1. Boondocking in and around Moab
We came to Moab for the national parks. We stayed for all the area has to offer! Here are my 5 best things in Moab, Utah (beyond the Parks)!
My first best thing in Moab isn’t necessarily in the town itself. We arrived without much of a plan, knowing we wanted to visit Arches National Park, but beyond that we weren’t sure what to expect. After checking the iOverlander phone app, we selected a place to boondock. What’s kind of amazing is the sheer number of boondocking sites in this area.
Dinosaur Tracks – definitely one of the 5 best things in Moab!
Based on its proximity to Arches, we settled our boondocking sites on Copper Ridge Dinosaur Trackways off US Highway 191 and BLM Road 143. Noelle, here by the way.
BLM Road 143 is about 20 miles north of Arches, 25 miles north of Moab and about 33 miles from Canyonlands National Park. It has room for a lot of campers and RVs down its dusty gravel road. There are many established camping areas here and any size car or RV can easily travel this mostly smooth drive. At the end of the two mile road is a parking area and trailhead for hiking and mountain biking. This small lot filled up most days during our visit, but got quiet again at night.
We enjoyed quiet evenings and great sunsets here. What we didn’t enjoy quite as much was the wind storms. They’d come up out of no where and instantly cover everything inside the camper with a fine red dust. It’d happen before we could get the windows closed! The wind did keep the heat down, so that’s the upside.
BLM Close to Canyonlands
GPS Coordinates: 38.51096, -109.82059
The night before going into Canyonlands, we opted to move closer to the park so we could get an early start the next morning. This dirt road didn’t have a name that we could see but it’s off Island in the Sky Road, only a couple miles before the entrance to the Park. Unlike the Dino Tracks area, this road is not good. We went down it to the first pull out area, which is a mostly level area fitting 3-4 truck campers or vans. Steve wanted to check out further down the road and it was wretched. Very rutted and definitely not somewhere a truck trailer combo could go. We turned around and went back to the pull out.
It got so windy here that we had to put the Happy Jacks down on Cupcake, as we were blowing so badly. That’s the first time we’ve ever had to do that! Our night was much more relaxed with the jacks down and not swaying so badly. The location next to Canyonlands made this a great spot to boondock though.
BLM Close to Arches
We stayed one night each at two different BLM spots close to Arches. Neither was ideal, but they allowed us to get to the Park super early, which worked out well.
The first spot is at the top of the Bar M trailhead. We weren’t entirely sure if this was actually BLM or private property. There was a sign saying to pay $5 for the night, but no payment box. There was also no one down at the Chuckwagon and HandleBar Ranch nearby. We looked online, it seems like it’s BLM, so we stayed. It was later in the evening so we just expected if someone wanted our five bucks, they’d come and knock. We could definitely here traffic on Hwy 191 here and others like us, arriving later in the evening, all parked fairly close together. Between the road noise and parking area lights, I would only suggest this for it’s proximity to the Arches.
The other place we stayed close to Arches is Willow Springs Road. This is definitely BLM land and it was packed with cars, trucks, tents, campers, fifth-wheels and huge motor homes. I mean packed, as in hundreds of people and vehicles. We got up at 5am to go into Arches early and were very surprised to see that in the turn out near us people had kept coming after we went to sleep. There were numerous tents and cars / SUVs right next to us. We felt a smidge guilty at starting up our loud diesel so early, but mostly we just couldn’t believe how many campers there were.
2. All the great hiking and Outside Activities in Moab
After being able to stay in the area for free, the second item on my 5 best things in Moab is simply how much there is to do outside. Seriously, don’t come here and then stay in a hotel room watching Netflix. If you do and I find out about it, I may need to throat punch you! just kidding. But really get outside. Within a half hour drive, there are two amazing national parks, Arches and Canyonlands. You can read more about them by clicking below, but only after you finish reading this! 😉
Arches National Park: The Best Sites
Canyonlands National Park: Hiker’s Paradise
Copper Ridge Dino Tracks
Right in our boondocking site in the Kloondike Bluff Copper Ridge area, there are miles and miles of trails for hiking and for mountain biking. And one of those trails took us right up to some dinosaur tracks. Maybe one of the neatest things I’ve seen. I mean it’s one thing to know that dinosaurs existed, to read about them in books. Even seeing life-sized recreations of them in New York’s Natural History Museum some years back was great. But seeing their footprints, which have been preserved in the rock in Utah is hands down one of the most jaw-dropping awesome things I’ve seen.
We literally placed our feet right into the tracks of a dinosaur from the Jurassic period, approximately 150 million years ago. They can even tell by the way some of the tracks are positioned that the sauropod was in the midst of a right hand turn. I’m not sure that my eyes could discern that or the ripples left behind by the prehistoric river. But being in a place that captured living history was extraordinary.
What kind of dinosaurs lived here?
The Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracksite preserves the tracks of three kinds of dinosaur. One is a long-necked herbivore (sauropod) and the other two were different-sized meat-eaters (theropod). While I don’t fully understand how the sand dried to become sandstone thus preserving the tracks, it doesn’t make the experience any less cool.
