Originally posted January 2021 & Revised February 2021
Travel Date October 2020
Moab has less than 6k permanent residents but RVers flock here for the adventure sports scene and the nearby national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. However, there is so much more to Moab than the National Parks.
After 2 months of enjoying a cool summer in the Colorado mountains, we headed to Moab, Utah. Our focus was on Arches and Canyonlands National Parks but we quickly learned there is more to Moab than National Parks.
As usual, we were sad to leave but the Colorado temperatures were steadily dropping in mid-October. Managing freezing temps while living in an RV adds a layer of unnecessary complexity since we can just move to warmer weather.
Best time to visit Moab?
Moab in the shoulder seasons is beautiful with comfortable temperatures. We did experience a few cold days including a light dusting of snow.
It seemed everyone else had similar ideas for autumn and the BLM camping was very popular. During summer weather, RVers explore northern states and even into Canada (pre-COVID) but winter weather drastically shrinks the possibilities for full-time RVers. It is very common for RVers to head to the desert southwest for winter and Moab is a really popular stop along the route.
What is boondocking?
Boondocking is also called dry camping but simply put it is camping without electric, water, or sewer connections. Pippi has solar panels and large storage tanks for fresh water and wastewater so lack of connections doesn’t affect our quality of life.
BLM campsites are free for everyone, usually with 14 days stay limits to protect the land and prevent permanent residents from dominating the available spots.
Where can I camp for free in Moab?
The small town of Moab is surrounded by miles and miles of dirt BLM roads with small driveways leading to campsites. It was my first time driving down a dirt road and seeing RVs tucked in every little nook and cranny. Frankly, I was shocked by the volume of RVs boondocking in Moab.
Luckily our friends, Rebekah and Jared, secured an easy access spot on Klondike Bluff Rd a few days before our arrival by joining friends at their site. We saw other camping sites were also handed down from friend to friend without vacancy.
Our campsite, near the entrance to Klondike Bluffs BLM area along Hwy 191, had a view of the Moab airport. From our site, we could see the twice-daily skydiving excursions. We also saw sunrise hot air balloon rides. At night we could watch the runway lights guide in the occasional small regional airplanes.
While staying on the north side, the 20 minute trip to town morphed into a 45 minute trip during peak traffic with heavy road construction in progress. To save fuel and time, we consolidated our trips into town during midday non-peak times.
Is Moab RV friendly?
After a few days, we realized Moab was very RV friendly and thrived on the tourism business. There was a Maverick gas station on the south side of town with free water fill and waste dump. We didn’t need it but appreciated having a free option available.
Best Laid Plans
Since we didn’t have any plans for the next month, we were in no rush to see everything in Moab quickly. We hoped to stay in Moab for at least 14 days and were considering moving to another BLM spot across town after we reached our max stay at our first spot.
Unfortunately, we were forced to leave Moab much sooner than expected due to an electrical failure in Pippi and we regret not doing more while there. I’ll share more of that story in a future post.
How many days to spend in Moab?
If you plan ahead and focus on maximizing every moment of your trip, you could visit the Moab high points in one week but I would plan to stay longer if possible. Depending upon interests your must-see places might be different than mine. We enjoy hiking and biking but Moab offers a lot of other free or cheap activities.
What is there to do in Moab for free?
Moab had an abundance of free activities to keep us busy in addition to the amazing national parks. We hiked Corona Arch, mountain biked the trails at Klondike Bluffs, took a more leisurely pedal along the Moab riverwalk at Lions Park, and strolled the downtown shops.
Although National Parks are not free, we find the annual pass is the most economical option. Many people are eligible for free or discounted admission to National Parks including senior citizens, veterans, and all American 4th graders including and their families.
Moab National Parks: Arches
During our 10 days in Moab, we only spent one day at Arches National Park. Read our Arches blog to learn how we avoided the crowds and challenged Kara’s fear of heights on the Devils Garden primitive trail. We planned to go back to Arches on a second day but it wouldn’t happen.
Moab National Parks: Canyonlands
After being turned away from Arches due to overcrowding, we spent a half-day exploring Canyonlands National Park. Check out our Canyonlands blog to learn the highlights of the Island in the Sky division. We spent a half-day in Canyonlands and did a few shorter hikes.
What to do in Moab besides hiking?
