The Best Moab Itinerary for 1-5 days

Moab is jam-packed with adventure, magnificent scenery, and is a great base for exploring Arches and Canyonland National Parks. Moab has so much more to offer and in this itinerary, we’ll give you the best things to see inside and outside the national parks as well as ideas on how to beat the crowds in Moab. We’ll give you Moab itinerary ideas that you can easily customize a trip if you have 1-5 days or more. This is also a great addition to a larger Utah National Parks road trip if Moab is only one stop in a bigger trip. Utah is such an amazing place that packs in so much to see and we’ll help you plan it.

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The highlights of the best Moab Itineraries

If you have 1 Day in Moab

Spend a half-day in Arches and a half-day in Canyonlands and end the day stargazing at Dead Horse State Park.

If you have 2 Days in Moab

Spend one day in Arches and the second day spend the morning hiking Grandstaff trail and the afternoon in Canyonlands ending with stargazing in Dead Horse State Park either night.

If you have 3 Days in Moab

Spend two days in Arches (do Devil’s Garden Trail one day) and catch sunset at Delicate Arch, on the third day spend the morning hiking Grandstaff trail and the afternoon in Canyonlands ending with stargazing in Dead Horse State Park.

If you have 4 Days in Moab

Spend two days in Arches, on the third day spend the morning hiking Grandstaff trail and the afternoon in Canyonlands ending with stargazing in Dead Horse State Park. On the fourth day drive the Scenic Byway 128 and raft the Colorado River.

If you have 5 Days in Moab

Spend two days in Arches, on the third day spend the morning hiking Grandstaff trail and the afternoon in Canyonlands ending with stargazing in Dead Horse State Park. On the fourth day drive the Scenic Byway 128 and raft the Colorado River (if in season). On day five hike Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail and catch a Viator tour.

Everything you’ll need to create the best Moab itinerary

Arches National Park

Arches is located just 5 miles (8 km) north of Moab. The park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches at over 2,000 in the park. You can find all the most current information on entrance fees, directions, and weather in the park here. Because this is one of the most popular national parks where overcrowding is a daily concern, it takes some pre-planning to ensure a great visit.

Tips for Visiting Arches

  • Start early or go late. Many parking lots are currently filling before 7:30am (yes you read that correctly!) so go early or after 5pm. If you absolutely need to see the park that day due to travel needs I recommend going very early to ensure you make it in. The park is open 24 hours a day unless it closes daily due to crowds.
  • It’s been a daily occurence that the park has to temporarily restrict access until congestion lessens. If this happens, the closure can last 3-5 hours.
  • Use the bathroom prior to getting in line to enter the park, and have snacks and water on hand. The line to enter can have a long wait time. Ensure you have a full tank of gas, as there are no opportunities to get gas inside the park.
  • Check the current conditions page on NPS , the Twitter account for the park and traffic webcams before you leave as they will post traffic updates or closures due to crowd levels. 
  • You can also find Arches National Park in Google Maps then scroll up to view live and historical most popular times/days as well as wait times.
  • Have a back-up plan! If there are closures know where you’ll go next to maximize seeing the most on your trip. Check out our other recommendations on what to see outside the parks and make sure to go there right away as everyone else will be doing the same.
  • Bring patience and know that park staff are doing everything they can to allow visitors to see the park while also protecting our parklands.
  • Cell coverage in Arches is spotty. Download maps, apps, and information in advance. Service varies between carriers. Signals are strongest wherever the La Sal Mountains are visible.

Best way to see the park

If you don’t have the time or ability to hike, don’t worry. You can still see many famous arches and rock formations from the scenic drive. Also, many of the best sights are accessible with a short walk from the main road that runs through the park.

If you have a ½ day in Arches

Drive the scenic park road (36-mile round trip), spend 10 minutes at each viewpoint, and take a short walk at the Windows Section, Delicate Arch viewpoint, or Balanced Rock.

If you have 1 day in Arches

Do the half-day items above and add hiking the Windows loop trail. Hike between parking areas to Double Arch. Drive back to Balanced Rock and walk the trail around its base. If you have time adding in the short or medium-length trails at Devils Garden (covered below) could be possible.

If you have 2 days or more

Do the 1-day items and then add on the longer Devil’s Garden Trail.

