Moab Trip Planner
This thread is designed to assist the uninitiated in planning a trip to the mecca that is Moab, as well as provide the experienced with a variety of new and different views on old favorites. There is a similar thread over on the Arizona forum that has proven very useful.
Some ground "rules":
-Keep it productive and on-topic. Respectful disagreement only, please.
-Try to word your description for someone who has never been, ever. This is not as easy as it would seem.
-Strive for brevity.
-Beta on trails, link-ups, bike shops, restaurants, camping, etc. Title posts appropriately.
-Demonstrative pictures welcome.
You've found Moab on a map, and you want to go there. You have time off work and permission from the SO. That's the hard part.
Moab lives in a valley running north and south, with the Colorado River bookending things to the north. The valley was created by a fault, the most clear example of which can be seen driving by the entrance to Arches NP. The faulting, the river, and the mountains to the east create an amazing variety of riding, why you're going in the first place.
Moab was settled by Mormons back in the day, though natives were there long, long before. Many examples of rock art, from the pedestrian to the hidden, surround the town. After WWII, once the Cold War began, the US Government had an obvious interest in stockpiling Uranium, and Moab was the center of this monopolistic boom. The vast majority of the roads in the greater Moab area, including many classic rides, were created by the industry of the Uranium prospectors. Some struck it big, and for a brief period in the 50's Moab had more millionares per capita than any other town in the US. Once the government had a 300 year stockpile of Uranium, their subsidies were lifted and the boom collapsed. Moab slumbered until jeepers, bikers (motorized and non), rafters and tourists "discovered" the area in the early 90's. Growth came for good, and new hotels keep sprouting.
The valley works to your benefit as a visitor, because most everything is on Main Street (aka Highway 191) which runs through the middle of town. Center Street is the main east/west street, and on this intersection is the Moab Information Center, a good place to park, use the bathroom (open buisness hours), and walk around investigating and gathering supplies. The Mormons have a brilliant system for laying out roads, and numbers grid using the cardinal directions. So, 200N 300E is two blocks north and three blocks east of Center and Main. There are some idiosyncracies and exceptions in Moab, but for the most part the system makes navigation easy for the newcomer.
Weather and Seasons
A general guide. As always, don't trust the weather.
Spring (March-May): Begins the influx of spring breakers and Coloradans escaping the snow. Lots of people, earlier every year. Hotels charge full rates again, restaurants reopen. Early March evenings can be cold, and snow is town is a distant possibility. Overall day temps are very nice, staying in the 60s (typically!) during March, getting into the 90s by late May. In any season in the desert, direct radiation makes a huge difference. Full sun and wind protection can raise the temps 20 degrees, and of course the opposite is also true. Beware. Jeep Safari is the week before Easter, and is hell-on-earth crowded.
Summer (June-September): HOT! It's a desert, and by mid-July 100+ is not uncommon. If you must, go and ride early, then late. Bring tons of water. Alternately, get up early and shuttle up into the mountains, and enjoy singletrack at 10,000'. By mid-September things get a little more reasonable.
Fall (October-November): Fall break, shoulder season, Cottonwoods and aspens changing, fall in Utah is very nice. October also has the most unstable weather of any month, with a week of sun alternating with a week of overcast, periodic rain. Sun is nice, but rain seldom lasts all day, and it packs down the sand. Post 24 Hours, things begin to settle down and get cold.
Winter (December-February): My fav. Cheap hotels, empty trails, and always an open pool table at the brewery. It usually doesn't snow in earnest until after Christmas, so warm gloves and a tolerance for shorter days can reward a T-day trip. By the new year evening temps well into the teens are the norm, so camping is for the dedicated.
Bike shops in Moab tend to be good. The usual foibles apply across the board, but they're more likely than most to have a selection of 2.5" tires and new hydro hoses. All have a better-than-average rental fleet. That's all I'm sayin'.
All should have the Lat 40 "Classic" Moab Trail map, which I think every visitor should buy first thing.
Most anything in Moab can and has been ridden on anything, up to and including unicycles. That said, the average rider will want dual suspenion with a fair amount of travel, and large volume tires. 2.5 Nevegals for the more aggressive, 2.4 Mutanoraptors for the more XC inclined (for example). The many rocks and ledges also tend to make pinch-flats somewhat profligate.
Yes. Lots, some good, some not. Below are my favorites. At 7pm on a Saturday during the season, everywhere will have a horrendous line.