Tourism is the area’s dominant industry with over 3 million people visiting Moab annually. We found many things to do in Moab besides hiking such as using Gypsy Guide to take driving tours around the area parks, biking, strolling downtown shops and dining out.
Things to do in downtown Moab
Main Street in Moab consists of shops selling locally made items including several art galleries. I spent my birthday afternoon strolling around the downtown shops.
I didn’t purchase anything but a few of my favorite things were the hand-painted postcards at MoabMade and the Utah Big 5 (national parks) t-shirt designs at their sister shop Ar-tee-sian.
We dined out a few times while in Moab. Check out our favorite budget dining options in Moab in our Cheap and Cheerful Eats in Moab blog .
Moab River Walk: Cycling Lions Park
For my birthday, we rode a portion of the Lions Park riverwalk path. The paved multi-use path runs from Arches National Park into town. We only rode about 8mi of the trail but I enjoyed the river views in the canyon.
Moab Aquatics Center
We visited the Moab Aquatics Center multiple times for lap swimming. There was a grassy city park located next-door and several smaller RVs and vans parked around the square each day.
The Aquatics Center charged $10 for lap swim but only $7 to use the showers. Several women were showering in the locker room but the clean, spacious pool lanes were mostly empty.
Based on the girl doing laundry in a gallon Ziploc bag after her shower, I suspect the shower service is a popular offering for people in RVs and vans with small tank storage.
Free Hike Outside Moab National Parks: Corona Arch & Petroglyphs
I joined friends for a weekday hike to Corona and Bowtie Arch while Kevin stayed home to work. The trailhead was close to our campsite and was a popular 2.5mi out and back hike.
Corona Arch was one of the largest arches we saw while visiting Moab and the trail provided great views of the arch during most of the hike. The short trail had a small chain section and even a ladder.
It was much less intimidating than it sounds and a good refresher on Utah slick rock hikes after spending the past few months hiking in Colorado forest and mountains.
There were roadside petroglyphs on the way to the Corona Arch trailhead. The road follows a river inside a canyon. We suspect the river had eroded the canyon over time and the 30-foot-high petroglyphs were once at ground level.
Mountain Biking at Klondike Bluffs
We only fit in one day of mountain biking due to weather and an unplanned early departure.
Klondike Bluffs, our neighborhood, is a popular Moab mountain bike trail system. We loaded up our gear and bikes and headed further down the dirt BLM road to the trailhead.
Biking Trails for Everyone
I have limited mountain bike experience so we chose to ride beginner and intermediate trails together for the first half of the ride. We covered 13 miles on the Jurassic, Jasper, and Agate trails. I suffered my first minor mountain bike injury when I toppled over while trying to get moving after stopping for another cyclist on a rocky hill. Thankfully I was wearing a helmet because my head hit a rock in the fall. I walked away a little shaken up with only a few scratches and bruised hip. To end the day Kevin and I split up and took different paths home so he could ride a more advanced trail.
Ever considered trail riding? Don’t let my fall deter you, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to exercise in nature.
How much should I spend on a mountain bike?
I ride an old hybrid bike with low-end nubby tires. Including tune-ups, I have less than $300 invested in the bike I purchased on craigslist 15 years ago.
During my ride back home, I passed some stopped cyclists on expensive mountain bikes who commented “wow, I can’t believe you did this trail on that bike”. At first, I was proud of myself for doing something difficult. Then I realized his comment was more likely an insult to my bike than accolades to my skill.
I have had other people tell me they wouldn’t take my bike on trails I’ve ridden.
I got to experience the same amazing trails on my $300 bike as they did on their $8k bike.
I am sharing this so you will feel welcome to ride trails on whatever bike you own. You don’t need a bike worth more than your first car. Get out there and ride whatever bike you can afford. Spend Less. Do More.
The same goes for the girl using a Ziploc bag to wash laundry in the locker room. She gets to see the same amazing sights and have equally wonderful camping experiences as someone in a big rig.
Get out there, do what makes you happy and let people make their judgments without diminishing your experience.
Is Moab worth visiting?
During our 10 day stay in Moab, we quickly realized we couldn’t see or do everything because the area offers so much. We loved our time in Moab and would be happy to go back for another trip. There is definitely more to Moab than just National Parks.