Moab is the gateway to many of Utah’s most beautiful National Parks and adventure activities! It is a cute rustic town, surrounded by stunning red rocks formations.
I was absolutely blown away when we arrived in Moab. It made me feel like I had stepped into a wild wild west movie! I don’t think I realised just how red the dirt would be and how many amazing rock formations would surround the small town.
Moab is a place that we could easily go back to again and again and not get bored. There is so much to do there and so many beautiful places to explore.
But, chances are, that if you are visiting Moab for the first time, you are probably there to see Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park.
If this is you, then you are in luck!
This blog post will provide you with the perfect 2 day itinerary for Moab to ensure that you get to see all of the must see spots in these 2 incredible national parks and leave feeling like you have gotten the absolute most out of your weekend.
This itinerary is for adventurers, 🎒 hikers 🚶♀️ and photographers. 📸
What You Need to know about Moab
📍 Where is Moab located
Moab is located in Utah, USA next to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. The drive from Salt Lake City to Moab is about 3.5-4 hours depending on traffic.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
How to get from Salt Lake City Airport to Moab
Salt Lake City International Airport is where we always fly into for our Utah road trips.
You can fly there from international or domestic locations.
Pick up your rental car from Salt Lake City International Airport when you land.
It will take you almost 3.5 – 4 hours to drive from Salt Lake City to Moab.
Directions from Salt Lake City International Airport to Moab
From the International Airport, you head south on N 3700 W toward 510 N, before taking the ramp onto Terminal Drive.
Then use the left 2 lanes to take the I-80 E/I-15/I-215 ramp to Salt Lake City/Ogden/Provo.
After about 3.7 miles, merge onto the I-15 S/I-80 E toward Cheyenne/Las Vegas. In another 50 miles, take the US-6 E exit toward Price. Continue on US-6 E for 128 miles and then merge onto I-70 E/US-6 E.
Finally, you will need to take the 182 exit towards Moab and merge onto US-191 S.
If you don’t have a car
If you don’t drive or have access to a car, you can get to Moab from Salt Lake City by public transport!
From Salt Lake City Airport, you can catch the SB10A 9210 Blanding UT.
This bus takes about 4.5 hours and will take you all of the way to Moab!
Alternatively, you could join a small group 3-day tour like this one which departs from Salt Lake City and takes you to Moab, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and several State Parks!
🌵 Famous Points of Interest Near Moab
📆 Best Time to Visit
We visited Moab in the Summer and we can confirm that it gets EXTREMELY HOT.
We found it very hard to get the motivation to go hiking or even go outside to do short walks to viewpoints.
The temperatures during the Summer average about 105F (40C) which is just insane! Even with the heat, Summer gets extremely busy with the school holidays being a popular time to travel.
If you do decide to visit Moab in the Summer like we did, I recommend planning all of your main outdoor activities for the early morning or late afternoon to try to beat the heat. Sunrises and sunset will be your friend.
Winter is a much less busy time of the year to visit Moab and the surrounding National Parks.
It can also be a little snowy in Moab in Winter so the parks will look completely different to how they look the rest of the year which makes for some really pretty photos!
It doesn’t usually get too cold in Moab.
The lows will hover at around 20F (-6C).
If you do decide to visit Moab in Winter, I recommend bringing along a pair of micro spikes (just in case it is icy) to stop you from slipping on the trails. We use these all of the time in Winter to hike in and they have been the best Winter purchase we have probably ever made!
Fall and Spring
Fall and Spring are the best times of the year to visit Moab. The weather is cooler but not too cold and usually sunny and beautiful.
The least busy time to visit Moab during these months, would be late Fall or early Spring, avoiding any holiday weekends.
🚗 How Many Days Should you Spend in Moab? Is 2 Days Enough?
You can do a lot in 2 days, however in my opinion, the perfect number of days to spend in Moab would be 3 or 4. This will allow you to explore more of the nearby parks, rather than just the main sights in each park.
🎫 National Parks Pass
If you are visiting Moab, you are most likely planning on visiting the national parks such as Arches National Park and Canyonlands. This means that you will need a national parks pass.
🎒 Moab Weekend Packing List
No matter when you decide to visit Moab, you will most likely be spending lots of time outside walking around and so should pack accordingly.
The days can be quite hot whilst the nights can get really cold so it’s a good idea to pack a bit of everything.
I also recommend checking the weather for the weekend you are planning to visit to help with your packing list.
