The Best of Moab if You Only Have a Week
It’s no secret that Moab, Utah, nestled alongside the Colorado River between Arches and Canyonlands, is one of the best adventure hubs in the U.S. If you only have a week to spend in the area, we’ve put together an epic itinerary that will take you rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and canyoneering around this red rock playground. If you’re looking to plan the ultimate Moab adventure, here’s how to make the most of your time…
The Ultimate 7-day Moab Itinerary for Adventure-Lovers
Day 1: Arches National Park | Antica Forma
Arches National Park is no doubt Moab’s main attraction so plan to spend a day exploring the some 2,000 arches, pinnacles and colorful sandstone formations that make up this otherworldly landscape. If you want to see some of the most iconic sites within the park like Delicate Arch, it’s best to pick one and visit early in the day when crowds tend to be less. Otherwise, pack a lunch and plenty of water, and commit to a more challenging hike like the 7.4-mile Devils Garden Primitive Trail. On this rugged route you’ll pass by Landscape, Partition and Double O Arches, but also several other off-the-beaten path arches that are accessible along short side trails. It’s an adventurous hike that requires good navigation, some scrambling and passing through a pool that may contain water depending on when you go.
If you’d prefer a guided hike, try to snag a spot on the 2.5 hour ranger-led tour through the towering sandstone walls and convoluted passageways of the Fiery Furnace. Day-use permits are also available, but this is an unmarked and challenging area of the park to navigate and guides are highly recommended.
After a full day in this magical landscape, fill your belly with a legit Neapolitan wood-fired pizza from Antica Forma before settling in for the night. If you can, snag a room at the Gonzo Inn, a unique condo-style hotel with a pool in the heart of Moab that makes a great homebase.
Day 2 – 3: Westwater Canyon Rafting Trip | 98 Center
For the next two days, escape the bustle of town and set your sights on the river. You can spend anywhere from a few hours to a week or more on a Colorado River rafting trip near Moab. But for one of the best short rafting trips in Utah, don’t miss out on the 17-mile stretch of exciting Class III-IV whitewater that rumbles through the gneiss walls of Westwater Canyon about 2 hours outside of Moab. This run can be done in one long day, but plan ahead and opt for a 2-day Westwater Canyon rafting trip which gives you more time to explore the isolated canyon, including hikes to Native American petroglyphs and outlaw hideouts, as well as the chance to sleep under the stars in one of the darkest regions of the West. On this guided adventure, all meals and equipment are included, so you can go completely off the grid and into the wilderness while somebody else does all the planning.
Back in Moab, grab a well-deserved shower at your hotel before heading out for a celebratory dinner. Try 98 Center, because where else can you get an outstanding bowl of pho OR a Philly cheesesteak—the best cheesesteak west of the Mississippi, according to the OARS crew—in the same place?
Day 4: Love Muffin Cafe | Grandstaff Trail | La Sal House
For a more leisurely morning, make your way to Love Muffin Cafe where you can grab a strong coffee and choose from a variety of tasty breakfast burritos, paninis, or other healthy house-made offerings like their Shaka Bowl or Black Chia Pudding.
After breakfast, check out the grab-and-go lunch options at Moonflower Co-op’s Datura Deli for an easy on-trail lunch option. Then, head to the Grandstaff Trail just a few miles out of town along SR128. This relatively flat, 4-mile round-trip hike follows a year-round creek (be prepared for several stream crossings), and through a stunning canyon before reaching Morning Glory Natural Bridge, an impressive arch that stands 75-feet above the trail and spans 243-feet long. The Morning Glory arch is also the grand finale to the popular Ephedra’s Grotto/Medieval Chamber slot canyon route, so it’s not unusual to see climbers rappelling down from the top. Stay a while to enjoy lunch in this shaded alcove, or take advantage of the refreshing pools for an afternoon dip.
Afterward, wander through town and check out some of the quaint local shops like Back of Beyond Books, Moab Made and Crave, which offer up unique gifts and handmade items. Then, swing into the La Sal House for a specialty cocktail and tapas on their rooftop deck as the sun slinks under the horizon.
