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48 Hours in Moab, Utah

Here's how to spend a perfect fall weekend in this scenic oasis.

Moab proves the old adage: location, location, location. Less than an hour’s drive from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dead Horse Point State Park, and the Green and Colorado rivers, this modest city of 5,000 draws an estimated 1 million visitors every year to its towering arches and canyons. For the outdoor enthusiast, this stretch of desert is like a giant, open-air amusement park, offering miles upon miles of mountain biking, hiking, four-wheel driving and rafting. So book a rental car and stock up on energy bars—here’s how to get the most out of a weekend in Moab.

Day 1

Get your heart and your day started at the excellent Moab Coffee Roasters, then pick up any trail maps you’ll need at the Moab Information Center next door. While you’re there, ask the staff about weather and road updates that might impact your plans. Then lace up your walking shoes and head to Arches National Park as early as possible to beat the heat and crowds. The popular three-mile Delicate Arch trail takes you to Utah’s most famous rock arch, a 65-foot freestanding curve that’s featured on the state’s license plates. If you’d prefer a trail less trodden, sign up in advance for the three-hour ranger-led hike through Fiery Furnace. This maze of narrow sandstone passages has no paths or signs; the challenging terrain and permit-only access means you’re unlikely to encounter tourists wielding selfie sticks.

Make a quick lunch stop at the healthy, vegetarian-friendly Eklecticafe before heading to Sand Flats Recreation Area to explore more amazing rock formations. Here, Moab Cliffs and Canyons runs half-day canyoneering trips into an enclosed stone cavern called Ephedra’s Grotto. To reach it you’ll have to do two huge rappels; the second drop descends 125-feet alongside Morning Glory, one of the largest natural rock bridges in the world. Afterwards, pull up a bar stool at Moab Brewery, where kayaks and mountain bikes dangle from the ceiling and many of the beers are named after local spots. Don’t be too tempted by the gelato bar on the way out; instead, save your appetite for the fresh fish that’s flown in from Hawaii and delivered straight to the kitchen at Sabaku Sushi.

Day 2

You’ve got a full day of activity ahead so get a good breakfast at Jailhouse Cafe, named because the diminutive pink building once served as the county courthouse. Once you’re nourished, it’s time to experience some of the world-class mountain biking that Moab is famous for. Rent a two-wheeler from the Moab Tourism Center and make for Moab Brands. This network of trails is roughly eight miles from downtown, and has plenty of routes suitable for riders of all levels. The seven-mile Bar M loop is a good starting point for first-timers, whereas serious handlers can tackle the double-black-diamond rated Killer B trail. 

Keep your GoPro handy for an afternoon on the water. Adrift Adventures offers multiple ways to float down the nearby Colorado River, whether you want to raft through rapids, kayak on calm water, paddle an SUP or sit tight on a jet-boat. Around sunset, take a leisurely drive along the Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway. Along with a seriously photogenic landscape, the road has a number of noteworthy historical features including pre-Columbian rock art. Make sure you’re back in time for your dinner reservation at the upscale Desert Bistro. After all that exertion, you’ve earned yourself a cocktail or two on the patio.

Where to stay

Cali Cochitta 
This restored Victorian B&B offers several charming rooms in the main house as well as two private cottages. They’ll even pack your breakfast to-go if you’re making an early start. 

Moab Under Canvas 
Make s’mores while you stargaze at this glampsite 15 minutes outside of town. The luxe tents are equipped with all the comforts of a hotel, and some boast views of Arches National Park.