3-5 Day Itinerary for an Epic Moab Summer Road Trip
Moab is one of the best summer road trip destinations. The combination of stunning red rock landscapes and great outdoor recreation opportunities makes it a perfect place to get away for a few days.
There are plenty of things to do in Moab, whether you’re interested in hiking, mountain biking, rafting, or just taking in the scenery. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite activities to help you plan your own Moab road trip. So, pack your outdoor gear and get ready for an epic adventure!
Moab 3-5 Day Itinerary
This guide is geared towards outdoor things to do in Moab throughout three to five days. If you only have a few days in the area, that is totally cool. You can pick and choose.
We lived close to Moab for over ten years and are sharing all the best things to see and do, including our favorite spots to camp!
Plan the Best Moab Summer Road Trip
Summer is a time for adventure and exploration! This stunning town in the heart of red rock country is home to some of the best hiking, mountain biking, and rafting. It can be tough to know where to start with so much to see and do.
We have got your back! Continue reading to plan the perfect summer road trip.
Day 1 – Visit the National Parks
The perfect way to spend your first day visiting Moab is by visiting the national parks and seeing the town.
- Explore Arches National Park
- Visit Canyonlands National Park
- Explore Downtown Moab
Explore Arches National Park
Spend the morning exploring Arches National Park. Arriving earlier will help with the crowds as well as cooler temperatures for hiking and sightseeing.
We recommend driving the main paved road, pulling off at the designated pull-offs to see the main arches, and saving time to hike to Delicate Arch.
Get all the details on how to spend a day in Arches National Park, here!
Visit Canyonlands National Park
Next, drive to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. With its dramatic canyons, this is one of the most stunning areas in Utah. There are lots of viewpoints to walk out to and take photos. It takes a few hours to drive the scenic drive.
Get more details on how to visit Arches and Canyonlands in one day.
Explore Downtown Moab
Downtown Moab is cute, quaint, and full of old-west desert charm mixed with some hippy-dippy. Walk the streets, grab a bite to eat, and explore local stores on the main road.
Day 2 – Hike Druid Arch
Go on an epic backcountry hiking adventure! Play an all-day hike to Druid Arch in the Canyonlands Needles District. The trailhead is about 2-2.5 hours from Moab, and the hike will take 5-7 hours to do.
This is an advanced backcountry hike that requires long-distance hiking, some rock scrambling, and a ladder climb. It also requires packing in all your own food and water.
Day 3 – See Newspaper Rock
If you don’t feel like hiking in the backcountry all day, no worries. Check out the famous Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs along the Indian Creek Scenic Byway.
Newspaper Rock is an exciting day trip that will take you back in time. You won’t believe what you see!
Day 4 – Float the Colorado River
A trip to Moab wouldn’t be complete without floating on the Colorado River!
You can bring your own gear or find a guiding outfit to take you stand-up paddle boarding or whitewater rafting.
Spending time floating or whitewater rafting the Colorado through canyon country should definitely be high on your Moab adventure bucket list.
If you aren’t bringing your own gear, we recommend calling around to pre-book your adventure ahead of time. Whitewater rafting through Cataract Canyon is incredible. We have done it two times in March (during college Spring Break).
Google any guiding outfits in Moab to get on their books.
Day 5 – Visit Dead Horse Point State Park
Did you know Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed places in the U.S.? There is a famous view of where the Colorado River bends through Canyonlands National Park. Add Dead Horse Point State Park to your bucket list!
Hike, mountain bike, or camp to stargaze Utah’s Dark Sky while visiting.
How to Get to Moab, Utah
Road trippers can drive their own vehicles to Moab or fly into one of the surrounding airports.
The closest airport is Canyonlands Regional Airport.
An hour and a half away, the next closest is in Grand Junction, Colorado.
The third closest is Salt Lake City, which is almost four hours away.
Surprisingly, you can find pretty fair rates flying directly into Moab. When we used to live in Grand Junction, sometimes I would actually fly out of Moab because the flights were cheaper to a larger connection such as Denver.
To explore Moab, you need a vehicle. Last time we checked, there were not any reliable means of public transportation. We absolutely recommend renting a car or driving your own. Roads are fairly well marked because it is a major tourist destination.
Be sure to plan ahead with the flights and rental cars. Moab is a tourist hot spot and can have tens of thousands of extra people visiting depending on the time of year.
Where to Stay in the Moab Area
The cool thing about Moab is that visitors can find a place to stay on any budget. If planning a visit during the high seasons, we definitely recommend booking places to stay in advance. Since Moab is a small community, accommodations tend to fill up fast during the high tourist season.
