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Traveling Through Moab, Utah

Utah's Red Rock Country

Mark Quasius
Apr 1, 2013
Photographers: Mark Quasius
Photo 2/20   |   traveling Through Moab Utah rv Towing Jeep
Moab, Utah, is right in the middle of Utah’s beautiful red rock country, which has long been a favorite location for Hollywood producers (and campers, too!). It’s also an area that has become one of the premier Jeep destinations in the country. A host of state and national parks as well as plenty of open BLM land surrounds Moab. The Colorado River winds through town on its way through the many canyons. For those who would rather ply the waters instead of climb, drive, or hike, there are plenty of opportunities for you, as well. Moab has numerous campgrounds and RV parks, so RV travelers will find Moab to be the perfect destination.
Getting There
Moab can be accessed via a number of routes. U.S. 191 enters from the south, offering access from Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, or southwest Colorado and also connects to I-70 to the north. U.S. 15 to I-70 from the western U.S. is also a popular RV-friendly route. For those travelers coming from the east who want a real treat, leave I-70 at exit number 212 and go past the Cisco ghost town, then take Utah 128 down to Moab. Once you turn onto 128, a whole new world opens up as if you just drove into a John Ford western movie. Known as the River Road by the locals, it follows the Colorado River and passes through awe-inspiring scenic red rock country that gets better with every mile.
Photo 3/20   |   A scenic drive through Arches National Park features the Three Gossips on the left and Courthouse Towers on the right.
What To Do
You don’t have to bring your own recreational toys to Moab because you can rent most anything you need, from mountain bikes to rafts or even Jeeps. Flightseeing trips can be taken over Canyonlands National Park or you can take one of the auto tours in your car. For those who enjoy the water, guided trips are available on the Colorado River in a jet boat or raft, or you can rent a raft. The national parks in the area offer excellent vantage points for automobiles, but a Jeep is the perfect vehicle for those who truly want to experience Moab.
Photo 4/20   |   Jeeps are the preferred means of transportation in Moab’s surrounding BLM lands and off-road trails.
Dead Horse Point
Dead Horse Point State Park is a popular destination. This park is located on the promontory of a high plateau overlooking the Colorado River and is part of Canyonlands National Park. Its name evolved from a legend from the 1800s when mustang herds ran wild on the mesas near Dead Horse Point. This unique promontory provided a natural corral into which the horses were driven by cowboys. The only escape was through a narrow, 30-yard neck of land controlled by fencing. Mustangs were then roped and broken, with the better ones being kept for personal use or sold to eastern markets. Unwanted culls of “broomtails” were left behind to find their way off the point.
Photo 5/20   |   The switchbacks that lead up to Poison Spider Mesa are just the beginning of a rock-crawling expedition that will take you to inspiring views of the entire Spanish Valley.
According to one legend, a band of broomtails was left corralled on the point. The gate was supposedly left open so the horses could return to the open range. For some unknown reason, the mustangs remained on the point. There they died of thirst within sight of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below.
Dead Horse Point overlooks the Gooseneck of the Colorado River and is a popular spot for sunset photos. A number of film scenes were shot here, and the visitor center contains a wealth of information about its history and geology. Primitive camping is available in the park as are a number of hiking trails. Access to Dead Horse Point can be gained via blacktop roads from Moab or via the Long Canyon Jeep trail for those more adventurous.
Photo 6/20   |   This view from high up on Dead Horse Point shows the Gooseneck Bend of the Colorado River. The Potash Trail can be seen on the plateau below.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is divided into three groups, but the Island in the Sky is the area most frequently visited, and blacktop roads offer easy access from Moab. It rests up on a large plateau that overlooks and is placed between the Colorado and Green rivers. A number of overlooks offer views that look 1,000 feet down to the White Rim area, which surrounds the plateau and the Colorado River, another 1,000 feet down from the White Rim. While not as massive at the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands does offer one thing that you can’t do at the Grand Canyon and that’s driving your Jeep down into the canyon.
Photo 7/20   |   Passenger vehicles can access Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky District. Jeeps can make it down Schaefer Trail to drive the various trails down in the canyon.
Jeep drivers often take Schaefer Trail down into the White Rim area. From here you can drive the rocky canyon floor to Musselman Arch, the Colorado River overlook, Monument Basin, and other interesting stops. It is possible to traverse the entire rim that surrounds the Island in the Sky, but it’s typically a three-day journey, so only the hardiest make that adventure. A day trip requires a full tank of fuel and plenty of water because summer temperatures in the canyon can easily exceed 100 degrees. Day-trip drivers can return via Schaefer Trail or take the Potash Trail back to Moab, which takes you past the potash plant and settlement ponds, where the potash is dried. It then follows the Colorado River past a series of petroglyphs carved into the rock walls.