Day 5: The Magnificent 7 | Jeep Arch | Moab Brewery
Moab is known as a mountain biking Mecca, and experienced riders won’t want to miss the Magnificent 7, or “Mag 7,” which includes 45-plus miles of intermediate/advanced singletrack just outside of town in the Gemini Bridges Road area. You can link up the trails for an epic 21-mile point-to-point ride, or opt to take on various sections of the trail separately. Whichever route you choose, you’ll be treated to wavy slickrock, epic views and technical ledgy riding with big descents. Shuttles and bike rentals can be arranged with many of the local bike shops.
Less experienced riders can still hit the local trails too. Hook up with Rim Tours Mountain Bike Adventures for a ½-day guided ride on one of Moab’s classic mountain bike rides like Courthouse Loop, which offers up gentle, rolling terrain with views of Arches National Park.
In the afternoon, stretch your legs on one of the scenic hikes along Potash Road. Most people flock to the popular Corona Arch Trail along this road, but go just ¼-mile further and opt for the hike to Jeep Arch instead. It might not be as Insta-popular as Corona Arch, but the approximately 4-mile lollipop trail is hardly a runner-up. Afterward, head to Moab Brewery for pub-fare and bike-inspired brews like their Rocket Bike American Lager.
Day 6: Canyonlands National Park
You can head to Moab Garage Co. at pretty much any point in the day and be satisfied, but take advantage of their killer coffee and stroll over for a leisurely breakfast. From here, stock your cooler and hiking packs for a day in Canyonlands National Park, and don’t forget your favorite beverage for a nightcap under the stars (more on that later).
While the national park has three different districts, the Island in the Sky District just 30 miles away is the closest and most accessible region of the park from Moab. The main attraction here is Mesa Arch, and while it’s a worthy sight, don’t plan on having this picturesque arch all to yourself. Make time for the quick and easy 1-mile stroll, but don’t miss one of the more unique trails in the park to Aztec Butte. This approximately 2-mile round-trip hike, including a challenging scramble at the top, offers spectacular 360-degree views, as well as the opportunity to view several ancestral Puebloan granaries that are nestled into alcoves along the rim of the butte.
For an afternoon hike, the 1.8-mile White Rim Overlook trail delivers more spectacular views, this time of the Colorado River winding its way through the vast and layered landscape carved by time, as well as Monument Basin and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains.
As the sun begins to dip below the horizon, find a place to throw down a blanket, pop open that special beverage you threw in the cooler earlier, and enjoy the mind-boggling show this International Dark Sky park has to offer visitors once the sun sets. During the spring and fall, rangers lead stargazing and telescope viewing programs at Grand View Point.
Day 7: Chamisa Canyon | Moab Food Truck Park
By now, you’ve explored canyon country by paddle, foot, and mountain bike, so for a grand finale to this Moab adventure, grab a rope (and a guide!) and disappear into nearby Chamisa Canyon. This half-day beginner to intermediate canyoneering trip will have you wading, scrambling, swimming and rappelling through one of Moab’s scenic water-carved canyons.
If the thought of 80-foot rappel leaves you weak in the knees, opt to spend the day exploring the spire-filled Needles District of Canyonlands.
However you choose to spend the day, don’t miss the chance to check out the laid-back and affordable dinner offerings at the Moab Food Truck Park, which range from tacos to Chinese to burgers and pizza.
If you’re planning a trip to Moab, please keep in mind that it’s a highly-trafficked region and over-capacity at times. For helpful tips on how to travel responsibly in the area check out the Do it Like a Local campaign, and always remember to Leave No Trace in the areas you’re visiting.
Photos: Arches National Park – Photo by Strauss Western; Westwater Canyon rafting near Moab – Rob Aseltine; 98 Center Moab – 98 Center; Mountain biking near Moab – Photo by Tim Foster; Mesa Arch in Canyonlands – Photo by Andrey Grinkevich; Canyonlands National Park – Photo by Nate F