Fun things to do in Moab

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  • Hidden Valley trailhead
    Hidden Valley trailhead
    by goodfish
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    Outrageous Hike #3: Hidden Valley

    by goodfish Updated Nov 21, 2014

    This is a great trek more likely than not to provide a little welcome solitude not found in the busy national parks or easier/more popular of Moab’s trails. From the parking area, we puffed up a series of steep .5 mile switchbacks rising 680 feet to a level dirt track running through a couple of spacious wildflower-dotted valleys. At about the 1.5 mile point there’s another incline to a pass which overlooks Behind the Rocks - usual turnaround point - and then a .3 mile descent to meet the Moab Rim 4WD trail, which drops another 3.5 miles or so to the river.

    Retracing your route you’ll get nice vistas of the La Sals, and Spanish Valley spreads out beneath the top of the switchbacks down to the trailhead.

    Couple of notes:
    • This is best done in early morning during the warmer months as there’s no shade.

    • There’s no water or other facilities at the trailhead so pack along what you need

    • The trail is shared with (experienced!!) mountain bikers so expect a few of those: That the few hearty souls we encountered had shouldered their wheels all the way UP those switchbacks was humbling to say the least. Blimey.

    • The entire route between Moab Rim and Hidden Valley trailheads (or reverse) can be hiked if you arrange a one-way shuttle pickup, or if you can handle the 12-13-mile RT.

    • The surface of the switchbacks is rough and loose so slipping/sliding is a caution on the way down: wear shoes or boots with a good tread, and watch your footing.

    • At the turn-around point/pass is a small track to the right leading along the cliffs to panels of petroglyphs. Fall temperatures were unusually high when we did this trail, and it was already miserably hot by the time we’d hiked some distance beyond the pass so saved ‘em for next time.

    Hidden Valley trailhead
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    Outrageous Hike #1: Fisher Towers

    by goodfish Updated Oct 21, 2014

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    This is a 5-star, must-do for hikers!!
    Nature's gothic cathedral of soaring sandstone towers - the highest, Titan, topping out at 900 feet - glow fiery red at sunset, and on our first crack at it I'd hoped to catch them against a deep blue autumn sky but the day was cloudy and dismal: rats.

    Overcast skies, while annoying, turned out to be the least of our complications: we hit the top just in time to see dark clouds and lighting sweeping our direction. What with high, open spots being really lousy places to be in a thunderstorm - not to mention several gullies/washes to cross - we scrambled off our perch and made tracks for safer ground.

    The good news is that I got my blue-sky day on the 2nd try a couple of years later. We also got to watch several teams of traditional climbers tenuously scale a pinnacle called Corkscrew Summit of Ancient Art: see the note at the end of this review. Crazy stuff...

    The trail is 4.4 miles RT with 670-ft elevation gain, and drops down into a couple of ravines, across a few washes, along some narrow (but not scary) ledges before ascending up and around the bases of three, spire-studded rock fins. You eventually emerge onto a long, high ledge with killer vistas of the Colorado River Basin, and a perfect spot for a pack lunch.

    This is a no-fee trail, and there are vault toilets at the trailhead but no water so bring plenty along. The route is largely exposed and scorching in summer; morning climbs will be cooler. Do not do this one with rain in the forecast.

    Extra note: Citibank shot a commercial here very shortly after our initial trip. The first bits of footage were taken at Dead Horse St. Park but the remainder were Corkscrew Summit here at Fisher. The woman on top is world-reknown traditional climber Katie Brown, and her companion is Alex Honnold; probably the best solo free climber on the planet. Yes, the climb was real and the tilted rock she's standing on is not solidly anchored: it moves. Yikes. You can see the commercial here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIjGaDUp6FY

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    Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 6, 2014

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    Located off Mill Canyon rd. This is an interpretive trail with signage of where to look for the fossils and a description of what type of dinosaur they belong two. There are several different types. Some are very easy to see and make out. Others not so much. It is clear they are different from the surrounding rock they are imbedded in but you will only know the part of the body from the signage.

    This area was a marsh land 150 million years ago. If a dinosaur died in this marsh, the bones with eventually seep in minerals within the water. These minerals solidified the bones over time which allows us to see them today.

    A very easy trail that is looped back to the car by way of a dry wash. Can be contacted with the Mill Canyon Copper Mill site.

    First photo:
    Three leg bones of a Camarasaurus. This dinosaur was a plant eater and grew to 60 feet long.
    Second photo:
    Unidentified bone. The signage points out there are many bones along the trail that have not been identified.
    Third photo:
    Rib of a Sauropod (plant eater)
    Fourth photo:
    Vertebrae of a Sauropod
    Fifth photo:
    Tail bones of a Sauropod

    Related to:
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    • Family Travel
    • Archeology

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    Moab visitor center

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 6, 2014

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    Even if it is not your first visit to Moab, The visitor center is a great place to start. They have plenty of books and gift from area but more important they have staff that will make excellent suggestions on what to do in Moab. They are all very knowledgeable and have print outs of activities with directions. They also have free wifi.

    They also have very clean bathrooms with separate hours.

    Visitor Center hours:
    Monday through Saturday - 8am to 7pm
    Sunday - 9am to 6pm

    Bathrooms:
    Monday through Saturday - 8am to 10pm
    Sunday - 9am to 10pm

    Related to:
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    Faux Falls

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 6, 2014

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    Located near the Ken's Lake campground. When I was there it was during several days of thunderstorms. The water fall was really gushing. Not sure how much water when there hasn't been rain in a while. The falls can be seen from the campground. There is a dirt road that leads right the base of the falls but you cannot drive this section. Just walk down the road. It is an easy walk.

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    • Photography

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    Sunset at Ken's Lake

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 6, 2014

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    A excellent place to watch sunset while in Moab is at Ken's Lake. This is a camp ground run by the Bureau of Land Management. There is also a day use area with pit toilets on site.

    In May, sun sets directly across the lake. Looks amazing with the mountains on each side of the lake. The setting sun also lights up the La Sal Mountains. I spent 3 days at Ken's Lake but had unusual cloudy and rainy conditions. But this is a great place when the sky is clear to watch the sun set over the lake.

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    • Camping

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    Canyonlands National Park

    by goodfish Updated Jan 21, 2014

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    This is the other National Park within spittin' distance (or at least part of it is), and one I prefer to Arches due to a lot fewer bodies to contend with and slightly cooler temps. This park covers an enormous amount of ground with the closest and most-visited unit being Island in the Sky; about 32 miles from Moab. Needles, about 75 miles south, offers terrific hiking but not much for the casual visitor, and remote Horseshoe Canyon unit is 100 miles (32 of dirt road) and a 7-mile RT trek to the most valuable pictograph panels in the country. In between are countless primitive backcountry acres and slots for experienced backpackers and technical canyoneers.

    Scenic-drivers, day-hikers, campers, bikers, distance-trekkers. shutterbugs: there's something here for everyone so see my Canyonlands pages for more information.

    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/8da3d/d768c/

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    • National/State Park

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    Island in the Sky - Canyonlands N.P.

    by blueskyjohn Updated Aug 10, 2013

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    This is a nice day trip from Moab. One of three section in Canyonlands National Park. The entry fee is $10 and the access road is an in and out drive. It has a small visitor center at the beginning. It is a wonderful drive with deep canyons to the right and left. Quite a few short day hikes that take you to the rim for great views. The highlight is at the end of the road and a trail out to the island in the sky.

    There more difficult hikes to the canyon floor and the white rim trail. It would be a steep downhill and of course a steep up hill to get back out.

    Definitely worth the drive!

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    Petroglyphs at Poison Spider trail head

    by blueskyjohn Updated Aug 10, 2013

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    From the parking lot, walk the trail that leads to the slab with the dinosaur tracks. Work your way up to the cliff above. Along that wall and on a few fallen slabs are some very nice Petroglyphs.

    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel
    • Desert

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    Petroglyphs on Potash

    by blueskyjohn Updated Aug 10, 2013

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    Just north of Moab driving out on route 191, look for Potash Road just after the Colorado River. Turn left on Potash and about one mile down the road you will see cliffs right to the edge of the road. There may be some rock climbers there as well.

    Many cars stop here. There are many to be seen. There is a pull off across the road. Be careful.

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    Dinosaurs at Poison Spider trail head

    by blueskyjohn Updated Aug 10, 2013

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    There are dinosaur tracks and fossils all over Moab. One of the easiest to access is the few tracks on a slab at the Poison Spider access off of Potash Road. They are visible from the parking area but the short steep hike up is worth it. You can stand right at the base of the slab and be eye to foot print!