Coffee: Mondo's, in the mini-mall thing just south of the Info center.
Moab Brewery: Nice sit down food. Burgers, good salads. South of Center on the west side of Main.
La Hacienda: So-so Mexican. On Main near the north end of town.
Moab Diner: Best breakfast, any time of day. On Main, just south of the main concentration around Center.
For hotel/motel I like the Red Stone Inn. A little south of the main action, but cheap, nice, with microwaves, a hot tub, and outdoor bike stand with hose.
Decent cheap camping can be found down Potash Rd (north and then west of town), or out River Rd (aka 128) north and east of town. The sites at the base of Porcupine Rim (~4 miles east on 128) are nice and only $5, but go fast.
North of town, 100 yards down 128, is pipe coming out of the rock on the south side of the road. Matrimony Springs. I've always drank it straight, and filled up a jug there 3 days before I got hitched on the spur of the moment, so in my experience it works. If you're road tripping with your boy/girlfirend, you've been warned.
South of City Market, Gearheads Outdoor store offers unlimited free filtered water during store hours (usually until 9pm during the season).
And last, DRINK LOTS. One 100 oz bladder is not enough. Dehydration kills.
Last edited by ionsmuse; 04-20-2007 at 10:33 AM.
One of the great neo-classics of Moab, for me a must-do for any visitor. It combines a good slice of Moab slickrock and ledges with a singletrack vibe with which most visitors will be familiar. As always, I recommend the Lat 40 Classics trail map, though a smaller and cheap guide is available for just this trail. Below is a description for getting to the trailhead, and riding the trail if you don't have a map.
Driving north from town, you'll pass 313 going to Canyonlands NP. About a 1/2 mile north of this and on the east is the Willow Springs Road. This dirt road used to be the entrance to Arches Nation Monument, familiar to any who have read Desert Solitaire. Drive down the road, cross the wash (usually doable with any car) and continue until you see the pumphouse (a small tan shed). On the right will be a large dirt parking area. Park and gear up, then ride up the road and take the first left. This leads up a two-track, into a wash, and eventuall becomes the signed Sovereign singletrack. The full trail goes north for over 20 miles, if you don't have a map ride as far as you like, then return the way you came. It only gets better the further you ride.
Non Bike Activity
For those that might be looking to take some time off from biking, be sure to go up to Arches National Park and do the short hike out to Landscape Arch. Absolutely amazing and certainly possible that it may not remain an arch for many more generations to see(300 foot span and as little as 6 feet thick in spots since the large slab broke off; 1995 I think it was).
Just got back from my first trip to Moab (during Jeep Safari Week, 2007) and was only there for 5 days so didn't get to experience too many trails but Amasa Back was fun and if you do the little extra hike at the end of Klondike Bluffs, there are some amazing views.
Also may want to check out Pasta Jays and Zax Pizza makes a pretty good pizza. Plenty of good places to eat though.
Small and Friendly
Check out www.moabworld.com for a Moab website created by locals. Listings of all the shops, plus a forum for moab-related questions.
MAPS and BOOKS:
Latitude 40 makes a great Moab map:
And our friends at Utah Mountain Biking have a great selection of guidebooks:
Bump... sticky please! Add your helpful Moab info.
Gemini-Gold Bar/Spike-BlueDot-Poison Spider
(Gonna keep trying here, [SIZE="6"]sticky please![/SIZE])
One of the classic big rides in Moab is the Gemini-Gold Spike/Bar-Poison Spider loop. This is a big, commiting loop with quite a bit of hard climbing, technical ledges and slickrock, and quite often sand. Route finding can be somewhat tricky for those not familiar with slickrock, and the whole route also offers very little shade anywhere. Bring lots and lots of water.
My favorite season for this ride is winter; fewer jeeps and motorcycles keep things quiet, you can enjoy the sun, and cold nights keep the sand as rideable as possible. Summer is not recommended.
Fit riders going at a reasonable pace can probably expect to take between 4-6 hours for this loop.
To begin, drive north out of town about 9 miles to the Gemini bridges parking area on the right (west), which is well signed. (Alternately ride from town out the bike path and up the old road on the east side of the highway.) Park, gear up, and ride up the dirt road. You'll have a moderate climb with a few steep section up into the broad valley. Enjoy a few miles of moderate cruising. Right before the steep cut up the hill to the right, the signed road for Gold Bar/Spike breaks off to the left. Follow this road. You'll ride sand and ledges for a while until another big intersection (go left) begins the technical climbing in earnest. It's only a few miles to the rim, but it feels like a lot more. Follow the painted markers on the slickrock and the abundant scrapes, tire marks, and oil stains.
