Moab Summer Road Trip Ultimate 3-Day Guide

Spending two or three days in Moab, Utah, is sure to make for a memorable desert spring or summer road trip. Moab is packed full of epic outdoor adventures making it a world-class outdoor recreation destination. This guide is structured to offer fun outdoor things to do in Moab, where to camp, and the best times of year to visit. Visiting this high desert gem should definitely be high on your life bucket list!

Let us help you plan an incredible three-day adventure full of desert fun in the sun to Moab, Utah.

Find inspiration for how to have the best Moab summer road trip ever!

Moab-Summer-Road-Trip-Guide
Canyonlands National Park Needles District

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3-Day Itinerary for Moab Summer Road Trip

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Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs in Canyonlands Needles District

This guide is formatted with outdoor things to do in Moab throughout three-days. If you only have one or two days in the area, that is totally cool. You can pick and choose.

We lived close to Moab for over ten years. We’ll share the best things to see and do, including our favorite spots to adventure and camp!

The Perfect Getaway and Summer Road Trip in Moab

We are sharing a few different options for you to pick and choose for your Moab trip!

Feel free to pick and choose based on your level of comfort, adventure, and trip expectations.

Day 1 – Moab Itinerary Option 1

  • Sightseeing Arches National Park
  • Plan a second outdoor adventure activity for the other half of the day
  • Explore Downtown Moab

Sightseeing Arches National Park

First things first – buy the Annual National Park Pass. It is $80. If you plan to visit more than 3-4 National Parks in one year, it pays for itself. That’s some local advice for exploring National Parks in the U.S.

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.

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Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is the iconic sandstone arch you see in all the travel magazines and Instagram posts.

Delicate Arch is 3 miles round trip and will take roughly 2-1/2 to 3 hours to hike.

Be sure to check out other hikes in Arches National Park if you’d like to do more.

Plan a Second Outdoor Activity for the Other Half of the Day

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Hiking to Druid Arch in Canyonlands Needles District

Moab is full of epic outdoor adventures. If you’re not too tired from hiking and exploring Arches National Park, we highly recommend going:

  • Rock climbing,
  • Off-roading, or
  • Mountain biking

If you feel like a super hard-core adventure, there are also skydiving and base-jumping outfits.

Take your pick of desert outdoor activities!

Explore Downtown Moab

Make time to walk the streets, grab a local bite to eat, and explore local stores on the main street. Downtown Moab is quaint and full of old west desert charm mixed with some hippy-dippy. Super fun.

Day 1 – Moab Itinerary Option 2

  • Plan an all day backcountry hike to Druid Arch in the Canyonlands Needles District

Maybe you have already been to Moab, you have already visited Arches National Park, and are now looking for a new adventure.

Play an all-day hike to Druid Arch in the Canyonlands Needles District.

The trailhead is about 2-2.5 hours from Moab. It will take roughly 5-7 hours to hike.

It is worth the trip! This is an advanced backcountry hike that requires long distance, some rock scrambling, and a ladder climb. It also requires packing in all your own food and water.

The hike is so awesome!

Day 1 – Moab Itinerary Option 3

  • Check out Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs and drive the Indian Creek Scenic Byway

If you don’t feel like hiking in the backcountry all day, check out the famous Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs along the Indian Creek Scenic Byway.

Day 2 – Moab Travel Itinerary

  • Float the Colorado River – stand-up paddle board or go rafting!

A trip to Moab wouldn’t be complete without floating the Colorado River! Bring your own gear, or find a guiding outfit to take you stand-up paddle boarding or whitewater rafting along the Colorado River.

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Spending time floating or whitewater rafting the Colorado River 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 3 – Moab Travel Itinerary

  • Explore Canyonlands National Park
  • Visit Dead Horse Point State Park

When you visit Canyonlands National Park and get to the end of the paved road from the main park entrance off of UT-313, you will think you are looking at the Grand Canyon. This area of Canyonlands is referred to as the Island in the Sky District.

Canyonlands National Park is absolutely a must-see natural wonder of the world. Take time, drive around, explore the pull-offs.

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Canyonlands National Park views

Before or after your trip to Canyonlands, pair the day with sightseeing at Dead Horse Point State Park. Both parks are close together and accessed from UT-313.

Hike, mountain bike, or camp to stargaze Utah’s Dark Sky.

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!

What do you think of the Moab summer road trip ideas?

Let’s talk about how to get to Moab, Utah!

How to Get to Moab, Utah

Visitors 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 in 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.

Getting Around Moab

To really explore Moab, you definitely want a vehicle. Last time we checked there was not really 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.

