It’s official: Utah is one of the most beautiful places around, and you should go ahead and add it to your bucket list right now. I finally had the pleasure of visiting the state myself in October, after years of going googly eyed over drool worthy photos. Yes…Utah is home to the Delicate Arch (that arch that literally plastered all over the internet, and for good reason!) However, it’s home to a whole host of other wickedly breathtaking sites, and I can’t wait to share how you can make the most of your 3 days in Moab, Utah. I know, I know, 3 days isn’t nearly enough time…but this 3 day itinerary will show you a wide variety of sights to hold you over until you can make it back!
Day 1: Arches National Park
Day 1 of your 3 days in Moab, Utah is dedicated to Arches National Park. Get there bright and early before the entry line gets ridiculous…trust me. Also, bring lunch, water, and snacks!!! Aside from the visitor center, you won’t find anything in the park. As of November 2018, it was $30 per car for entry. However, if you’re planning to do Arches and Canyonlands ($35 per car), it makes sense to do the Southeast Utah Parks Pass for $55. There’s also the Annual U.S. Park Pass for $80 that’s good for a year and covers entry to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country. Depending on your level of parks hopping, it could be worth it.
Ok, upon entering, you’re going to have some big decisions to make. What to hike today? Thankfully, I’m here to offer some suggestions. For a reasonably fit, but also distracted photographer like myself, I’d recommend hitting up the Balanced Rock (0.3 miles), the Windows (1 mile), the Double Arch (0.5 miles), and the Delicate Arch (3.0 miles).
These stops give you plenty of time to enjoy the hikes and scenery without feeling rushed. The first three are very easy walks, but the last does have some significant elevation change (at least it felt significant to someone that lives in a state with no hills…hi Florida!) The views below are the Delicate Arch if you opt not to hike, but the next photo shows you how up close and personal you can get. Hint: It’s super worth it!!!
If you’d like to get off the beaten path, try this 4×4 adventure of Arches from Moab. Here, you get to explore the backcountry of the Parks away from the crowds, and believe me, it does get crowded. It was nearly impossible to get a photo of the Delicate Arch without a tourist posing for a jumping photo in the back!
Finish off your day relaxing at your bed & breakfast or hotel. This is where our B&B’s hot tub under the stars came in handy. Pour yourself a nice glass of wine, and relax those weary hiking muscles.
Day 2: Manti-La Sal National Forest
The next day of your 3 days in Moab, Utah, you’ll get a little off the beaten path. All those people at Arches can wear you out! It’s time to do the La Sal Mountain Loop Road, which begins south of Moab, winds through the La Sal Mountains, and ends along the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway. The drive itself is only 60 miles, but allow plenty of time for frolicking, hiking, picnicking, and snapping photos along the way.
Your route will depend on your starting point (we started in Moab, but you can also start in Castle Valley.) There’s a ton of overlooks and little hiking spots along the way, so stop at your leisure. However, there are two spots that I one million percent recommend you to stop.
The first is Oowah Lake. It’s a little off the main road, and as we climbed toward it in our little rental car, the road turned a little slushy as snow popped up! We definitely do not know how to drive in snow, but VERYYYY slowly and steadily, we made our way to the top. The lake itself felt and looked like Christmas. At any time, I expected Santa to pop out and greet me! This probably had something to do with all of the delicious smelling Christmas trees and fresh snow from the weekend before.
The second stop is Warner Lake. It still had a cool winter wonderland feel, and obviously, as Floridians, we decided to stop and have a snowball fight. Pretty sure I lost that one… The best part about both of those stops is that we saw about 5 people in total. After Arches, it was a refreshing change, and a beautiful place to spend the day.
After you wind your way out of the mountains, you might be a little thirsty for some wine. Hit up Castle Creek Winery, which is on the Scenic Byway. You can only have samples there, so buy a bottle for later.