Top out and enjoy the amazing view. The rim trail begins traversing 50 yards back below the lookout, and for the next few miles weaves up and down from the rim and back again. Steep descending and ascending alternates with ledges, cracks, and other technical challenges. Keep an eye out for paint stencils, the ride anywhere nature of slickrock lets you get off route easily.
Eventually you will be faced with a choice. The jeep road (painted spikes you've been following) goes down off the rim for good, and right as it does a singletrack marked with blue dots heads off the left. I like the singletrack.
It's only a mile to the juncture with Poison Spider, but following the theme its a long mile. Short, very technical problems abound, along with one section of rather acute exposure. Don't be a hero, getting evaced from up here would really suck, as would falling 500' to your death. Eventually the challenges will ease a bit, and soon you'll pop out on the Poison Spider loop. Consult your map, but I'd suggest turning left up the hill. You'll top out, and soon descend down to the juncture with the Portal trail. You could descend here, or continue away from the rim on the Poison Spider jeep road. You'll descend a steep hill, then turn left sharply and climb back up onto slickrock. From here, follow the painted-on Spider markers over slickrock domes. Eventually you'll end up following sandy roads between rocky sections. These are not so well marked, but most will end up in the same place so don't stress. Rideability varies quite a lot here.
Eventually you'll find a series of steep slickrock steps, polished black with tires, leading up to a good road on a bench. For a mile this road is the smoothest thing you've ridden in a few hours. It becomes progressively more corrogated before dropping off the mesa top. Sandy sections alternate with technical slickrock drops until the last few miles, primarily sand and dirt meandering down the cliffs to the parking lot and Potash road. Now you'll either pull the beer out of the cooler you wisely stashed in your shuttle vehicle, or hop on the pavement and ride the miles back into town.
White Rim in a Day
Not as hard as you think. 100 miles, more or less, if done as a complete loop including the pavement. Doing it in a day engendered feelings of moral superiority, allows more riding on your vacation, and is simpler and cheaper than buying a tour or doing your own.
First, find a map like the one below. Then decide what direction you'll go. I recommend clockwise. The Shafer descent is easier to go down, the Mineral climb easier to go up. Also, you'll likely be hiting river access around Hardscrabble in the early afternoon, and can refill on water if necessary. The whole loop has a good bit of rocks, sections of sand, and ~6k of climbing. Aside from Shafer and Mineral, Murphy's Hogback and Hardscrabble provide short but steep climbs. Save some juice.
A hardtail or short-travel full suspension is recommended, fast but fat tires help with the sand. 29" wheels are ideal.
I don't like doing this ride after the beginning of April; on average it's too hot. Take a cool day in March, haul two full bladders and some bottles, and bring pills or a filter to refill at the river. Plenty of food too. 10-12 hours for the loop is a pretty good time, its a good idea to start with a light and ride the easy pavement in the dark, thus giving you plenty of time to finish before dark.
As always, be cautious. You can hike out at numerous points, but the difficulties of doing so are best left undiscovered. Also, if you go into the park after 0700, or leave it in the afternoon, have a parks pass or money to pay your fee.
I fine, long shuttle route ~80 miles from near The Needles district of Canyonlands NP to Moab. Easy dirt cruising, some technical descending and tough climbing, and lots in between.
Find the Needles on your map. You'll see the Lockhart Basin road crossing Indian Creek as it heads north. Driving down from Moab takes a bit over an hour. Drop the shuttle at the end of the pavement and head north. The first hour or so is fast and fun. Once you get to the northern end of Lockhart Basin itself the road deteriorates in a long gradual climb to the left. Progress will now slow dramatically, as you round the point ahead with many trips in and out and up and down out of washes. Short and rocky descents and climbs abound. As you round the point, enjoy the views to the west. The descent down towards the river provides the most technical riding of the day, and is the main reason why going south to north is recommended. If you want a sag for the route, it'll need serious clearance and a good driver to make this section. Not recommended.