There’s a short walk, which is what most people probably do. It’s less than half a mile round trip to see the first sets of footprints. The one’s I mentioned above where the dinosaur was turning right. They think it was also injured and limping. Again, I don’t know how they decipher all this stuff but it’s awesome.
Are those the only dino prints we can see?
Can you tell I like the dino prints? In many ways they’re #1 on my 5 best things in Moab list! There’s a longer hike to see even more tracks, which took us about four hours round trip. From the parking lot, we followed the Dino-Flow trail to where it meets the Mega Steps and Nome biking trails. In between those two is a hiking only trail leading to the Dinosaur stomping ground. Along the way, we saw potholes filled with water. One even had a skull shaped rock in it! Well that’s what I saw anyway. Steve was a bit more skeptical. The reader board suggested that these potholes may have originally be sauropod prints. Now that’s a big dinosaur!
Anyway, it’s probably three miles or so from the trail intersection to the vast stomping ground. This area used to have a huge inland sea covering much of it, the Sundance Sea. The stomping grounds are actually at the edges of that sea, where the dinos would go to feast on fish or to feed on dead animals that washed ashore. Scientists think the behavior was similar to modern day bears and wolves. I can’t really imagine walking up on one of these theropods, who were about 7 feet tall at the HIP, while its feeding on salmon. That would probably not make for a great afternoon!
Dinosaur Stomping Grounds!
Over about two acres, the stomping grounds have over 2300 feetprint in them. The sheer number of prints is how this area got its name. It was quite a sight to behold, that’s for sure. If you make this trek, where a hat and take a lot of water. It’s a hot walk without much shade. We went mid-morning, so it got pretty hot on our return trip. I’d probably start out at 7:30-8:00 am if we were to hike this again.
Rent a jeep or dune buggy
From Moab, you can rent a jeep or a dune buggy or even a mountain bike to get out and explore. There are so many miles of roads that a regular car simply can’t get to. This whole region is built upon four-wheel-drive sporting and hiking. Since we four-wheel enough getting to camps, this isn’t a big activity for Steve and I. But I’m sure a quick google search will turn up the highest rated rental companies. I think off-roading is one of the main activities of travelers coming here, so for some of you it’s likely top of the 5 best things in Moab, but for us, our off-roading is generally on our own two feet.
We also noticed a bike trail from the town of Moab all the way out for miles past Arches. That’s a commitment to getting people outdoors, the investment in that paved trail. I’d like to get a couple of eBikes, cuz you know, I’d like to ride, but don’t really want to put in that much effort! Do you have an eBike? Is that even how you spell it? Drop me a note in the comments and tell about yours, whether you have one already or hope to get one in the future. I’d like a pale yellow one, then it could match my Vespa, which is sadly withering away in storage.
3. Food Trucks in Moab
So, I’ve covered sleeping and hiking…the most important items, but another of my 5 best things in Moab is obviously to eat! We had lunch two days in the Moab Food Truck Park at 39 W 100 N Street. Well, I guess technically we ate there once and at a food truck next to it once. The Park has Mexican, paninis, pizza, pasta, Chinese express, tacos, and Rainbowls (a plant-based food truck). There’s also shave ice, but maybe it’s too early in the season since it stayed closed.
Red Wok Kitchen and meeting Zeke!
We enjoyed the Red Wok Kitchen, which was just okay. More like Panda Express than either of us would like. But what was great is we got to sit with a younger couple from Florida and their Frenchie named Zeke. Zeke looks just like our adorable granddog, Lucy, so we got a little dog fix while we ate. I shared some of my carrots with Zeke, so we had an instant connection! The couple was great too. She’s a pediatric nurse and he’s in construction, so we had great conversation with them about traveling and Covid and life. It’s always nice to meet super people along our way.
Quesadilla Mobilla, now that’s a fun name!
Another day we ate at Quesadilla Mobilla, the food truck just outside of the others. It was pretty bomb. I had Cubano’s Cousin, with red chile pork, black beans, onion, jalepeno and sweet peppers. I could only eat half of it. Partly from the huge size and partly from the spicyness. I enjoyed the other half at dinner. Steve had the Enchanted Chicken with green chile chicken, corn, refried beans, onion and red bell pepper. He ate that bad boy right up!
We also ate at a couple of Mexican restaurants in Moab, but neither was anything to write home about. Just good, average food. I’m not complaining about that, but both were no better or worse than you’d get in any Mexican restaurant in any city. Guess we got a little spoiled in New Mexico, as neither of these restaurants made my best things in Moab list!
4. Rock & Gear stores: Maybe this goes higher in my 5 best things in Moab?
Outside of New Mexico, where all the shiny things called to Steve, we don’t do a whole lot of souvenir type shopping. We don’t actually do a lot of shopping outside of grocery stores, to be honest. But I do enjoy a good rock shop, which is why a visit to Lin Ottinger’s Rock Shop made by 5 best things in Moab list. It’s huge, it’s got lots of cool rocks and the owners seemed really nice too.