Below are great camping options to check out on your visit to Moab:
- Arches National Park – Devil’s Garden Campground
- Canyonlands National Park – Willow Flat
- Deadhorse Point State Park
- Lazy Lizard Hostel
- Primitive Camping on BLM Land
- Camping along the Colorado River off of UT-128 (map below)
Where We Have Camped
We have camped at all of the places above. They are all great options!
You might enjoy reading more about camping for free on BLM land in Utah.
Below are fun mid-range hotel options with pools to check out in town:
- Pothole Haven at Sage Creek
- Hoodoo Moab by Hilton
- Hyatt Place Moab
Best Time of Year to Visit Moab
With Moab being in the arid Southwest, it tends to have lots of sunshine. This makes it pleasant to visit year-round.
We think the best time to visit is from mid-March to early June and then mid-September until early November.
Moab does get hot (like over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer. However, since it is located in the high intermountain desert, the evenings tend to cool off. You can camp in the summer as long as you have shade during the day. Moab is a big tourist destination in the summer as well, with folks being off work and out of school.
Be mindful of rain and thunderstorms when hiking and canyoneering in the desert. Along with the arid climate comes bone-dry soils, which have a difficult time absorbing mass amounts of rainfall at one time. That’s why you’ll see signs to be flash flood aware.
During a flash flood, the water does not soak up in the soil and will follow the path of least resistance, which includes drainages and low-lying areas. It is always good to know your surroundings when hiking in new places.
The weather is still reasonably warm all the way into the end of September or early October in Moab, which makes for excellent camping and hiking weather. Fall is actually one of our favorite times to visit, as well as spring. There is more rain in the fall (or at least it always seems that way).
It does get cold here in the winter, and sometimes it even snows. Winter is definitely the off-season for tourism, so there will be way fewer crowds when you’re out exploring.
The beginning of spring is still the off-season. The crowds tend to pick up around spring break and then later in the spring, around May. Bring clothes for all four seasons in the spring! It could snow one day and be 80 degrees the next. That is the magic of being in the high desert. Bring layers.
Environmental Stewardship Recreating Outdoors
The desert is a special place and near and dear to our hearts. Check out our post on recreating responsibly in the desert.
Please don’t make new trails when exploring. Stay on existing trails to protect biological soil crust.
If you’re an outdoor lover, there’s no doubt that Moab should be on your list of places to visit. With stunning red rock landscapes and plenty of activities to keep you busy, it’s easy to see why this small town in Utah is such a popular tourist destination.
We hope our suggestions have helped give you a taste of what Moab has to offer!
Thanks for reading.
Ashlee & Pablo
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The area around Moab is just so choc-a-bloc with gorgeous scenery and trails – I can totally see why you had such a good trip…although I would be tempted to stay even longer than 3 days!!
p.s. I LOVE your photo of the ancient wall art in Canyonlands Needles District! I have seen photos of those images before, but I guess you had better lighting as it is so clear in your photo! Fabulous!
Hi Josy – thanks so much! There is definitely something magical about desert colors. To me, it is very grounding but screams explore at the same time. Yes, you could totally stay longer than 3 days. I actually worked as an intern for the National Park Service one summer and lived in SE Utah in a tent for 3 months. It was an amazing experience. Cool on the photo – I’m sure it was a hot summer sunny day.
This is such a great iteniery for a 3 day trip to Moab! I love the map you included of the places you’ve been camping near Moab. I also love the tips about what it’s like in different times of the year, so helpful!
Hi Emmy – thank you so much for reading our 3-day guide to Moab. So glad you found the map helpful. Those camping areas along the highway and Colorado River are tucked away hidden gems. Happy traveling 🙂
This is such a great easy to follow intinerary! Love the look of these national parks and would love to explore them for myself one day soon.
Hi Tess, thanks for the feedback. We tried to make the 3-day itinerary easy and flexible. You could really spend a lot more time in the Moab area. I hope you can make it to visit Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands someday.
I’ve been wanting to visit moab for a while now, love the look of the whole area. The ancient wall art is so awesome and such spectacular views everywhere. Saving this for when I can eventually visit
Hi Emma – you have to visit Moab. It is one of my favorite places in the U.S. Thanks for saving our 3-day guide to Moab. When you go, feel free to message me if you have questions.
We were just talking about taking a road trip to see some of the parks in Utah. This looks like an excellent itinerary. Saving for the summer!
Hi Daphna – how wonderful. Going to Moab with the family would be super fun. Check those National Parks off your bucket list!