The road along the river can be sandy, and provides a short detour to get river water, which might necessitate a nasty bushwack in the Tamarisk. I recall the climb up to Hurrah Pass as tough and gravelly, but the descent to Kane Creek is fast and fun. Enjoy several creek crossings and one more grunt of a climb await before pavement is reached.
Another long ride, a sort of baby White Rim. Bring plenty of water and food, eat and drink, and avoid the heat to make life easier.
Wonderful posts. I'm planning a Moab trip next March and your info is giving me some good ideas. Do any of the camping areas have showers/laundry facilities? Still debating over to bring our bikes (hardtails) down on the plane from Alaska or just renting a couple of FS bikes there. Do the bike shops rent racks to haul your bikes around with a rental car?
When we camped in Moab we would go to Poison Spider bike shop and they have a shower where you put in some money and we would get washed off there.
Do any of the camping areas have showers/laundry facilities?
Thanks for the shower info. Good to clean body every so often. Is Jeep week to be avoided at all costs? We'd probably be looking at later March for our trip. Should be good temps for Alaskans seeking sun.
Last edited by AleutianMTB; 04-25-2007 at 05:58 PM.
Slow and steady
Generally the biggest problems are waiting for a table at the restaurants and finding lodging, aside from that, Jeep week is a fine time to MTB in Moab. The bike-only trails will have fewer people and it is always fun to watch a Jeep or two get stuck or roll over on the motorized trails . Typically Jeepers are friendly and will usually yield to MTBers. I find that on most technical trails, MTB are faster both up and down than Jeeps. It is a good idea to avoid the sandier/dustier dual-use trails such as Poison Spider due to the chance of getting a lot of dust kicked up on you.
Originally Posted by AleutianMTB
It's a 6" 29er, 69 HTA, 29" standover, setup for 31.6 Joplin, 83mm BB, blah blah blah. A bike for being stupid. --Walt Wehner
Camping and Jeep Week
Agreed that the biggest problem with Jeep Week is mostly the overcrowding in town. The Jeepers DO tend to be pretty fun folks, and it is fun to watch them on tricky sections. They often have beer. Most of the Moab bike trails are on established 4x or Moto trails, so you will occasionally encounter traffic anyway.
ACTIVITIES: Moabworld has a good list of links to other activities like rafting and kayaking:
Tons of camping in and around Moab, ranging from in-town facilities like RV hook-ups, bathrooms, showers and cabins to hike-in beauties just outside of town. My favorites are Sand Flats in the cold months, because you get early and late sunshine, and Kane Creek Road in the summer for the opposite reasons. The camping in Kane Creek, along the river and in Moonflower Cyn is really nice. Pit toilets only.
Poison Spider and Moab Cyclery both have showers for a small fee.
Some camping links:
I've been there the same week as Jeep week and it wasn't too bad. These are mostly hard core jeepers that have respect for others and follow the rules. It's also fun to watch these guys when you need a rest from the biking. Traffic is a little worse and it's more crowded as was already mentioned.
Another long, scenic XC ride
Another good 36 miler is the Jug Handle Loop. Great views of the Colorado and unreal terrain, joins up with the White Rim trail for a few miles, and you are finished by lunch.
Head towards Potash and park in the dirt lot by Jug Handle Arch at the bottom of Long Canyon. Ride Potash Road to the Shaffer Switchbacks in Canyonlands, head North out of the park on the main road, turn right towards Dead Horse Point park but after a few miles you bear left on the dirt road to Long Canyon.
The nice thing about this ride is that all the climbing is in the first 18 miles when you are fresh. The return along the highway and then the descent through Long Canyon back to the car is pleasant if it's not too windy and hot.
Moab for Thanksgiving?
Thanks for all of those who have added info to this thread - very helpful.
GF and I are planning our annual avoid the family and go on mtn bike vacation during Thanksgiving week trip. Last year we went to western North Carolina and had a great time, enjoyed the solitude on the trails.
We are considering Moab this year. Does anybody have any first hand knowledge about what type of weather we should expect? We are from Maine and don't mind cold. Snow and ice is what we are concerned about.
Any other beta about what to expect in Moab in late November is much appreciated!
Moab Average Monthly Temps and Precipitation
What does this mean? Basically if you go to Moab during one of the "rainy" months (over .75 inches of precip) you probably run 50/50 chance of getting rained on at least once if you are in town for a few days. This is grossly un-scientific, but it seems to work out in my experience. Spring and Fall are still the best times to go.
