Moab's Busy Seasons: Spring and Fall
Moab's main seasons are March to early May and September to October. Because so much of the fun is dispersed throughout a vast desert landscape, it's rare that you'll run into significant crowds once you get a mile or two away from trailheads. However, finding camping or lodging can be challenging, especially when events and festivals are afoot. If you plan to come during the busy season, be sure you have reservations or plan to camp on BLM land that is normally less-crowded (such as along Highway 128 outside of town).
During these prime times, crowds flood into Arches National Park and, to a lesser extent, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Popular hikes like the trail to Delicate Arch in Arches can be swarming with hundreds of tourists even on weekdays.
When to Go (to Avoid Crowds)
Shoulder Season: February and November
February (for springtime adventures) and November (for autumn fun) can be the best time to visit Moab and the national parks. You may even spot rock towers, canyons, and arches decorated with a sparkling coat of snow.
Late Winter: Early March
February to early March can be a sweet spot for perfect weather, though cold fronts can still move in — and even a few rainy days are possible. However, if you're eager to explore the most popular spots in Moab such as Delicate Arch, the Slickrock Trail, and Dead Horse Point State Park, pre-season is a wonderful option.
In summer, Moab turns into a furnace. However, if you're an early riser or don't mind twilight outings, Moab can still be a great place for outdoor fun. Not all the action comes to a halt in the summer. Canyoneering, rafting and paddling can be enjoyed throughout the summer, though some years, the rivers will run slower if the snowpack is low.
Winter in Moab can be an amazing time to explore the desert. The average high in December and January is about 44 degrees, which suits some hikers and mountain bikers just fine. Nights can be quite cold, however, dipping into the single digits — and of course, night falls earlier in winter. Camping is possible with the right gear, but many people prefer to stay at hotels thanks to lower rates during the off-season.
Does It Snow in Moab?Moab sees about a foot of snow yearly, but the mountains receive far more of the fluffy white stuff. With the right gear and preparation, winter in Moab offers the most solitude.
Where to Go During Moab's Peak Season
The beauty of having expansive desert wilderness to explore? Plenty of space for adventure.
Crowds on the trails, rivers and canyons are rarely an issue, especially when it comes to off-roading, paddling and rafting. Hiking, mountain biking and climbing, however, can get busy due to their inherent lack of covering ground quickly.
Peaceful Hiking Trails
Hikers should be aware that the most popular trails in the Moab area tend to be less than five miles in length and most lead to iconic arches or rock formations. Trails such as Delicate Arch, Corona Arch, Grandstaff Canyon, Devils Garden and Landscape Arch are very popular and may be better to save for shoulder season outings. Instead, consider hikes like the Jewell Tibbets Arch, Druid Arch, Salt Creek Canyon or the Murphy Trail. These hikes are longer and more rugged, but still just as beautiful as their well-known counterparts.
Mountain Biking Trails on the Quieter Side
Mountain bikers really don't have a lot to worry about, as even popular trails tend to thin out within a mile or two of the trailheads. Exceptions include the Slick Rock Trail, Bar M Loop and Klondike Bluffs, which are great for riders of all levels but can get crowded. Trails such as Navajo Rocks, Captain Ahab and Flat Pass are nice alternatives to the most popular riding spots. Hardcore riders will want to check out the point-to-point ride of Mag 7, featuring the wildly exposed Portal Trail (don't worry, you can walk it if you're not feeling your A-game).
Less-Popular Climbing Routes
Climbers won't have a lot to worry about either. The Wall Street area is the exception to the rule, thanks to its — literal — roadside climbing (you could technically belay your partner from your car). Owl Rock and Bullwinkle in Arches National Park are fairly popular routes due to their sheer beauty and modest difficulty. Beyond those few hotspots, most crags and climbing areas will be ripe for picking the best routes.
"Because so much of the fun is dispersed throughout a vast desert landscape, it's rare that you'll run into significant crowds once you get a mile or two away from trailheads. "
Outings like Canyonlands' iconic White Rim Trail aren't crowded (Read: "A Family Mountain Bike Expedition on the White Rim Trail"), but do require reservations months in advance — unless you plan to drive or bike the entire 107-mile loop in a single outing, plan ahead.
Likewise, backpacking in the Moab area won't be crowded but you should have your permits and backcountry reservations (when needed) prepared months in advance.
Most years, Easter is the single most crowded weekend in Moab.
Summer in Moab can be prohibitively hot, but if you can keep yourself busy in the daytime, the summer stargazing opportunities are out of this world. Seeing the summer constellations and the Milky Way from the desert is worth a trip any time of year.
November, especially around Thanksgiving, can be an awesome time of year for mountain biking and hiking. Camping can be a blast too, provided you have cold-weather gear and pack in firewood for an evening fire.
