If your idea of a dream vacation involves desert scenery, incredible views wherever you look, and many ways to get out into the landscape and experience it in a very hands-on way, Moab, Utah, is a vacation you will want to find time for.
Located in eastern Utah, Moab sits on the Colorado Plateau, home to the world’s densest concentration of natural arches.
It is surrounded by natural wonders with Arches National Park immediately to the north, Canyonlands National Park to the southeast, and a small mountain range to the east on the Colorado border.
When you’re ready to plan your Moab trip, we’ll help you plan the best time for your visit. Whether you want the nicest weather, the best rates, or the most solitude, there’s an ideal time of year to visit.
Why You Should Visit Moab
Moab offers a wide array of options for sightseeing and outdoor activities, all set in an other-worldly landscape that can appear to be straight from an alien planet.
This desert area features red sandstone that has been sculpted by wind, water, and weather into formations that seem, at times, to defy gravity. The possibilities for outdoor recreation in Moab are nearly endless.
Some of the options include:
- Horseback riding
- Mountain biking
- River rafting
- Rock climbing
All these activities take place against a backdrop of red sandstone, and each gives you a new way of viewing it.
Whether you’re getting a bird’s eye view while rock climbing, squeezing through a narrow space between rocks while hiking in the Fiery Furnace, or looking up at the canyon walls from a river raft, you’ll find something unique everywhere you look.
The Moab area is best known for its arches. Arches National Park, just north of Moab has documented 2,000 naturally occurring sandstone arches.
Of the world’s 15 largest natural arches, six are in Utah. When you’re not out in nature, the city of Moab offers plenty of options for arts, events, shops, cuisine, and nightlife.
Overall Best Time to Visit Moab
Moab has an ethereal beauty at any time of year, but the peak seasons are spring and fall for a reason.
Moab is a furnace in the summer and barely above freezing in the winter, so the best times to get the most out of your visit are spring and fall. To avoid the worst of the crowds, skirting the peak months of March to May and September to October could work in your favor.
Visiting in February, November, or even late in May before it gets too hot can give you the weather to experience all the activities you want without as many other people around.
With average high temperatures around 50 in February and November, those are excellent months to go if you plan to do a lot of physically demanding activities that generate body heat, like hiking or mountain biking.
If you’ll be doing activities like river rafting, horseback riding, or others that involve water or aren’t likely to make you break a sweat, May is a good time with average high temperatures around 80 degrees.
However, if crowds are less of a concern than having the ideal weather for all activities, choose April or October when you’re likely to experience more perfect 70-degree days.
Cheapest Time to Visit Moab
Winter is the cheapest time to visit Moab. Because Moab’s peak tourist seasons are March to early May and September to October, you are likely to pay more for lodging during those times.
If you don’t mind the cold – or if you live in the north and don’t consider 40 degrees in the dead of winter to be cold – visit in December and January and enjoy off-season rates.
The advantage of visiting Moab in the winter is not only the discounted rates, but there is also an entirely different kind of beauty to be found when the red sandstone is covered with a dusting of snow.
Hiking and mountain biking could be a little more challenging after a snowfall, but they are still possible, and the unique photographs you will have will make it all worthwhile.
Some new opportunities open up with snow, too. Try skiing in the La Sal Mountains. The backcountry terrain provides something fun for any skill level. If you’re not into downhill skiing, try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
While some lodging and recreation choices shut down for the winter – you probably don’t want to river raft at just above-freezing temperatures anyway – you’ll find that much remains open.
Plus, the money you save during the off-season could mean that you get to extend your stay and try some things you wouldn’t have been able to if you’d visited in the peak seasons.
Least Busy Time to Visit Moab
Avoiding crowds isn’t inherently difficult in Moab. Even during peak season, there is plenty of space on this desert playground for everyone to spread out.
Some of the most popular attractions may have crowds, but you will still have plenty of room to yourself. However, if you really want your solitude, you should avoid Moab during spring and fall.
March to May and September to October are peak seasons in Moab, and you’ll also have fair crowds in some bordering months as well – February, late May, and early November.
Easter weekend is popular in Moab, as the annual Easter Jeep Safari wraps up that weekend, so if you want to avoid crowds, that’s when to definitely not go.
Winter is when you will encounter the smallest crowds in Moab, and it has its perks, but if you want to enjoy some of the warmer weather activities as well, and if you don’t mind the heat, you can visit during the summer.
A summer visit may require some modifications, such as planning your activities for early morning and later in the day and taking a siesta or getting some pool time during the afternoon heat.
Summer temperatures in Moab regularly break into triple digits. However, it is a desert, and you may not notice how hot it is, so make sure to stay hydrated.
Worst Time to Visit
There’s not one bad time to visit Moab. The worst time to visit depends to some extent on what you want to do while you’re there.
If you’re counting on river rafting, for example, winter is obviously the worst time for you. Barring special considerations, however, July and August are possibly the worst time to visit Moab.
