Going to the desert doesn’t have to be a week-long excursion (as much as we’d like it to be). Work and life get in the way of our adventures all the time, but there are plenty of ways to get out there for a quick weekend getaway. It can be as fast and easy as heading out early on a Saturday, and making the trip home Sunday.
Moab, Utah is gaining national renown as a premier outdoor destination, offering some of the most spectacular national parks in the country (Arches and Canyonlands), internationally famous mountain biking trails, many options for climbing of all kinds, paddling along the Colorado River, camping, and more. We’re lucky enough to have this amazing place a relatively short (less than four hours) drive away, making it a popular weekend destination for many of us at Backcountry.
We hit the road recently for a weekend of bouldering, camping, and of course, lounging about, enjoying the desert views. Looking to make a quick escape to Moab? Pack up your crash pads and climbing shoes and prepare to set up camp. Here’s how to make it all happen.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
Wake up early! That’s the key to getting those full 32 or so hours out of your time in the desert. Whether you live two hours from Moab or a bit further down the road, getting down to the desert in the early morning is important. We left from Salt Lake City at 6:00 am and arrived well before 9:30. No traffic, no problems. Smooth sailing and podcasts galore.
Where to Eat
Once you arrive, you’ll be hungry. Eklecticafe is right on Main Street, and they open up nice and early: 7am, seven days a week. Get the breakfast burrito and add bacon (or avocado, for the vegetarians out there). Organic brown rice, eggs any style, beans, cheese, and salsa … you won’t regret it.
If you want to grab some provisions for the long day of climbing ahead, make your way just a bit further down Mainstreet to our favorite, the Love Muffin Cafe. Their assortment of sandwiches and salads is excellent, and every one is house-made from the bread to the sauces and dressings. Love Muffin also opens early, so getting food for later before leaving town is a great option if you don’t want to make the trek back in the middle of the day. They’ll send you on your way with heaping helpings in to-go containers. For sandwiches we suggest getting the Rasa Club or Fresh Veg; but really, here, any choice is a great choice.
Where to Boulder
Moab offers a wealth of climbing opportunities, with iconic towers and spires, as well as well-known spots like Indian Creek, which is a crack-climber’s dream. For a quick weekend visit, though, we like to stick with bouldering—it’s social, simple, and doesn’t require a lot of equipment. And when it comes to bouldering in particular, Moab offers no shortage of opportunities.
With so many options, it can feel overwhelming choosing a place to begin. In our opinion, Big Bend bouldering area is a great starting point, and it’s where we go when we want to chalk up on our quick getaway. Big Bend sits conveniently off Route 128 and offers everything one could ever want when it comes to climbing rocks without a rope. We spent nearly the day here, from the early afternoon to around the time the sun went down, and if there were more light, we would’ve stayed longer!
You’ll find plenty of quality and quantity in Big Bend … anything from V0 to V12, so there’s something for every experience level. Wingate Sandstone, which is very porous and generally easy on the skin, makes up 90% of the rock in this bouldering field. Because of its soft structure, be careful not to hop on these rocks after a good rain. It’ll break and, well, you’ll fall.
To reach this area of bouldering options, follow River Road roughly 8 miles to Big Bend Campground, which will be directly on your right. There’s no approach to get to the action … it’s right off the road. If you’re planning on bringing you pup along like we did, you’ll want to have a leash with you to keep them safe from the nearby road (which sees quite a bit of traffic during the warmer months).
Another great spot for bouldering in Moab is Crack House on Gemini Bridges Road. The small cave offers a series of quality of problems that all jet about ten feet off the ground. If you get to Crack House, expect roughly forty continuous feet of horizontal roof crack climbs. There are tons of bouldering areas in Moab, of course, but these are just a few suggestions.
When The Climbing is Done…
After you’ve climbed the day away, pack up that crash pad and get moving to catch the sunset at Dead Horse Point on Highway 313. Depending on the time of year, you’ll want to head out between 6 and 7 pm in order to catch this magnificent sight … it’s a ‘do not miss’ activity.
If you’re planning on camping and provision-less for the nighttime, we suggest heading back into town to Moab Brewery. It’s one of our favorites for a delicious meal and never disappoints. Relax with the friends you just crushed it with, and enjoy one of the best burgers you’ve ever had. Moab Brewery is the area’s largest restaurant and their only microbrewery … you’ll want to try the Dead Horse Ale, Red Rye IPA, or Moab Especial (just a few of our favorites!)
Camping and Staying in Moab
There are thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management camping options around Moab that offer first-come-first-serve sites along the banks of the Colorado River. They’re only a few miles outside of town, so extremely convenient. And of course, because they’re BLM, they’re free, and bringing along your dog is not a problem. You’ll find ample BLM room along Kane Creek Road, Highway 128, and Highway 313 to name a few. Be sure that if you utilize these lands, you’re respectful. Give back to nature by leaving no trace.
Then again, if the space, solitude, and lack of bathrooms associated with BLM isn’t your first choice, no worries: there are also a series of National Park campgrounds scattered throughout the area, all complete with amenities (like toilets and electricity)! Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Dead Horse State Park, and the National Forest are all great options for camping with amenities and a little less off the beaten path. If you’re looking to camp in one of these places, be sure to check online as to whether or not their sites require reservations. And don’t forget: it may be warm during the day, but night time in Moab is chilly … bring along extra layers if you’re camping!
If you’re in the area during the shoulder season and the evenings are a bit cold to be sleeping outside, there are dozens of hotels and motels throughout Moab. An office favorite are the Kokopelli Lodgings, which you can find right ohh Highway 191.
After a good night’s sleep wherever you decide to pitch your tent, you’ll be well rested and ready to head back out to the real world. The best part about waking up in Moab? The air temps are low, the air is clean, and you know more adventures await the next time you return. There’s so much to see and do in Moab, this is only a tiny snippet of the area’s great offerings, but perfect for 32 hours in this perfect little desert oasis.