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Moab, Utah: Base camp for epic desert adventure
A small, yet lively, resort town in Southern Utah, Moab is located between two of the United States’ Mighty Five National Parks: Arches and Canyonlands. Hikers, bikers, and white water rafters who crave a hot shower and a good dinner after their day’s adventures come here to get them, and are spoiled for choice on any budget; Moab offers everything from luxurious resort hotels with fine restaurants overlooking the Colorado River to rustic cabins and all-you-can-eat pizza joints.
Arches and canyons as far as the eye can see…
Famous for its dramatic sunrises, Arches National Park is particularly popular with early birds. Families and novice hikers also love it for its fully paved trail, which offers direct access to several of the most scenic lookouts and easy, yet stunning, hiking trails. Of its 2,000 named arches, Delicate Arch is the most famous, for its fantastical shape, while Landscape Arch is the largest on the planet. Film buffs may recognize the Double Arch from its role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and only the hardiest of hikers dare enter the Fiery Furnace: there is no established trail within its maze of twisted canyons, passages, and gorges, so a permit (or a guide) is required. Equally breath-taking, Canyonlands National Park also offers a spectacularly scenic paved drive and trails to suit all levels of ability, including a family friendly hike to one of its most famous sights, Mesa Arch, and the 100-mile White Rim Road, a bucket list destination for mountain bikers, 4WD drivers, and motorcyclists.
A river runs through it…
The Colorado and Green Rivers cut through Canyonlands National Park, forming a sparkling oasis in the otherwise sweltering sandstone desert. Upstream of the confluence, both rivers are calm, and the Fisher Towers section of the Colorado River is particularly ideal for canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and jet-boats. Thrill-seekers, however, generally prefer the much wilder waters below the Confluence, where two rivers combine to create Cataract Canyon, known world-wide for its Class IV white-water rapids. Avid stargazers may wish to camp out instead of returning to a hotel in Moab after their day on the water: Canyonlands National Park offers some of the darkest night skies in North America. Adventurous travellers can also raft down the free-flowing Yampa River directly into the heart of the Dinosaur National Monument, and then hop out to explore its fascinating array of petroglyphs and fossils. Camping is permitted here as well, but take note: Dinosaur National Monument is home to black bears, Utah’s largest predator.
A mecca for mountain bikers…
The Moab area is famous for its world-class mountain biking, as it offers a stellar array of trails outside of the national parks as well. Two of the most famous are SlickRock and Porcupine Rim. These trails are extremely challenging on a technical and physical level, thanks to constant changes in elevation over a series of rugged sandstone domes, bowls, and fins. Experienced riders generally complete SlickRock’s 10-mile loop in 3 or 4 hours, and new visitors are well advised to try out the Practice Loop before attempting it. However, there are also many less demanding trails in the area. The Bar-M Loop Trail is exceptionally beautiful as well as easy-going, and the new Intrepid trail system in Dead Horse State Park offers relatively smooth rides with spectacular views of the canyon and the great pyramid. However, whether you prefer a rough ride or laid-back cruise, be sure to carry lots of water: mid-day temperatures can top 100 degrees Fahrenheit in this part of Utah.
Turn back time…
The Moab area has a rich history that stretches all the way back to the dinosaurs. At one of the area’s newest attractions, Moab Giants Dinosaur Park, travellers can follow a half-mile trail with over 100 state-of-the-art, life-sized reconstructions of dinosaurs and their tracks, stopping along the way to dig out some dinosaur bones. The cutting-edge museum on site features interactive exhibits exploring and celebrating the area’s prehistoric past, as well as a 3D theatre and a unique 5D PaleoAquarium. The Museum of Moab in the city centre also offers a floor devoted to the region’s famous fossils and mineralogy, but guests can also explore the city’s more recent history here as well; rare, aboriginal artefacts and a turn-of-the-century model kitchen are just a few of the treasures in store. And last but certainly not least is the Film Museum at Red Cliffs Ranch, where travellers can explore memorabilia from the many famous movies shot in this stunning locale.