    The white color in the tracks is from people putting plaster in the track to make a cast. This is now against the law because not only is it unattractive, plaster seeps into the porous sandstone and when the cast is removed, it can take away part of the track.

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    • Archeology
    • Desert

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    Adaptive Whitewater Rafting in Moab, Utah

    by lindzmalone Written Mar 21, 2012

    Splore runs adaptive whitewater rafting programs out of Moab, Utah for people with disabilities and special needs. Their trips are FANTASTIC! The staff is awesome, they make great food and best of all, they are just amazing when it comes to taking care of people, no matter their ability level. Seriously, if you want to get out and go on a rafting trip in beautiful, southern Utah, check out www.splore.org.

    Adaptive Rafting on the Colorado River Splashing in the river during lunch The Splore Crew Smiles on the trip The beautiful landscape
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    The popular Delicate Arch hike

    by mikehanneman Written Feb 11, 2012

    Three miles round trip. A lot of people in July during 100 degree heat didn't make it to the arch for a lack of water and shade. You can view Delicate Arch from the lower parking lot or do the hike. 480 feet of elevation gain - seemed like a lot more.

    You will need to go to the Wolfe Ranch parking lot to start your journey. Be careful because there are a few areas close to the arch that have drop offs.

    The 52 foot arch has a great backdrop with the La Sal Mountains. I like the Utah license plates with the Delicate Arch displayed.

    You can view the delicate Arch from the lower parking lot if you don't want to do the hike. The arch looks very small from that vantage point.

    Make sure and ask the Rangers any questions you may have. Also, make sure and get a park guide so you know where you are going and what there is to see. I always tell people who visit our National Parks to start out at the Visitor's Center. You can find a lot about how the park was made and some history too.

    Looks pretty little from the lower lot. You have reached delicate Arch Some open and rugged parts to the trail

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    Beyond the Trails

    by goodfish Updated Jan 31, 2012

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    Allergic to the Great Outdoors? Go to New York - you'll be miserable here. Everyone else? This could be the best vacation you ever had. Proximity to the Colorado and Green Rivers, acres of slickrock, countless towers and slot canyons, and miles and miles of both paved and off-road paths make more big fun for adventure travelers than anyplace I've ever been. Add in the most drop-dead gorgeous scenery anywhere and you've got yourself one 10-star experience. Providing gear, tours, training and advice for slickrock bikers and 4-wheelers, canyoneers, rock-climbers, kayakers, bladers and rafters is what the good folks of Moab do best so whether for solo or group endeavors, they have exactly what you need.

    The excellent Moab website is the best place to start: tons of great information there. The locals are your next best, once you hit town, as being able to spend their leisure time doing all of the above is often the very reason they chose to call Moab home.

    My only caution would be not running off to your first big encounter with the landscapes alone - especially not if you're a novice. The high desert, while beautiful, is not to be taken lightly. Falls, dehydration, sunstroke, near-drownings, frostbite and a host of other nasties are good ways to ruin your day - and your trip - so go make sure you have the right gear, find a buddy, keep an eye on the sky, and heed all posted warnings. At the very least, always, always tell someone where you're going and when you're expected to return if heading off the beaten paths.

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    • Cycling
    • Adventure Travel

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    "Rock Art" Road Tour: Moonflower Canyon

    by goodfish Updated Dec 20, 2011

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    Sadly, this is one of the more vandalized sites on the route but I'm giving it special mention because it's near the mouth of a pretty box canyon that's worth a side wander. The petroglyphs are easy to get to: just a stroll from the parking area and behind a protective fence. The canyon is also a peaceful, primitive (no water) camping area with 8 walk-in sites scattered along the creek near the mouth to a large pothole pool at the rear. Cool, shady and quiet, it's a nice alternative to busy N.P. grounds and fills early:

    http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab/recreation/campgrounds/kane_creek_road/Moonflower_Camping_Area.html

    After a look at the petroglyphs, just jump on the trail and follow it along - being careful not to disturb any campers - a short distance to the pothole and back. If you're lucky and there has been a recent rain, you might catch a waterfall cascading into the pool. Along the way you'll see vines of the lovely-but-poisonous white moonflowers (Datura or jimsonweed) that give the canyon its name.

    Special mention: if you should happen to be a flutist, I'm told that this canyon has some pretty awesome acoustics so bring along your instrument!

    Paintbrush - Moonflower Canyon
    Related to:
    • Camping
    • Archeology
    • Budget Travel

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