Devil’s Garden Trail is one of the longest trails in Arches. There are three route options, depending on what you’re looking for, with the longest option where you’ll see a total of eight different arches. Only the last two and a half miles are moderate, the beginning section is easy and flat. Eventually, the trail has a 1,000-foot elevation gain and also has stretches of rock climbing.

Short Devil’s Garden Option

1.6 miles roundtrip: hike out to Landscape Arch, then hit Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch on the way back. Very easy and scenic hike for doing with kids or those not looking for a strenuous hike.

Medium Devil’s Garden Option

~2.7 miles roundtrip: Hike out past Landscape Arch, do the offshoot to Navajo Arch and Partition Arch. After visiting Landscape Arch, the trail gets more adventurous.

Longest (And Best) Devil’s Garden Option

7.2 Miles roundtrip: You can see up to eight arches, including Double O, and return on the primitive trail. Dark Angel wasn’t that impressive and could be skipped. The area is fairly exposed with almost no shade in some parts so bring sun protection and lots of water. You can choose a slightly shorter, more easily accessed 6.5 miles out and back and see six arches.

Delicate Arch

This is a great one to go to first for sunrise or last for sunset as it is the most popular spot in Arches. This 80-foot arch towers over onlookers and is a great one to add to your Moab Itinerary. It’s a 3-mile round trip hike to the freestanding arch and is considered strenuous and is usually busy. It starts out with a steep climb along a well-defined wide path. Follow cairns (rock formations used as trail markers) along the next section of slick rock which eventually leads to a narrow rock ledge.

Fiery Furnace is typically a ranger-led experience, but in 2021 due to Covid, it’s been a self-guided exploration permit. You get the permit through Recreation.gov. You can learn more about this hike here. Due to the challenging nature of this trail, children under the age of 5 are not allowed and all children under the age of 12 require an adult companion.

Fiery Furnace

Sunset hikes and Stargazing in Arches National Park

Saving Delicate Arch for sunrise or sunset is another option if you’ve already done a sunset in Dead Horse State Park (not to miss!) It’s a three-mile hike (round trip) so plan your timing for sunset and bring a headlamp for the hike back. Also, try stargazing at Panorama Point or The Windows.

Pro-Tip

Download the GyPSy audio guide tour before your Moab adventure begins. This app provides stories about the park, the history and geology behind what you’re seeing, the best hikes, wildlife spotting, and cultural highlights. Remember to download the app before you’re inside the park as it will start on your way in and cell service can be spotty. There is a bundle for Arches and Canyonlands as well.

Canyonlands National Park

This park preserves vast canyons of flat layers of sedimentary rock that make for incredible landscapes. Canyonlands is divided into four main districts by the massive canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. There are no roads that directly link the districts and traveling between them requires two to six hours by car as there are few places to cross the rivers. The easiest way to see the park is to visit to the Island in the Sky section, which is only 32 miles (51.5 km) from Moab. 

If you have a ½ day in Canyonlands

Drive the paved scenic drive and hike to see Mesa Arch at sunrise or the Upheaval Dome Trails. Head all the way to the end of Grand View road and do a short walk to the viewpoint. Drive the White Rim Trail loop which provides expansive views of the park.

If you have a full-day or more in Canyonlands

You can drive the paved scenic drive and do the trails in the ½ day and then hike some of the longer trails in the park, such as the 5 mile (8 km) round trip Neck Spring Trail. Those with high clearance/4WD vehicles can drive down the Shafer Trail to the White Rim and explore Musselman Arch, or drive all the way down to the Colorado River via Lathrop Canyon. Note, that a day-use permit is required.

Viator Tours

Because the Canyonlands park is so spread out, consider doing a 4×4 Tour to access more of the park in a shorter amount of time. Viator has a lot of great options, but book ahead if possible as they can sell out. Check them out here.

