Moab in Utah is known as the base for exploring the nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. In addition, you’ll find a big range of fun and adventurous outdoor activities in the area, such as rafting, ATV tours, biking, canyoneering, and more.
But all these possibilities make it really overwhelming to decide what is worth your time the most. Especially if you are visiting Moab for the first time and want to see all the ‘musts’ in just a few days.
So if you are planning a trip to Moab and wondering how much time you need and how to best plan your trip itinerary, then this article is for you. In this post, you can find our experience-based suggestions for visiting the area and Moab itinerary ideas for one to five days.
These tips will help you get the most of your trip to Moab, no matter how much time you have. And because Moab is a year-round destination, most of our suggestions will fit every trip and in any season.
Of course, you don’t have to follow these itineraries precisely. But it gives you a good idea of the main landmarks near Moab and the time you need to see them. Take our suggestions, adjust them to your interests, and create your own perfect trip! Take a look!
READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Moab
Good to know: Ideally, you visit Moab by car and make a self-drive road trip exploring the area (here you can find the best car hire deals for all major airports and cities in the US). However, because there are so many tours available in Moab, it is also possible to explore the area without a car. Or, you can do a combination of both: visit the main landmarks and easily accessible places on your own and then take a 4×4 tour for the lesser visited places that you wouldn’t easily be able to visit otherwise.
Without further ado, here are our Moab itinerary suggestions:
One Day in Moab
There are so many possibilities on what to see and do if you have just 1 day in Moab. But if this is your first trip and you want to make an absolute most of it, I suggest that you visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as well as Dead Horse Point State Park in one day. It will be a packed day, but totally worth it!
Arches National Park is located just near Moab and Canyonlands Island in the Sky district is just about 30-40 min drive away. Both these parks are simple to visit on a self-drive trip and have lots of easily accessible viewpoints and landmarks that you can see without much effort.
Dead Horse Point State Park is on the way as well. Watching a sunset here is a must on every Moab itinerary!
Here’s how you could spend one day in Moab:
- Start at around sunrise and drive to Arches NP.
- Hike to either Delicate Arch or to Landscape Arch (including a stop at Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch on the way).
- Drive Arches Scenic Drive stopping at the main viewpoints.
- Have a picnic lunch or drive back to Moab for lunch.
- Drive to Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.
- Stop at Shafer Trail Viewpoint.
- Hike to Mesa Arch.
- Visit Green River Overlook.
- Visit Grand View Point.
- Drive to the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park for sunset.
- Drive back to Moab for dinner.
For more explanation and details of this exact itinerary, please check our detailed guide below.
LEARN MORE: How to Visit Arches and Canyonlands in One Day
TIP: If you only have one day in Moab, you can also join an organized day trip rather than go on your own. Experienced local guides will make sure that you get the most out of your very short stay. Here’s the most popular day tour in the area that visits two National Parks in one day.
Two Days in Moab
With 2 days in Moab, you can dedicate more time to both National Parks. Spend a day at Arches and half a day to a day at Canyonlands. If you are visiting in summer, you could also go rafting on the Colorado River.
Here’s how you could spend two days in Moab:
Day 1: Hike to Landscape Arch (including Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch) in the morning. Drive the scenic road during the day, stopping at all the best viewpoints of Arches Scenic Drive. Hike to Delicate Arch for sunset. Alternatively, end your day with a dinner cruise on the Colorado River.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Arches National Park
Day 2: Go rafting in the morning (half-day tours take about 4 hours). After lunch, drive to Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky) and visit just the main places as per our 1-day Moab itinerary above. Visit Dead Horse Point State Park for sunset.
If you are not traveling in the warm season or if rafting doesn’t interest you, skip the rafting trip and just go to Canyonlands for a day. The days will be shorter than in summer anyway and you can easily fill a day in Canyonlands by including one or several short hikes in your itinerary – see our detailed guide below.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Canyonlands National Park
TIP: If you have 2 days in Moab and want to see the very best of the area without having to do too much planning, you can also take tours. There are many 4×4 tours that visit Arches or Canyonlands; it’s a good way to get a bit off the beaten path and not worry about the planning.
Three Days in Moab
With three days in Moab, you have a lot more possibilities already. And, what’s more important, you can take it easier and explore deeper rather than rushing through.
If you are visiting in the summer, when it’s very hot for any outdoor activities during the day, you can also just choose to explore early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Spend the hottest hours of the day at the pool of your hotel.
Here’s how your 3-day Moab itinerary could look like:
Day 1: Drive the scenic road 128. This road between Moab and Cisco follows the Colorado River. The scenery here is absolutely beautiful! After checking-in at your hotel, drive to Arches National Park for a sunset hike. We recommend hiking to Delicate Arch.