Arches National Park
Arches is another great destination. Leaving the visitor center, a winding blacktop road takes you past a number of stops that contain trailheads to the many geological features in the park, the majority of which are sandstone arches. It’s easy to spend the entire day here, walking amongst the various features, but the most famous is Delicate Arch, which is undoubtedly the most photographed. You need to hike the trail to really see it in its full glory, which begins at the Wolfe Ranch parking area and climbs over slickrock slopes and through rock formations. The final stretch runs along a ledge clinging to a rock wall until it opens up onto the arena in front of the arch. This is a very popular hike in the evening when everyone hikes up to take photos as the sun sets. The location of the arch and the position of the setting sun bring blazing orange hues to the arch as it lights up with color when the magic minute arrives. This hike can be fairly strenuous, so be sure to bring plenty of water. Sunset hikes usually mean you’ll be arriving back at the parking area late, so a flashlight is also a good item to bring along.
Photo 8/20   |   Falling rock is a constant event in red rock country. This large rock broke free from the canyon wall above and almost blocked the Long Canyon trail, although Jeeps can still pass through the opening.
BLM Land
While Moab’s parks are great, there’s still more to see in the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land surrounding Moab. Many of the best Jeep trails are found here and the local Jeep community maintains a large number of them. The River Road begins with scenic vistas alongside the Colorado River, including BLM campgrounds, boat ramps, a beach, Fisher Towers, a raft put-in, and a pioneer woman’s grave at Hittle Bottom, plus the La Sal Mountain loop drive.
Photo 12/20   |   Water is rare in Moab’s Canyonlands so streambeds like this one in Bull Canyon are generally dry.
The Potash Road leaves Moab and serves as a back door into Canyonlands’ White Rim area. The Long Canyon trail leaves from this road as does the climb up Poison Spider Mesa, a popular trail for hardcore Jeepers. A set of dinosaur tracks can be seen in the cliffs above from a vantage point near the trailhead.
Heading north from Moab on U.S. 191 offers access to the Jeep trails at Gemini Bridges and Bull Canyon. Gemini Bridges is a pair of arches that you approach from the top and can actually walk across. The turnoff to Bull Canyon will take your Jeep down into the canyon where you can walk beneath the arches. Farther out, just past the airport, a short walk from the parking area at the Copper Ridge trailhead will take you to a series of brontosaurus footprints the size of large hubcaps. These footprints were made in a dry mud creek bed in prehistoric times and have since fossilized.
Photo 13/20   |   Moab is known for its fossil finds. These brontosaurus footprints near Copper Ridge were left in a dry streambed years ago and have now fossilized into hard rock.
Other Tips
An abundant selection of RV parks and campsites are available, from primitive campsites to pristine RV resorts. Moab is easy to get to with any RV, and there is a full range of services that cater to travelers. For those who bring their own Jeep, weeks could be spent exploring the many trails in the area.
Photo 14/20   |   Moab has a large number of RV parks and campgrounds, such as this great setting at the Portal RV Resort.
The area surrounding Moab is well known for the various fossil and mineral finds. No trip to Moab would be complete without a stop at the Moab Rock Shop, which is a must-see for any traveler. Many rocks, fossils, and minerals are for sale, and large dinosaur bones and other wonders are on display.
The Moab visitor center is well stocked with plenty of information and advice from the helpful staff. It’s a good place to check out when you first arrive in Moab, but you can also visit their website (discovermoab.com) before you go, which is filled with great information that will help you plan your trip in advance. Spring and fall are good seasons when the heat is not as extreme, but summer trips are still popular. Moab tends to go to sleep in the winter, but the season kicks off in April with the annual Jeep Jamboree Easter Weekend, when hordes of serious Jeep owners descend upon Moab to drive the trails, see the supplier exhibits, and party with friends.
Perhaps the biggest error in planning a Moab trip is not devoting enough time. There is so much to see and do and you don’t have to drive a Jeep to see much of it—although we highly recommend you give it a try. We’re sure that once you’ve seen it, you’ll fall in love with the gorgeous red rock scenery and return to this beautiful area again and again.

Sources

Dead Horse Point State Park
435-259-2614
http://www.stateparks.utah.gov/parks/
Arches National Park
435-719-2100
www.nps.gov/arch
Canyonlands Campground
800-522-6848
http://www.canyonlandsrv.com
Canyonlands National Park
435-719-2100
http://www.nps.gov/cany
Discover Moab
800-635-6622
http://www.discovermoab.com
Moab KOA
800-562-0372
http://www.moabkoa.com
Moab Rock Shop
435-259-7312
http://www.moabrockshop.com
OK RV Park and Canyonlands Stables
435-259-1400
http://www.okrvpark.com
Portal RV Resort
435-259-6108
http://www.portalrvresort.com

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