- Snacks for exploring!
- Option to bring breakfast, lunch and dinner or buy when in or go out for meals in Moab. More information on food options is located in the itineraries below.
- Hiking Boots and comfy shoes – I like having a pair of both for walking around town and in the parks.
- Merino t-shirts
- Hiking Pants, shorts or leggings.
- Puffer Jacket
- Bug Spray
- Hiking Poles – If you usually hike with poles.
- Camera! There will be plenty of photography opportunities! We have a guide on camera gear here.
🛎 Where to Stay in Moab!
There are some absolutely beautiful places that you can stay at in Moab.
Some Bucketlist accommodation places are:
- Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa
- Red Cliffs Lodge
- Under Canvas Moab
- Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton
Alternatively, if you are looking to save money and be as budget as possible, you could try:
🌲 Leave No Trace
The 7 Leave No Trace principles are important to be aware of to help keep places like the Utah National and State Parks beautiful, not to mentioned the cute town of Moab!
Just because you aren’t out in nature, doesn’t mean you should let your LNT principles slide. 😉
To remind yourself of the 7 Leave No Trace principles, check out the LNT website.
The Ultimate Moab 2 Day Itinerary
We spent 2 days in Moab and it was perfect!
Now here I am passing our itinerary onto you and also adding in some extra must see spots and activities that you shouldn’t miss out on.
Day 1 – Canyonlands National Park
Day one of your trip to Moab will start with a bang!
I’m writing this itinerary with the assumption that you have arrived in Moab and checked into your hotel the night before.
Chances are you want to get the most out of your weekend in Moab and this is the best way to do it.
If this is not possible, that’s absolutely fine! You can still follow this itinerary, however the timings will just be pushed back a bit and you will miss the sunrise the first morning.
During Day 1, you will start by watching the sunrise at one of the best sunrise photo spots in Canyonlands and then spend the rest of the first half of the day seeing the sights in Canyonlands and Dead Horse State Park.
Make sure you pack enough snacks and water to last you until at least lunch time.
Canyonlands is a MASSIVE national park! In fact, it is Utah’s LARGEST national park!
This means, that with only 2 days, you won’t have time to see the entire park. Instead we will concentrate on one area Island in the Sky.
Sunrise at Mesa Arch
For your first morning in Moab, you will be driving to Mesa Arch. Grab a couple of snacks and some coffee to go and set off early in the morning in the dark.
Make sure you have your headlamp charged up and ready to go as you will be hiking in the dark.
Distance: 0.7 miles (1.1km) | Elevation Gain: 88 ft (27m) | Time: 20 – 30 minutes | Difficulty: Easy
Mesa Arch is about 50 mins – 1 hour drive from Moab. It is located in Canyonlands National Park and it is a short hike to get to the arch from the parking lot.
There is a toilet located in the parking lot.
Mesa Arch is a famous spot for photography at sunrise, so don’t expect to have it to yourself unless you visit in the Winter.
As the sun rises, it will peak through the arch and light up the canyon, making for the perfect photo opportunity!
I recommend arriving to the arch at least 45 minutes before sunrise so that you can get a spot and also enjoy blue hour and rainbow hour (the time before the sun pops over the horizon when the sky turns multicoloured).
When we visited Mesa Arch, we were not as into photography as we are now and didn’t realise that sunrise was the perfect time to see the arch so we went in the middle of the day.
I will say that Mesa Arch is still worth visiting even if you don’t make it there for sunrise.
Explore Canyonlands National Park via the Island in the Sky Scenic Drive
Once you are back at your car, it’s time to explore some of the other must-see spots in Canyonlands National Park! You won’t have time to see absolutely everything as Canyonlands is a very large park.
Stop 1 – Grand View Point Overlook
From Mesa Arch, the drive to Grand View Point Overlook via the Island in the Sky Scenic Drive will only take you 10 minutes and it is one of the must-see viewpoints in Canyonlands National Park.
It is also the usually the one viewpoint that people go to see if they only have time for one thing in Canyonlands.
You will drive past lots of other viewpoints and stopovers on the way. Ignore these for now as you will be making your way back down the scenic drive after Grand View Point Overlook.
You can choose to enjoy the views from the Grand View Point located right at the parking lot, or you can take the short trail to Grand View Point Overlook.
