America's Best Trail Towns: Moab, UT

With two national parks and endless wilderness nearby, this may be America's best-situated adventure town.
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With two national parks and endless wilderness nearby, this may be America's best-situated adventure town.
trail towns

Spring brings blooming Claret cup cactus to Salt Creek in Canyonlands. Photo by Glenn Randall

If you’ve ever made tracks into southern Utah’s red-rock utopias, chances are you’ve passed through Moab. This little town might just be the country’s best-situated desert adventure hub, located between the one-of-a-kind rock gardens of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. And though the abundance of surrounding public lands draw in climbers, bikers, and rafters, too, no one can access more of the red-rock majesty than hikers.

Why You’re Here Tracing the entire length of Salt Creek Canyon, a 27-mile journey in the Needles District at Canyonlands, requires a 37-mile shuttle, but the payoff is worth it: four days exploring a remote, winding canyon full of stone sculptures (such as the giant Angel Arch and a top-heavy pillar called The Molar), Ancestral Puebloan ruins, the Upper Jump waterfall, and rock art like the multicolored All-American Man pictograph. From the Cathedral Butte trailhead, follow the canyon north into the park, camping at the SC3 and SC4 campsites and in the Salt/Horse backcountry zone, and ending at Squaw Flat. Trailhead Cathedral Butte Shuttle $275; Permit Required; $30 for up to 7 people

On the Town

PERK Vegans and carnivores alike find hearty breakfasts, from huevos rancheros to chia pudding bowls, at the Love Muffin Café. 139 N. Main St.

PUB Moab Brewery keeps local desert rats happy with mountain bike-themed beers (try the Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale) and a made-to-please menu that includes everything from giant burgers and onion rings to burritos and pasta. 686 S. Main St.

TREAT An old-school malt from Milt’s Stop & Eat will hit the spot after a roast in the desert. 356 E. Mill Creek Dr.

FESTIVAL Sign up for a Music Hike at the annual Moab Music Festival and you’ll be whisked to a secret wilderness trailhead for a naturalist-guided hike to an en plein air classical concert (September 1 to 12, 2016).

SEE Check out tracks and fossils left behind by A-list dinosaurs on the BLM’s brand-new Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail. US 191, 15 miles northwest of town.