Just back from 10 days in S. Utah including the Moab area. I have been visiting Moab since 1984. It will probably be a while before I return, mainly due to too many other places to visit.
Started in the area around Panguitch (wow! what a cool place!!!) and then headed to the Moab area to meet friends and do a 3 nite White Rim trip.
It was an in between week with no special events to speak of. Town wasn't overly crowded but as busy as any weekend in late April.
Hacienda, the food has gotten worse, service was o.k.
Pasta Jays, weak food, expensive for pasta, decent service.
Mcstiffs, well, you can screw up a hamburger.
Mondo is still a great place for a cup of coffee.
Camping was not the usual trial, found a great spot on the river road by the Porky trail head.
Weather was there for sure. Riding the Soveriegn, we experienced 50 mph crosswinds and a bit of rain, very refreshing.
White Rim. 8th or 9th time for this classic.
Camp at Airport A. 1st nite. 60 mph winds and hard rain in the evening, the storm broke up enough to cook dinner. Then at about 3:30 a.m. we had a downpour, .40 " of rain that continued until about 8:00 the next morning. Snow on the upper rim when the clouds lifted. 2 other groups bailed and drove out Potash rd. We decided to continue and hope the winds would be kind at Murphys.
Riding on a cool cloudy day with fresh damp sand was a nice change. Flowers were amazing.
Murphys was kind to us that nite with light winds and cloudy skies, a brief showing by the sun late allowed us to dry tents etc.
The ride to Hardscrabble was coolish and cloudy with threatening skies and brief showers more awesome flowers and firm sand..
The last morning at Hardscrabble was glorious with blue skies and sunshine.
Out by 13:00, a quick burger at Rays in Green River and by 3:00 the next morning, back home in Montana.
For those thinking about doing a White Rim trip, multi day. We took a fullsized ford F-350 diesel crew cab.
Wayyyy too big!
Pain in the arse to get up and down the technical sections (they are usually easy!)
The Toyotas (Tacoma/Tundra) are the way to go.
Just a shamless self benefiting bump...still wondering if anybody has some firsthand experience with Moab area over Thanksgiving. Any knowledge would be much appreciated!
Originally Posted by crooker
Um, yeah. I posted about an hour after your OP with a weather chart showing average temps and precip (that is directly related to what you asked about, no?)
Originally Posted by crooker
If you spend time in Moab that time of year (winter), you run a decent chance (I guessed 50/50) of getting rain/snow for a day or two over a several day visit. Of course, it's all guesses and averages. Maybe it will be 65, but I doubt it. And it might snow 12" daily. But I doubt that too. The higher trails (porcupine rim and up) will probably be under snow or very muddy if they got their first winter storms in October. Almost ALL the other classics are rideable all winter unless you are there during the actual weather. Slickrock is dangerous when icy.
All of that said, it's the desert. If Southern Utah sees a mild and sunny spell for a week at any time during the winter, it could be the most beautiful escape possible. It's hard to know until it's time to go.
The trails will be mostly empty, and finding a hotel will be easy. Camping grounds and cabins within town will mostly be closed. There are other seasonal businesses (some restaurants, etc.) that close for the winter as well.
But there really isn't a BAD time to visit.
You'll have no problem finding a campsite, but be prepared for possible low 20's and wind.
Originally Posted by crooker
If you are hotelling it, and you plan on actually being there across Thanksgiving, you might want to make reservations, as half of Denver now shows up for one last ride before breaking out the skis.
thanks for the additional info, while weather charts and the like are helpful, the first hand experience is what I was really hoping for
I'm pretty sure we are going to go for it...
top for this thread. I am just a little farther north and make it down there a few times a year. No real trail recommendations but but food. BY FAR, the best breakfast is actually the Jailhouse Cafe right on main street and something like 200N on the NE corner. Killer food, good and healthy and light nnd not too expensive. The Moab Diner is a tourist trap and the green chili is absolutely not 100% "the best green chili in the state" at all...
Second, if you make if down in fall. there is a killer place in Castle Valley (about 15 minutes out of town) called the Red Rock Winery (wine is awful but accommodations are killer - you can also pack them in because they are small condos).
Also great camping places. Along Kane Creek Road to the south (down the road that McDonalds is on on the south side of twon). Up the Colorado twoards Castle Valley. Quite a few miles south off the Behind the Rocks trail. Cheers
Jailhouse Cafe is closed in the winter, as are many of the other restaurants.
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