Ways to avoid crowds in Moab

-Go early or late in the day
-Visit in the offseason Nov-March
-Use google maps to check real-time crowd levels for a location. You can put in the day/time you’re looking at to see historical crowd levels and which days/times have fewer crowds.
-Start at the most popular sight/hike and head in the opposite direction of the crowds
-Sightsee outside of the national parks during peak 10am-3pm time periods

Other Things to do in Moab outside of the National Parks

Grandstaff Trailhead

This was our kids’ favorite hike in Moab! It’s a 4-mile round trip (6.44 km) hike that includes 12 stream crossings to Morning Glory Natural Bridge, a 243-foot long rock span. Prepare for your feet to get wet so wearing closed-toe water hiking sandals like Keens is best. This is a great one if you’re looking to beat the heat of Moab as the stream provides a way to frequently cool off. The parking lot is small so getting there early helps, but there also seems to be space around lunchtime. Beware: there is quite a bit of poison ivy present along the trail.

Dead Horse State Park

Catching the sunset in Dead Horse State Park is one not to miss. It will be on the way back from Canyonlands to Moab and will cost you a well-worth-it $20 state park fee. You’ll get to experience the full beauty of the canyon as the sun hits the panorama of varied red and orange cliffs. This park is designated an International Dark Sky Park and is amazing for stargazing so I recommend getting in an evening hike, watch the sunset at the top, and stay for stargazing. 

Scenic Byway Utah State Route 128

If you don’t hit this one on the way in or out of Moab then leave an evening during your trip and pack a dinner and head out about 2 hours before sunset. The golden sun shining down on the canyons is one not to miss. Route 128 is a 44-mile-long (71.7 km) state highway north of Moab. The entire length of the highway has been designated the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway. This route along the Colorado River gorge begins at the Colorado River Bridge on the north end of Moab. It’s better to be a passenger as the scenery is so impressive, you’ll see the sixth-longest natural rock span in the US, world-famous movie set locations, beautiful picnic and bouldering areas. Drive for as long as you’d like before turning around but don’t miss Fisher Towers and there’s a variety of hiking trails and great spots to watch the sunset. Red Canyon on Scenic 128

Rafting the Colorado River

White water rafting is a top activity in Moab and for good reason. You’ll enjoy panoramic views as you wind along the mighty Colorado River. Get Your Guide has half-day guided rafting trips that are so much fun.

Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail

This is a 2.4 mile out and back trail. It features a river and is rated as moderate. There is a small section of the trail that includes safety cables due to it being exposed, but most people will be able to pass this section without difficulty. Pinto Arch can also be added and is located off of the Corona Arch trail at the half-mile point to Corona Arch. If you try to catch a sunset here make sure to bring a flashlight or make it back before dark as the trail markers can be difficult to see at dusk.

Dinosaur Tracks Trail at Moab Giants Dinosaur Park 

This is a good stop if Arches closes due to crowds and you need to find some quick fun for the kids because it’s only 7 miles away. This is where you can dig for fossils, experience life-size dinosaurs, and enjoy the prehistoric aquarium and interactive museum. There is also a dinosaur playground, trail, and more. The exhibits include both indoor and outdoor experiences. More info here. 

Adventure Activities in Moab 

Moab is known for it’s world-class mountain biking, four-wheeling, rafting, climbing, and backcountry hiking, and all-out adventure. There are more than 3,000 miles of motorized routes and trails for 4WD, OHV, and dirt bikers. There are great tour options to add to your Moab itinerary that can allow you to see more of the off-road, untouched areas. Viator has a lot of great tour options but book ahead if possible as they can sell out. Check them out here.

What to know to plan the best Moab Trip

When to go

Moab is a great year-round however, spring and fall tend to be the best months to visit Moab. Spring (March – May) and Fall (September – October) are cooler in temperature and usually not as crowded as the summer months. The summer months (June-Aug) in Moab can reach temperatures 90-100+ degrees Fahrenheit (32-37 degrees Celsius). January has the coldest nighttime temperatures for Moab with an average of 20.3°F. This is warmer than most places in Utah if you’re considering a winter trip. Moab is one of the least snowy places in Utah and gets less than 9” of snow in a year.

How to get there

Moab can be difficult to get to. The closest major airport to Moab is located in Salt Lake City, UT (236 miles from Moab/4 hour drive). Or there is the Walker Field Airport, located in Grand Junction Colorado (110 miles from Moab/1 hr 45 min drive), which provides the closest option for most airlines. If you’re renting a vehicle consider if you’ll need four-wheel drive. If you’re just doing the main national parks, you will not need it but if you’re considering any off-road areas you likely will, or as an alternate consider there’s a lot of tour options that will bring you in their 4×4 vehicles. 