If you don’t hike, head to the Windows Section. There are some really impressive arches there and it will be nice to see them at sunset. End your day with a dinner cruise on the Colorado River.
Day 2: Explore Arches National Park to the fullest. Drive the scenic road and do at least one longer hike.
We recommend starting your day with a hike to Landscape Arch. On the way there, you’ll pass two other nice arches – Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch.
If you are up for a more challenging moderate hike, continue further to the Double O Arch. On the way, you can also take a detour to Navajo Arch and also Partition Arch.
Leave the scenic road and its viewpoints for in the afternoon.
In the afternoon visit the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. End the day watching the sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park.
If you are traveling with kids, you may want to visit Moab Giants – a dinosaur museum before heading to Canyonlands.
LEARN MORE: Best Tours in Moab
Four Days in Moab
With four days in Moab, you could spend one full day in Arches NP, one in Canyonlands NP Island in the Sky district, one day in the Needles district, and one day doing all kinds of (soft) adventure activities.
Here’s how your 4-day Moab itinerary could look like:
Day 1: Spend an entire day in Arches National Park.
Day 2: Explore Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky. Sunset at Sead Horse Point State Park.
Day 3: Off-road ATV tour in the morning followed by a half-day rafting trip in the afternoon. Alternatively, drive the scenic road 128 and/or visit the Moab Giants (dinosaur park). There are also amazing helicopter tours in the Moab area.
You could also spread out these activities over two days. So do one activity per day, in combination with half a day at Arches National Park.
Day 4: Visit the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. One of the best ways to do it is by joining this 4×4 tour that takes you off the beaten path.
Five Days in Moab
With 5 days in Moab, use our 3- or 4-day itineraries above and do more hiking in Arches and Canyonlands. Or choose one or several fun outdoor activities that Moab is famous for.
Here are some additional suggestions:
One of the more unique things to do in Arches National Park is the Fiery Furnace hike. It requires advance booking and about half a day of your time, so might be something to consider if you have more time in Moab.
If you are looking for adventurous activities, check out rafting, mountain biking, off-road UTV tours, canyoneering, or air tours. Many of these activities are family-friendly and don’t require any previous experience.
Even if you just do one, it will make your trip to Moab even more memorable. We went rafting with the kids and it’s one of our favorite memories from our visit to Moab.
READ ALSO: Rafting in Moab
So, these are some ideas of how you could spend your time in Moab. As I said before, there are many ways to plan your Moab itinerary and there is no right or wrong way to do it.
To summarize. Try to include all the ‘musts’ of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in any itinerary. Then fill in the gaps based on your interests. I really recommend the scenic road #128, the sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park, and also rafting on the Colorado River. If you have the time, definitely take at least one 4×4 tour that visits some of the beaten path places in Arches or Canyonlands.
How much time do you need in Moab?
While you can see the main highlights of the Moab area in just one or two days, we recommend at least 3 full days in Moab. This will allow you to visit Arches National Park and Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park, drive the scenic road 128, and do one or two adventurous activities that Moab is famous for.
If you have more time and are looking for a more relaxing trip with lots of time for outdoor activities, you can easily spend a week in Moab or even more!
With so many beautiful places nearby and such a big plethora of outdoor activities, Moab is a perfect vacation destination in Utah!
Where to stay
Good to know: All the places and activities mentioned in this article are very close to Moab town. So no matter how long your visit is, you should stay in or near Moab.
That’s also what makes it easier to plan a trip to this region! Because you’ll be in the same hotel every day, you can easily adjust the itineraries based on your interests, the weather, or the starting hours of the tours, etc.
For a shorter trip, I suggest you stay in Moab town itself (we stayed at Aarchway Inn and it was a good base for all the sightseeing). Whereas for a longer Moab vacation, you may want to choose one of the more scenically-located accommodations outside of town. In that case, take a look at Red Cliffs Lodge or Sorrel River Ranch.
There are also quite some private short-term rental accommodations in this area. Just make sure that they have a pool if visiting between May and October!
For more details and recommendations, please check out our Moab accommodation guide below. It has a good overview of all the best lodging options in the Moab area, for all budgets. Take a look!
READ ALSO: Where to Stay in Moab
TIP: Using the map below, you can compare hotels and short-term rental accommodations in Moab. Simply insert your travel dates and group size, and you’ll see the best deals for your stay. Check it out!
TIP: If you are looking for more information for your trip to the Moab area, please check the guide with an overview of all our articles about Moab – Arches National Park and the surroundings.
You may also like the following guides:
- Grand Canyon: One Day in Grand Canyon
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- Zion NP: Best Hikes in Zion National Park
- Sedona, AZ: Best Things to Do in Sedona
- Aspen,CO: Best Things to Do in Aspen & Maroon Bells (most-photographed mountains in the US!)
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