Just 10 or so years ago, many people had never even heard of Moab, Utah. Now the word has gotten out, and Moab’s redrock canyons and close proximity to the Colorado River bring adventurers from around the globe. Here are five Moab adventure activities that will leave you with plenty of “bragging rights” and stories to tell when you get back home.
*NOTE: I did not receive payment or free services from any company or business mentioned in this blog post.
Shimmy your Way through a Slot Canyon
If you’ve done your research before visiting Utah canyon country, you’ve no doubt seen photos of the narrow slot canyons the area is famous for. Slot canyons are magical and fascinating places to explore—you’ll feel like you’ve entered an alternate universe. But this isn’t just your average easy day hike, so you need to be prepared to get physical during this adventure. You’ll squeeze through some tight sections, and you might even do some “stemming”—where you use your hands and feet to get through narrow corridors without touching the ground. Be aware that during the summer monsoon season (July-September), flash flooding is a real danger. A storm can send flood waters roaring through a canyon 50 miles downstream, even if it’s dry and sunny above the canyon. Your safest bet is to go with a reputable guide or outfitter. A few outfitters offer slot canyon tours in the Moab area, but most of the well-known canyons are farther south and west. North Wash Outfitters in Blanding offers tours for a variety of skill levels.
Jumping-off Point: Moab or Blanding
Cost: $75-225 (more for overnight and multi-day trips)
Take a New Zealand-Style Jet Boat Ride
Like Moab, New Zealand has a global reputation for extreme adventure. So, it makes sense that one of Moab’s newest adventures is a fast and splashy boat ride that originated in New Zealand. Originally designed by a New Zealand farmer who was looking for a way to avoid hitting rocks in the country’s shallow rivers, jet boats are propelled by a jet of water that shoots out the back of the boat. Moab Jett’s guides will take you on a wild ride through the canyons of the Colorado River. Folks say the tight turns and fast spins are a blast, and the bonus is that during Moab’s hot summer months, this adventure will cool you off for sure. Note that kids must be 4 years old or weigh 50 pounds. No maximum age requirements for grandma and grandpa—if they’re game, they can go!
Jumping-off Point: Moab
Cost: $55-72 adults; $45-55 children
Soar over Canyonlands on a Scenic Flight
There’s nothing like getting up close and personal with the red rocks of Utah’s canyon country, but you’ll experience the real drama of the landscape on a scenic flight. Redtail Air Adventures in Moab offers several different air tours, ranging from a 30-minute flight over Arches National Park, to a two-hour tour that includes Monument Valley, Natural Bridges National Monument, and all three districts of Canyonlands National Park. The single-engine, high wing airplanes enable all passengers to have window seats, so you’ll get the view of a lifetime. I did the one-hour flight over Canyonlands National Park, and I was so mesmerized by the scene below me, I couldn’t believe an hour had gone by when we got back to the airport. Many visitors claim this was the highlight of their trip to southern Utah.
Jumping-off Point: Canyonlands Field Airport, Moab
Ride the Rapids of Cataract Canyon
A river raft trip through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River will take you through some of the most legendary whitewater rapids in North America. For the first 50 miles or so, you’ll float on mostly flat water through the scenic Meander Canyon. But shortly after the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, you’ll encounter rapids with names like Satan’s Gut, Little Niagara, and the Big Drops. Be aware that some of these rapids (Class IV and V) aren’t for the faint of heart, but rafting through one of the most remote areas in the western U.S. is an experience you won’t forget. Cataract Canyon river trips typically depart from a put-in near Moab and take out at Hite Marina on Lake Powell. Although one-day motorized trips are available, I highly recommend an overnight trip of two or three days. There are plenty of guide companies to choose from, most of which operate out of Moab.
Jumping-off Point: Moab
Cost: $425-1500, depending on length of trip
Test your Nerves on a Canyoneering Descent
If you want to go back home with a real adventure to brag about, consider a canyoneering trip that will drop you off a 120-foot ledge next to Morning Glory Bridge. The trip begins with a short hike through fins and sandstone canyons to the first drop, where you’ll rappel into a hidden chamber. Next, a free-hanging rappel drops you down to the canyon floor below the natural bridge. From here, you’ll hike with your guide two miles to the Negro Bill Canyon trailhead on Hwy 128. Several guide companies in Moab offer these half-day trips for about $100. (Note that the trip is known by a variety of names, including Ephedra’s Grotto and Medieval Chamber). If you’ve never done canyoneering before, I will tell you from experience that the moment you first look over the edge can be a bit un-nerving. But once your brain adjusts to the fact that you’re dangling in mid-air, it’ll be one of the most fun things you’ve ever done. Plus, you’ll feel like a badass when you get to the bottom.
Jumping-off Point: Moab