When we went we visited as a part of a larger Utah road trip and we drove from Estes Park, CO (6hr 50min) after having done Rocky Mountain National Park. If driving from Estes Park, Denver or Grand Junction in Colorado the drive on I-70 to Moab is very scenic, although the steep inclines demand you have good breaks. As you get about 1hr 15min from Moab make sure to look for exit 214 to Cisco and then take the Scenic Byway State Route U-128 to Moab as Google Maps will often direct you to 191, but it’s an easy way to get in this very scenic drive on your way into Moab assuming it’s not dark. Note: 191 is also very scenic if you’ve already seen 128.

Where to stay

There are many accommodation options in Moab, but it’s good to know there is no food, lodging, or gas in either Arches or Canyonlands National Parks.

We love staying in a VRBO in Moab as it’s nice to adventure all day and come back to extra space to relax and many rentals in this location have pools. 

This is a really unique vacation rental with rock walls, bunk beds, and fire poles that kids and adults alike are sure to love. We love unique stays and this is a great one in Downtown Moab and 15 min to Arches. Otherwise, there are great hotel options in Moab as well.

Camping near Moab

There are a lot of options for camping in and around Moab. Check out these options.

Learn More about BLM Campgrounds in Moab

Devils Garden Camping

This is the only campground in Arches National Park and is 18 miles north of the Arches park entrance and 23 miles from Moab. This is very popular camping location that is ideal to book as far in advance as possible or check frequently for cancelations. Staying here, you’ll be able to walk to the trailhead for the best hike in Arches, and you’ll be closer to places like Delicate Arch and the Windows. Reservations are made on Recreation.gov and campsites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance for stays March 1-October 31, Nov-Feb sites are first-come-first-served. 

Under Canvas in Moab

Located 7 miles north of Moab near both national parks. Under Canvas is a unique glamping experience that you will not forget. These are luxury tents under the stars and some even include a stargazer window, which means you’ll be able to see the incredible stars in the night sky from your bed. Check here.

Moab Valley RV Resort and Campground

Budget-friendly and on the north side of Moab near Arches National Park.

What to pack

The weather in the desert can fluctuate greatly so always dress accordingly, pack extra layers, and bring at least 1L of water. There is not a lot of shade in Moab or the national parks in this area so packing hats, sun protection and water are essential. These other posts might be helpful when packing for a hiking trip in Moab.

The best women’s hiking shirts for sun protection

The Ultimate Hiking Gear for Kids Guide

Top 5 Best Men’s Hiking Pants

A note about the environment

Biological soil crusts are essential to holding desert ecosystems together. After being damaged, it can take decades for the soil to recover. Please help protect the public lands by staying on trails or walking on hard surfaces and within dry washes.

Please also practice leave no trace principles. 

These national parks in Southeast Utah saw over 1.8 million people go through their gates in 2020. That large number of people can have a substantial impact on the environment. No matter your experience in the outdoors, we all play a role in protecting and preserving our public lands. The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace are helpful to remember to minimize your impact in and around the national parks.

Tribal Lands Acknowledgement

Many tribes settled into this environment, the Colorado Plateau. It is the Ute, Paiute, Navajo, and Hopi tribes whose relationships to this land have been shared through written and oral histories. Please remember that many people consider these sites sacred and respect the land. Also, rock art sites on federal lands are nationally protected areas.

Lastly, we hope these Moab itinerary ideas help you plan the best trip. Moab has so much to offer the problem is finding enough days to pack it all in.

The Best Moab Itinerary for 1-5 days
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3 Comments

  1. Josy A

    Beeeeautiful! I feel like I could spend months hiking in the incredible scenery around Moab. It is just so cool to see all those rock formations and the contrast between the blue skies and the orange rocks!

  2. Faith

    I used to live in Durango, Colorado and would love heading to Moab for a weekend. I agree that the shoulder season is best. I personally loved to camp and backpack in the area in January. Cold nights, yes. But you would practically have the place to yourself. Sounds like it is much busier right now.

  3. Kitti

    What a stunning area, I love these rock formations. I would love to spend at least 5 days there to be able to explore it properly but I think I could easily spend even longer. I really hope that I can book a trip over there in the near future.

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