More Moab Inspiration
5 Utah Music Festivals Adding a Soundtrack to Your Road Trip
Music is deeply entrenched in Utah's cultural lifestyle. For example, read about Utah's capital, Salt Lake City, and you'll soon discover it's one of a handful of cities its size that is home to a professional ballet, symphony and opera, alongside multiple theater companies, dance companies, America's choir and so much more. Music is as much a part of Utah's landscape as our iconic mountains and arches. Discover some of Utah's music festivals here.
6 Steps to a Family MTB Trip on Canyonlands' White Rim
Want to take the family mountain biking on the White Rim Trail? Tackle 100 miles of biking and three days of backcountry camping in Canyonlands with the kids.
A Van Lifer’s Guide to Responsible Travel in Southern Utah
When Utah’s dirt roads are calling you, it’s time to plan your van life road trip. Here’s what you need to know to travel safely, protect Utah’s rural communities, and help preserve sensitive desert landscapes.
Across a Snow-Covered Desert
Follow this itinerary for a week-long winter road trip across the snow-covered desert of Southeastern Utah.
Boomer Travel: 76 Hours in Moab
Moab, Utah is a prime destination for Baby Boomer travel. Check out our specially-designed itinerary and plan your visit!
Discover the Shape of Utah's Coffee Community
See coffee shops in Salt Lake City on this short video tour of some of the best coffee shops in Utah.
Dog-Friendly Utah: The Road to Mighty
Want to bring your furry friend on your next vacation? Utah is home to several great dog-friendly national parks and other fun destinations. Check it out and plan your trip!
Filmed in Utah: 7 Itineraries Through Hollywood's Most Iconic Settings
Whether hitting the Sundance Film Festival in Park City and Salt Lake City in January or visiting Utah throughout the year, you’ll find yourself near some Utah’s most iconic and most filmed places.
Find a Winter Refresh in a Utah State Park
The best Utah state parks will entice you with ice fishing, white sand and snow-dusted scenery. Take a winter break to refresh with a visit to a few of these places.
Following the Markings of Native American History
This road trip across Utah to view ancient petroglyphs and pictographs will give you an incredible window into the past.
How to Support Local On Your Utah Road Trip
Many small businesses in Utah rely on tourism for survival. These expert tips help road trippers make a real difference in communities by supporting local.
Moab Farmers' Market
Thursday evenings & Saturday mornings in summer, discover a food and community market that shares the harvest of the desert.
Moab Under Canvas: Glamping
If you’re looking for a luxurious camping experience, Moab Under Canvas is just the ticket. Book your stay in a fully-furnished canvas tent in canyon country!
Moab's Singletrack Renaissance
Moab isn’t just for burly Slickrock riders anymore. In the last few years, local groups have established dozens of miles of new mountain bike trails.
Movies Filmed in Utah: Plotting a Cinematic Drive-Through
Follow a Germany-based film enthusiast on an extended road trip to discover the rich history of Utah cinematography.
Resiliency Road Trip
The emergence of small Utah towns like Moab and Helper offer an inspiring backdrop for a road trip focused on reinvention.
See the Fall Leaves Near Utah's National Parks
Sure, any of Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks are spectacular year round — covered in snow, peppered with spring wildflowers, and baked in sunshine. But find them exponentially special when the changing fall leaves are in juxtaposition to the immaculate red rock cliffs.
Seven Must-Ride Mountain Biking Trails in Utah
To help you plan a Utah mountain biking trip, we've assembled a list of seven of Utah’s best mountain biking trails followed by a roundup of Utah’s best fat-tire destinations.
Soil Sleuth: Protecting Utah's Living Landscapes
Visit Utah writer Kristen Pope met Dr. Jayne Belnap, one of the world’s top experts on biological soil crusts, to learn about the importance of biocrusts to Utah's desert landscapes, and how to protect them.
The Art of Supporting Utah Artists
Here’s a look at six local artists whose work draws upon Utah’s diverse environments as inspiration.
Traveling with Dogs: The Mighty 5 National Parks
At all of The Mighty 5® national parks, activities with pets are extremely limited, and every time your dog is out of your vehicle, it must be restrained in a crate, cage, or on a leash (of no more than 6 feet).
Walking The Line Between Risk and Responsibility
Why a Hawaii-based highliner and influencer hasn't returned to Utah — yet.
Wilson Arch is an elegant sandstone feature that sits along Highway 191 south of Moab on BLM land. The short hike is free.
Winter in Southeastern Utah: Arches and Canyonlands
Want to avoid the Utah national park crowds? Plan a winter Southeastern Utah trip. Experience more peace, quiet and solitude.
Women in the Wild: Transformation and the Outdoors
Paula Colman joins a weekend retreat for women in Moab, Utah, that has an eye-catching mission: Build your tribe. Connect with your inner spirit. Transform body, mind and spirit around the theme: “Ignite the Flame Within.” Follow along as she seeks her authentic self and learn how to find your own Tribe.