Two thumbs up on the wine. Conveniently, the winery is located right next to Cowboy Grill. After a day of exploring, their food was fantastic, but nothing could beat the sunset over the Colorado River. Make sure to get there in time to see the sun go down over those red rocks! (A reservation might be a good idea during high season.)
Day 3: Canyonlands National Park
For your last full day in Moab, head on over to Canyonlands National Park, home to some of the most ridiculously spectacular views I’ve ever seen. One option is to do a 4×4 tour of Canyonlands Needles District, where you can see highlights like Elephant Hill, Devil’s Lane, and Devil’s Kitchen. If you’d prefer to explore on your own, Island in the Sky is an easy ride from Moab.
I personally opted to check out Island in the Sky on my own. Admission is $25 per car (as of time of publishing), or National Parks Passes are accepted. The 25 mile paved road gives you ridiculously gorgeous panoramic views of the canyons. My favorite spot in the park was the Mesa Arch, and I bet you can see why…
The Upheaval Dome was also a pretty cool hike – they’re not sure how the dome was created, but one of the theories (and my favorite) is by a meteor impact.
Another must-do in Canyonlands is the Grand View Point Overlook. It’s a mostly flat trail (*does happy dance*), and gives you epic views of the canyons. You can see a lot just from the parking lot, but it’s worth it venturing out along the one mile trail at the edge of the rim. Canyonlands has loads of other quick stops for overlooks and little hikes. Stop whenever it tickles your fancy, and get out there and explore!
That about wraps up your time in Canyonlands. If you’re short on time, try this half day Canyonlands tour from Moab…you still get to see the major highlights and you don’t have to drive yourself! We were pretty wiped out by this point, so rounded out our last night with dinner at Pasta Jay’s and some souvenir shopping in Moab.
For More Adventures:
Let’s face it, 3 days is nowhere near enough time to explore the area. With a few extra days, or even just one more day, here are some suggestions for you:
- Go mountain biking! I saw plenty of folks biking through the National Parks – if you’re up for it, it looks like a cool way to explore.
- Take a sunset UTV ride over the infamous landscape of Hell’s Revenge. They have a daytime option too, but sunset looks so legit.
- Do some white water rafting! This is an optimal summer activity…I couldn’t quite bring myself to raft in October. I did dip a toe in the Colorado River though. (VERY CHILLY!)
- Check out Dead Horse Point State Park. It’s over by Canyonlands, so if you’re feeling super adventurous, you could try and smush it all in one day! Another option is to do most of your hiking in Canyonlands (follow the day 3 itinerary), and then hop over to the overlook in Dead Horse Point State Park for sunset.
- Last but certainly not least is taking a jetboat ride down the Colorado River! This one even goes at sunset and includes dinner…you really can’t beat a sunset with those red rocks in the background.
Where to Stay in Moab: Alright, so I have a secret for you. We opted to stay outside of Moab in Castle Valley, a quaint little place with approximately 0% cell service. We stayed at the Castle Valley Inn, and it was amazing…say hello to delicious fresh breakfasts, a hot tub under the stars, and the cutest rooms ever. It’s a small B&B, so if they’re booked (or you’re traveling as a family), another good option would be Red Cliffs Lodge. It’s a little closer to Moab, and there are plenty of cabins along the river. If you’re traveling with a larger group, you’ll probably want to opt for an Airbnb in Moab. Use my link for savings on your first stay!
Getting to Moab: I’d recommend searching through CheapOair for flights to either Salt Lake City or the Moab airport. They scan tons of different travel discount sites and feature special flight deals. Salt Lake was way cheaper and easier due to a $120 flight deal from Tampa (Yay!), but Moab is going to be a few hours less driving.
Getting Around Moab: For rental car deals, my go to is CarRentals.com. In my opinion, it’s 100% necessary to get a car if you’re planning to explore the nearby parks. Having a car gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace, but you do have the option to explore via organized tours if you’re uncomfortable with driving.
And there you have it, an epic 3 days in Moab, Utah! Have you visited Moab? What are some of your favorite spots to snap some Insta-worthy shots?
P.S. This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own.