Where We Have Camped

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Double rainbow from campground off of UT-128

Being from the area, we always camped. We would mostly do primitive camping on BLM land in the area.

You might also enjoy reading more on our article camping for free on BLM land in Utah.

We would also camp along the Colorado River off of UT-128 when we could find a spot. Check out the map below.

Camping Near Moab Map

Budget-Friendly Camping Options

Below are budget-friendly camping options to check out on your visit to Moab:

  • Camping at Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, or Deadhorse Point State Park
  • Primitive Camping on BLM land
  • Camping along the Colorado River off of UT-128

Mid-Range Options and Chain Hotels

Below are mid-range hotel options to check out:

  • Sage Creek at Moab
  • Hoodoo Moab by Hilton
  • Hyatt Place Moab
  • La Quinta Inn & Suites Moab

Luxury | More Expensive Options

These are the luxury options. We visited all three to plan our wedding, and all our incredibly beautiful!

  • Sorrel River Ranch
  • Moab Springs Ranch
  • Red Cliffs Lodge

Best Time of Year to Visit Moab

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Arches National Park Double Arches

With Moab, Utah, being in the arid Southwest, it tends to have lots of sunshine. This makes it a pleasant destination to visit year-round. Moab in the spring and summer makes for a great road trip!

Summer

Moab does get hot (like over 100 degrees Fahrenheit hot) in the summer. However, since it is located in the high intermountain desert, the evenings tend to be cooler. 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. The water will not soak up in the soil and will follow the path of least resistance which includes drainages and low-lying areas. Always good to know your surroundings.

Fall

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 the spring. There is more rain in the fall (or at least it always seemed that way).

Winter

It does get cold here in the winter, and sometimes it snows. Winter is definitely the off-season for tourism, so there will be way fewer crowds for exploring.

Spring

The beginning of spring is still the off-season bringing fewer crowds as well. The crowds tend to pick up around spring break and then later in the spring around May.  Be sure to watch out for flash flooding. Also, 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.

We think the best time to visit Moab is from mid-March to early June, and then mid-September until early November.

Environmental Stewardship Recreating Outdoors

The desert is a special place. Please check out our post on recreating responsibly in the desert.

Wishing You an Epic Summer Road Trip to Moab!

We hope you have a great visit to Moab!

Here is a quick summary of itinerary options for your trip:

Day 1 – Moab Itinerary Option 1

  • Sightseeing Arches National Park
  • Plan a second outdoor adventure activity for the other half of the day
  • Explore downtown Moab

Day 1 – Moab Itinerary Option 2

  • Plan an all day backcountry hike to Druid Arch in the Canyonlands Needles District

Day 1 – Moab Itinerary Option 3

  • Check out Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs and drive the Indian Creek Scenic Byway

Day 2 – Moab Travel Itinerary

  • Float the Colorado River – stand-up paddle board or go rafting!

Day 3 – Moab Travel Itinerary

  • Explore Canyonlands National Park
  • Visit Dead Horse Point State Park
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Hiking in the Canyonlands Needles District near Moab and Monticello, Utah

Shop Outdoor Gear We Love!

Osprey Day Hike BagBuy on Amazon

Hydroflask (keeps liquids cold) – Buy on Amazon

Check Out More Outdoor Adventure Posts in Utah

Since you are road tripping to Moab, you might be road tripping through more of Utah!

You might also enjoy our other articles on Utah

Moab Area

Utah National Parks

Arizona National Parks

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We would love to hear from you!

When are you going on your summer road trip to Moab?

Thanks for reading!

Ashlee & Pablo

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About The Author

Ashlee Fechino

I’m a travel and outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness through an outdoorsy lifestyle. I want to help people live their best life by sharing free adventure guides. The USA has been my backyard most of my life, and it’s the place where you’ll find most of our escapades! I’m married to an expat Argentine, chihuahua Mom, and am passionate about the environment. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, hiking, and SUP’ing!

10 COMMENTS

  1. Daphna | 13th Jan 21

    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!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 14th Jan 21

      Hi Daphna – how wonderful. Going to Moab with the family would be super fun. Check those National Parks off your bucket list!

  2. Emma | 13th Jan 21

    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

    • Ashlee Fechino | 14th Jan 21

      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.

  3. Tess | 13th Jan 21

    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.

    • Ashlee Fechino | 14th Jan 21

      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.

  4. Emmy | 13th Jan 21

    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!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 14th Jan 21

      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 🙂

  5. Josy A | 13th Jan 21

    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!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 14th Jan 21

      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.

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