Lin Ottinger’s Rock Shop
We picked up some shark tooth necklaces for grandsons, but then quickly put them back after realizing how sharp they are. They’ll simply poke someone’s eyes out. Plus we forget that the grands are getting older now and who knows if they’d even think shark tooth necklaces are dorky or not. Probably dorky for our cool boys!
If you like rock shops, this is a good one to go to. They have cheaper ones for kids, as well as all kinds of beads for necklaces and bracelets. There’s also a good selection of rocks from around the globe which are just plain fun to see. I totally recommend this stop!
Moab Gear Trader
We also stopped at an outdoor gear shop that is pretty great too. The Moab Gear Trader sells new and used outdoor gear. Literally everything you can think of from clothing to wet bags to camping and backpacking. It reminds me of a store at home called Next Adventures. They get last year’s colors or styles, but the quality is just the same. Steve is on the search for a Columbia hiking shirt that’s no longer made, so we had hopes that he may find it here at the Gear Trader.
Alas, it was not to be. No worries, he’s since found it on eBay. Now he’s like me with a bright orange shirt to match my orange puffy. Hey when I bought it, it was the previous year’s color, so it saved me like $75! It’s ugly, but it’s the exact same technology as a better color. Now Steve will be right there with me, in an ugly color at a good price. Ha!
Anyway, Moab Gear Trader has good prices and a thorough selection of items. It’s another top place to stop in Moab, so check them out if you’re in the area.
5. Related to boondocking: Free water and dump station makes the 5 best things in Moab list!
The last on my list of 5 best things in Moab is the Maverik station close to the end of town. It has a free dump station and potable water. We went there twice! And we also filled up with diesel twice to thank them for offering this service. There was a line each time we went, but it moves quickly and there’s enough room to wait without blocking other customers. It was a win for us. This stop may not be applicable to everyone who reads my list, but for those of us with RVs, it’s pretty high on the list. I like giving these guys a shout out, because it’s a valuable service that they offer and I’m grateful for it.
Along with boondocking is the need for a laundromat. We only found one in Moab, but it was a good one and we went there twice. Right across from the food trucks and free WiFi. Perfect combination!
So that’s my list of 5 best things in Moab, Utah, but I also want to tell you about a few cool things we didn’t partake in. Because, you know, you may have different interests with us.
- Colorado River: rafting, paddle boarding, fishing, boating. Check out all the Moab guide and tour companies.
- Dead Horse Point State Park: this beautiful park is where the ending to Thelma and Louise was filmed. It wasn’t really at the Grand Canyon like you think! There’s camping, pet friendly trails, mountain biking and beauty, so be sure to check it out.
- Scenic Byways: Potash Road Utah 279 for views of the Colorado River, ancient rock art and more dino tracks. There’s so much to see here, it’s a day’s adventure all by itself.
- 4-wheel and off highway vehicle roads: so many places to go exploring and lots of rental shops & tour guides
I hope you enjoyed my quick tour of the area and that you get a chance to visit here. It’s seriously one of the most outstanding places we’ve visited. I keep getting surprised in our travels at the things we see. Just when I think, oh that one’s my, another new favorite place pops up. So this week it’s southern Utah with all it’s rocks and arches and dinosaurs! Leave me a note below to let me know your favorite stop in Moab.
Steve/Noelle, I really liked your write up on moab, I used to go there a lot when I was young, but haven’t been for a while. I remember going to vernal utah which is like a Mecca of dinosaur ruins.
In the ebike question, I have 2, I have $300 one from Costco which is great, but only for short trips and it doesn’t go up very steep hills. I have another I made from my own mountain bike where I bought a kit from eBay and put the hub and controller on and bought a battery to pair with it. It is a 1500W motor and it flies! I have gone around 35-40mph on flat ground and it makes uphill work very easy. I love it because it gets me out and biking when I normally would not even try. The whole setup cost me about $450-$500. Of course there are professional bikes which I’m sure are more technical and advanced which cost from $2000-$5000 on average. These would include shocks and many features, but the basics are mainly the same. A little pricey for my bones, although I’ve looked at them for ages. Also one thing to note is that ebikes are very heavy. The magnets and batteries make them super heavy, so ebikes that have a separate battery help with weight and storage.
Anyway, thanks for the write up, I think I’ll be heading to Moab again when my boys get a bit older to enjoy all of the hiking and biking. You have renewed my interest in going! Thanks
Hi Tony. Moab is certainly a great place. We didn’t make it to Vernal but also heard that it’s dinosaur Mecca! It’s on our list.
It seems like making our own ebikes is the way to go. And guess who we’re going to call when we’re ready!! The $2000-5000 range is a little pricey for me too. And I guess I didn’t realize how heavy they are.
I know your boys will love the Moab area. It seems like boy-heaven. 😁 Take good care! Noelle