Distance: 1.8 miles (2.9km) | Elevation Gain: 164ft (50m) | Time: 40 minutes | Difficulty: Easy
During the short hike to the viewpoint, you will be surrounding by insane views. Follow the rock cairns (rock piles) to the viewpoint where your jaw will literally drop to the floor.
Orange Cliffs and Buck Canyon Overlook
Orange Cliffs is a quick stop on your left after you leave the Grand View Point Overlook parking lot.
Buck Canyon Overlook is a 6 minute drive further and located on your right-hand-side. This is another viewpoint with a short walk but it will only take you 2 minutes and is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Candlestick Tower Overlook
This viewpoint is really awesome! After another 5 minute drive from Buck Canyon Overlook, you will find a pull-out for Candlestick Tower Overlook on your left-hand-side.
You can see the views from your car or you can park and get out.
I do love a lazy view. 😅
You will see amazing views over Canyonlands as well as a butte formation that resembles a candlestick.
Green River Overlook
From Candlestick Tower Overlook, drive another 5 minutes, making sure you take the left-hand-turn at Green River Overlook Road.
Green River Overlook is another super short 2 minute walk to the viewpoint. There is also a public restroom here.
From the view, you will be able to see Green River and the Maze district and the White Rim Road.
Shafer Trail Viewpoint
The Shafer Trail Viewpoint is located next to the visitors centre and will take you about 12 minutes to drive from Green River Overlook.
The view is pretty impressive!
It looks down onto the Shafer Trail winding down through the canyon below. It’s worth a stop and will only take you a few minutes.
Dead Horse State Park
Your last stop before lunch and a short rest will be Dead Horse Point in Dead Horse State Park.
This is one you are not going to want to miss!
It was our favourite! 😍
Tip: Sunset is absolutely epic at Dead Horse Point so if you have some extra sunset time, don’t waste it in your hotel room!
If you feel like you are running out of time during the stops in Canyonlands, I recommend skipping Orange Cliffs and Buck Canyon Overlook and maybe Green River Overlook.
🌟 Dead Horse State Park was recognised as an International Dark Sky Park in 2016 so if you are interested in Star Gazing, you should head back there after dark on a clear night.
The view at Dead Horse Point looks over the canyons with the Colorado River weaving around between them.
It really is a sight to see!
The viewpoint is right next to the parking lot so you requires little effort to see.
Lunch in Moab
By this point and after all of these incredible views, you are probably starving!
Unfortunately, there are no restaurants nearby, so you will need to drive back to Moab for lunch if you chose not to bring a packed lunch with you.
Some great options for lunch in Moab are:
- Moab Food Truck Park – this is a fun place to visit in Moab when you are hungry. It is a collection of food trucks with different cuisines such as Red Wok Chinese Express, Hokulia Shave Ice (perfect for hot desert days!), Downtown Dawgs, Delicate Donuts, Tacos El Gordo, The Krusty Crab, and Big Don’s Pizza.
- Trailhead Public House and Eatery – delicious America pub food such as Wagyu beef, fish and chips, chicken wings and burgers and fries.
- Antica Forma – This is an amazing wood-fire pizza place where the ingredients are either imported from Italy or made in the restaurant and fresh every day.
Choose between a Post Lunch Wander and Relax or More adventure
After lunch, it’s time to enjoy Moab itself!
Or you might be already be ready for another adventure!
If you are ready for more adventure, you can see Arches National Park’s backcountry from the sky on a helicopter flight!
A helicopter flight into the backcountry is one of the BEST ways to see the incredible arch formations (you will see 7 arches), as well as Canyonlands from a totally different perspective!
If you are think that you are going to be all adventured out for the day, that’s fine too! You can have a little wander around the town.
Some places worth checking out in Moab for gifts and locally made art pieces are:
- Moab Made
- Lema’s Kokopelli Gallery
- Hogan Trading Company
End the Day with Dinner and a Cruise
Later in the evening, you can end your day with a bang with this Colorado Dinner Cruise. Is there any better way to end an epic day of adventure?
No I don’t think so!
You will be served a delicious cowboy-style Dutch oven in a dining room overlooking the water.
After dinner, you will board a cruise boat which will take you down the Colorado River.
This is not just any cruise though. There will be a sound and light show where you will hear stories about the history and culture of Moab.
If you would prefer to find somewhere to take photos for sunset, Delicate Arch is the perfect choice!
If you don’t do the dinner cruise, some great dinner spots are:
- Antica Forma – An amazing wood-fire pizza place as noted in the lunch section of this guide.
- Moab Grill – a rustic restaurant with LOADS of space serving pub food such as pizza and burgers.
- Fiesta Mexicana – Mexican restaurant with a fun colourful interior serving dishes such as Nachos, Tostadas, Fajitas and lots of vegetarian options.
Day 2 – Arches National Park
Day 2 will consist of watching the sunrise at Delicate Arch, followed by an adventure tour where you will get off the beaten path and see some of the bests sights in Arches National Park.
ℹ NEW RESERVATION SYSTEM IN 2024 During the 2024 season from April 1 to October 31st, 2024 there will be a pilot timed entry system implemented to visit Arches National Park. Reservations will be able to be booked 3 months in advance on the National Park Service site.
Sunrise at Delicate Arch
Distance: 3.2 miles (5.1km) | Elevation Gain: 629ft (192m) | Time: 1.5 hours | Difficulty: Moderate
Once again, you will need to packed some food and coffee and head over to Arches National Park.
The drive from Moab to the Delicate Arch parking lot is 30 minutes.
Getting to the arch involves a bit of a hike and does have some steep incline.
The trail is also a little confusing, especially in the dark, so make sure you have offline maps and good headlamps.
Grab coffee from Moab Coffee Roasters
After your sunrise mission, drive back to Moab and fuel up with some delicious coffee from Moab Coffee Roasters.
Then, enjoy some lunch at one of the cafes or restaurants listed in this blog post or pack a lunch to bring with you on your next activity.
Get off the Beaten Path with a 4×4 Adventure Tour
It’s time for the real fun to begin! Today you will be exploring Arches National Park by 4×4 vehicle on this half-day tour.
You will see Tower Arch, the Eye of the Whale Arch and loads more incredible formations whilst learning about the geology of the national park.
You will also see Dinosaur tracks! 🐱🐉 WHAT?! 😮
Tours start at 9am or 12pm. If you do Delicate Arch for sunrise, I recommend booking the 12pm tour to allow for enough time to get back to Moab.
If you still have energy and time after your 4×4 adventure, you could catch the sunset at one of these incredible sunset spots before or after dinner.
- Dead Horse Point, Dead Horse State Park
- Turret Arch, Arches National Park
- Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park
- Balanced Rock, Arches National Park
- Grand View Point, Canyonlands National Park
If you have 3 days in Moab or are looking to change up the itinerary a little, don’t worry, it’s not possible for you to get bored in Moab. Here are some bonus activities that you could consider adding onto your trip.
I bought this as a surprise for Dave for his birthday in April for our trip to Moab in July and he absolutely loved it!
Skydiving is a lot of fun anyway but to skydive over the incredible views in Moab is just another level of awesome!
Explore by Canyoneering
Canyoneering is a classic Utah adventure activity!
You will get to adventure through a slot canyon off the beaten path, hike, and rappel through waterfalls and natural pools.
White Water Rafting on the Colorado River
Imagine floating down the Colorado River, through the towering red rock canyons of Moab…
Add in some 2 Class Rapids fun!
You have yourself a perfect adventurous day out on this White Water Rafting Adventure!
Take a Flightseeing Tour
So you have seen just how stunning Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are from the ground.
Now imagine what they are like from a birds eye view. Pretty damn incredible!
You can take a helicopter tour to see the majestic arches from above along with Dead Horse State Park and more!
💭 My Thoughts
Moab is one of the coolest towns that I have ever visited. I was blown away by the vibrancy of the red dirt and rock formations surrounding the town and I loved the awesome laid back, small town vibe.
Next time I visit, I will definitely NOT be going during Summer as the heat was almost unbearable and made it very hard to find the motivation to get outside to explore. I think Spring or Fall would be the perfect time to visit.
If you are visiting Utah, you might also enjoy:
- Unique Places to Stay Near Capital Reef National Park
- How to Hike the Cassidy Arch Trail in Capital Reef National Park
- How to Visit the Temple of the Sun and Moon, Utah
- Cathedral Valley Loop Guide – The Best Stops and Views!
- Our Ultimate 7 Day Utah Road Trip from Salt Lake City
- Long Dong Silver Spire – One of Utah’s Hidden Gems
- How to Visit the Bentonite Hills in Utah
- 10 Amazing Things to Do in Hanksville Utah
- How to Get to Moonscape Overlook in Utah
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