During these months, the oppressive heat is likely to make outdoor activities difficult and even dangerous. There is still plenty you can do in the early morning and evening, but if your plans include all-day adventures, you probably don’t want to visit in the height of summer.
But if summer is the only practical time you can make the trip, don’t pass it up just because of the heat. Take advantage of the river rafting, and make sure you get splashed plenty to keep cool.
Stay up late and experience night skies as you’ve never seen them before. And plan shorter hikes or bike rides for early in the morning or in the evening. Don’t let the scorching temperatures keep you from Moab completely. It is a trip you do not want to pass up.
Things to Consider
Moab is a desert climate. It is dry, and for much of the year, it is hot. However, the low humidity means it doesn’t seem to be as hot as it is, and you can easily get dehydrated.
Make sure to have plenty of water whenever you are out on your adventures, especially if you are participating in a physically demanding activity or exposed to the sun. Much of the landscape around Moab is exposed, so make sure to have adequate protection from the sun.
This protection can include a wide-brimmed hat or a long-sleeved but lightweight shirt, and of course, wear your sunscreen. If you plan on hiking, proper footwear is crucial. You will likely be walking on uneven surfaces.
Shoes or boots with enough grip to prevent slipping on the rocks are essential. Ankle support is also important, especially if you are prone to twisting or spraining your ankles on uneven surfaces.
Beyond those safety concerns, be willing to adjust or make room in your travel plans for fun things you discover along the way. Explore the shops in Moab and go out to eat.
Ask the locals about their favorite lesser-known attractions or activities. One gem you may otherwise overlook is the stargazing opportunities around Moab. Several national parks near Moab are certified International Dark Sky Parks.
They are isolated enough from artificial light that on a moonless night, you can see many more stars with the naked eye than you could see in many other places.
And one last tip – make sure you have an extra memory card and batteries for your camera because you will find more photographic opportunities than you know what to do with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions about visiting Moab? See answers to some of the most common questions below:
What is off-season in Moab?
Moab’s off-season is in December and January. While there are still many options for experiencing the scenery, most people prefer to avoid the colder weather. You can snag better deals on lodging and other expenses if you choose to visit during the off season.
What is the best time of year to visit Arches National Park?
It’s best to visit Arches National Park in April and May or September and October. The park’s trails can be quite exposed, and when daytime temperatures reach close to 100 degrees during the summer months, it can be quite uncomfortable to explore.
How many days do you need to see Moab?
You should plan on at least two to three full days in Moab to see the main attractions, including Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park.
Allow extra days for any other activities you want to experience or if you want a more relaxed vacation with time for shopping and exploring Moab itself.
Is Moab busy in May?
Early May is when the peak spring season ends, so you can expect a fair number of people to be visiting Moab at that time.
However, there is a lot of landscape in the area to explore, and you aren’t likely to experience large crowds or long waits. Lodging will likely be your main difficulty if booking your visit in May.
Which is better, Bryce Canyon or Arches?
Both parks offer unique landscapes, so your choice depends on what you prefer to see. Bryce Canyon National Park features rock formations called “hoodoos,” which are columns where a hard rock protects the rock underneath it from erosion.
The spires can be short and wide or tall and thin. Bryce also has more lodging options if you’d like to stay in the park.
Arches National Park, on the other hand, features more than 2,000 arches, many of which are featured in iconic photographs or movies. Arches has less lodging within the park, but it is located only a few minutes from Moab.
What is so special about Moab, Utah?
Moab is known for many things, especially its breathtaking beauty and unique rock formations. However, certain features and events also draw specific crowds, including the Slickrock Trail for mountain bikers and the annual Moab Jeep Safari for off-roaders.
Is Arches free after 5?
Yes. Since Arches National Park is so popular, a timed entry system is in place. Between 6:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., around 2,700 vehicles are allowed entry into the park, and each vehicle must enter in a designated time slot, which is reserved ahead of time.
However, if you enter before 6:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m., you do not need to have a reserved entrance ticket. Additionally, if you are entering the park in another way, such as with an organized tour, you do not need a ticket.
What is the best arch in Moab?
Delicate Arch is the most iconic arch in Arches National Park. You’ve likely seen it on a postcard or a calendar, but it’s even more incredible to see it in person. It is the park’s largest free-standing arch at 46 feet, and it’s located next to a large slickrock bowl. The hike to Delicate Arch is three miles round-trip.
Where do you fly into to go to Moab, Utah?
Canyonlands Field Airport is just 18 miles north of Moab. However, the nearest airport for most airlines is Walker Field Airport, which is 110 miles away in Grand Junction, Colorado. The nearest major airport is in Salt Lake City, 236 miles away.
So What’s the Best Time to Visit Moab?
Moab is definitely a top spot to visit at any time of year. It offers views you can’t find anywhere else in the world and many recreational options by which to view the scenery.
Try to get there in the spring or autumn for the most enjoyable weather, but don’t allow any scheduling conflicts to deter you from making the trip.
Even the heat of the summer months and the cold of the winter months offer their unique experiences. No matter when you go, it will be an amazing experience that you’ll never forget!