders. Experienced leaders, many of whom were raised in Moab, will guide riders along the infamous red rock landscape—jaw-dropping and photo- ready! Whether you’re looking for a peaceful respite or a piece of the action, consider a visit to Moab—a world away, in just four hours.