Set beside the staggering beauty of two beloved National Parks—Canyonlands and Arches—Moab, Utah embraces guests interested in outdoor exploration. Whether it’s for mountain biking, hiking or canyoneering, or even guided tours from the safety of a four-wheel drive vehicle, the small desert town (with a very big reputation) not only offers access to natural wonders, but also acts as a respite complete with restaurants, hotels, cafes, attractions and a brewery. During a recent excursion to Moab, we were delighted by each of the following destinations and experiences. Before planning any trip to the region, however, be sure to check on seasonal hours.
An icon of Moab, the Sunset Grill restaurant sits atop a hill, offering an eagle-eye view of the city below. It’s the oldest continuously operating restaurant in town and it occupies the former home of “Uranium King” Charlie Steen, the hero of a local success story. The menu is comforting and familiar and the staff is friendly.
For anyone seeking a guided exploration—whether that’s a backcountry Jeep tour of the National Parks or rafting along the Colorado River—Adrift Adventures and their team of guides are reliable, informative and entertaining. They’re Moab-based and have been operating for 43 years. Their full- and half-day 4×4 trips allow travelers passing through to catch the “greatest hits” of the National Parks responsibly.
A dinosaur museum unlike any other, Moab Giants is Jurassic Park meets Madame Tussauds. Their much loved Dinosaur Trail includes life-size statues of 100 dinosaurs. Whether it’s their insightful 5D Prehistoric Aquarium or screenings in their 3D theater, or the real-life experiences in their dig-it-out sites, the destination encourages imagination as it inspires potential paleontologists.
Bright, well-located (with enchanting mountain views) and full of amenities, the Element Moab pairs spacious rooms with clean, contemporary design. In-room kitchens allow guests to prepare their own food if they’d like, but the on-site restaurant (and delectable breakfast) is a welcome addition. Element Moab also features a “Studio Commons” room concept, which is anchored by four private guest rooms with shared kitchen and living room areas. There’s also a pool and hot tub, so travelers can ease into their hotel stay after rigorous outdoor activities. This is a recent opening and represents a meaningful expansion for Marriott Bonvoy (which includes Element and roughly 30 other brands in its portfolio) and their emphasis on the transformative power of travel.
Occupying a historic county courthouse building from 1885, which included a jail for those awaiting trial, the Jailhouse Café has been a must-visit breakfast spot since 1993. The building has since been painted pink and inside guests will find scrumptious scrambles, lingonberry pancakes and other early morning delights. This local favorite does shut down from roughly the beginning of November to the end of February, for Moab’s winter season.
Hero image by David Graver