|Landscape Arch in Arches National Park, Moab, Utah (Joe Sohm/Digital Vison/Getty)|
Looking for a place to experience the beauty of red-rock canyon country? Or maybe a jumping-off point for one of the hottest mountain biking meccas on the planet? You'll find both in Moab, which refers both to a town and a nearby complex of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
Located just four miles from Arches National Park and 45 miles from Canyonlands, this small town in southeastern Utah offers visitors an amazing array of activities set against a Martianesque backdrop of impressive canyons, towers, and arches. Moab is flanked to the east by the La Sal Mountains, which rise beyond 12,000 feet. The cool, green high-country terrain offers a refreshing contrast to the desert wilds below. With a generally mild climate and unexpected environmental variety, Moab is a magnet for year-round outdoor adventure.
During your visit to Moab, learn to recognize and preserve cryptobiotic soil crusts, which cover much of this area. This delicate complex of soil and slowly growing algae, mosses, bacteria, and lichens retains water, reduces erosion, and provides a stable base from which higher plants can flourish.
Bike Sacred Ground
When mountain bikers make a pilgrimage, they come to Moab. And the most well-known ride of this off-roader's mecca is the Slickrock Bike Trail. A strenuous, technically-demanding route for advanced riders, the trail combines spectacular, canyon-country views withsteep, hilly slickrocka very smooth surface that allows bikes to be ridden to their fullest expression, even at gravity-defying angles. The 12-mile trail passes between the Colorado River and the Moab Valley. Take a water break and check out the scenic surroundings, which include the La Sal Mountains and some of Arches National Park's otherworldly rock formations. A 2.3-mile practice loop gives less experienced riders a gauge for their slickrock readiness.
More on biking in Moab
Take a Quick Ride down the Rapids
Located northeast of Moab in a wilderness study area, Westwater Canyon is many boaters' first choice for a short, challenging adventure. This one- to two-day, 17-mile whitewater trip offers 11 rapids (such as Funnel Falls, Skull, and Sock-It-To-Me) that range in difficulty from Class I to Class IV. Water levels rise highest in June. On a raft trip through Westwater, visitors will see the oldest exposed rock in Utah, a Precambrian “black rock" that forms the walls of a 200-foot-deep inner canyon. There are sheer walls of rust-colored Wingate sandstone tower above. Historic features within Westwater include an old miner's cabin, a so-called "outlaw cave," and Native American sites.
A Trail (or Two) with a View
Moab's rugged canyon trails and smooth slickrock make for great hiking opportunities. For panoramic views of this beautiful country, check out the Portal Overlook Trail. This four-mile round-trip hike climbs up switchbacks and natural sandstone ramps to look out over Moab Valley, the La Sal Mountains, and the Colorado River. For shade-seeking trekkers, late afternoons in the summer months offer the shadow of surrounding cliffs. Hikers, be aware that mountain bikers frequently use this trail. Bikers, be aware that the Portal Trail requires some serious technical skills. To use up your roll of film, head to the Corona Arch Trail. This three-mile round-trip trail climbs up a cliff (take advantage of safety cables and steps cut into the slickrock) and ends at the base of Corona Arch. Check out nearby Bow Tie Arch and the views of the Colorado River and a large slickrock canyon.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication