Travel Tips: Moab, Utah

My husband and I just returned from our honeymoon in Moab, Utah.

(First of all – husband! We’ve been married for sixteen days today!)

Airplane selfie!

We decided pretty soon after we got engaged that we wanted to go somewhere neither of us had been on our honeymoon, so that we could explore it together. We’re both outdoorsy and adventurous, so we picked Moab.

My husband set up his camera on a tripod and set a timer to take this photo. We’re at the North Rim Overlook at Canyonlands National Park.

Since we got married in mid-May, we had a hunch that the high-desert weather would be at it’s most comfortable at this time of year. While we were correct, Moab has been having an unusually wet year (hello, climate change), and we did get rained on for the first couple of days. Fortunately, unlike the cataclysmic downpours we get here in Arkansas, the rain in Moab was a nice steady shower, ocassionally accompanied by sleet or small hail.

Small hail from a sudden shower during our hike along Park Avenue in Arches National Park.

It was cold enough, however, that we felt the need to stop in a couple of outdoors gear stores to find sweatshirts. We stumbled across one called Pagan Mountaineering, whose name pokes fun at the biblical foundations of the name. In the Bible, Moab was a sinful place (Numbers 25), so Pagan Mountaineering is taking the stance that Moab is the sin city of Utah, and thus, they have pagan-themed logos. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek, and done in fun.

We used frequent flyer miles for American Airlines, and found that the best route was to fly from XNA (Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport) to DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport) to GJT (Grand Junction Regional Aiport). Had we flown another airline (i.e., United Airlines), we might could’ve flown into the Moab Airport, which is 16 miles north of the town of Moab. However, that was expensive and out of our poor-newlyweds-budget. Additionally, it was less expensive to fly into GJT rather than Salt Lake City, and a shorter drive to Moab from GJT than from Salt Lake City.

We booked a rental car with Enterprise through Travelocity. The online booking process was painless, and we selected the “pay when you turn-in” option rather than a pre-pay option. However, when we walked up to the counter to retrieve our car, the lady behind the counter was rude and borderline unhelpful. GJT is a smaller airport than XNA, and thus has significantly fewer options for rental cars than XNA. We had reserved a compact SUV online, and were crossing our fingers that we wouldn’t be given a Toyota RAV4. We knew from car-shopping in December that Daniel was too tall for the front seat of a RAV4. So what did they have available? A Toyota RAV4. We had no option but to upgrade to a midsize SUV, and they had a Subaru Outback. It was a little more expensive than our original quote, but it was necessary.

However, once we were on I-70 on the way to Moab, we discovered that none of the steering wheel controls worked. This meant that we had no way to set cruise control, lane assist, or front collision braking. Fortunately, the windshield wipers worked, since we did get into some rain. When we called Enterprise in Grand Junction to report the issues, they said that since the car wasn’t undriveable, they couldn’t send us a replacement. We had the option of driving back to Grand Junction for a replacement, but we explained that we were on our honeymoon and would not be making a four hour round trip to replace our car. We checked with Enterprise in Moab, and all they had available were sedans. We reserved a compact SUV because we wanted the extra ground clearance and all-wheel drive that might come in handy in the desert (and it did). So, our next move was to call Enterprise in Grand Junction again, and request a discount on our vehicle, and they removed the upgrade charge.

So, all in all, it worked out, but Enterprise in Grand Junction received a 3 out of 5 from us. Our advice: ask them what they have available in the price range you booked, and thoroughly check every feature of the car before you leave the airport, just in case key features don’t function.

I booked our lodging in December after I discovered that May was a popular time to visit Moab. Places were already starting to book up, and a few frantic Google searches later lead me to Desert Hills Bed and Breakfast. We booked five nights in the Red Rocks Room.

The breakfast table at the Desert Hills Bed and Breakfast.

We had never stayed in a bed and breakfast before, and we found that we really liked it. In a typical hotel, unless you’re traveling with a group, you tend to be isolated and not have interaction with the owners/managers. The owners of Desert Hills B&B, Vic and Anna Bruno, were incredibly welcoming and helpful, and if they weren’t on site, they were just a text message away. Additionally, there was a sense of community and home around the breakfast table. All of the guests spoke to each other and traded tips on how to avoid crowds, and talked about where they were from.

Moab has no shortage of places to eat. Restaurants at which we ate that we’d recommend: Moab Brewery, Broken Oar Restaurant, Thai Bella, Pasta Jay’s, and Fiesta Mexicana. My husband loves Thai food, so when Vic and Anna recommended Thai Bella, it went right to the top of our list. Vic and Anna recommended the Moab Brewery for our first night in town, and we LOVED it; so much so that we went back a second time and it was our first choice as a backup restaurant if somewhere else couldn’t seat us. Broken Oar Restaurant was a little more upscale and had the prices to match, but the food was really good. Fiesta Mexicana was a little more expensive than we were used to paying for Mexican food, but was also delicious. Pasta Jay’s had fair pricing and huge portions, which made for great leftovers on a rainy night.

Moab is an adventure town. If you want to try it, they have it. Skydiving, ATVing, horseback riding, rafting, mountain biking, hiking, etc. There’s so much more we want to go back and do, but didn’t have time for on this trip.

Our top priority was hiking. Moab is the gateway town for both Arches National Park and the Islands in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. There are also state parks and other public land in and around Moab, such as Dead Horse Point State Park, Negro Bill Canyon, Castle Valley, and Colorado River Recreation Area.

Since we were only there for a short time, we stuck to a few iconic trails in Arches and Canyonlands. In Arches, we hiked to Delicate Arch, and along Park Avenue. In Canyonlands, we hiked to the North Rim Overlook, and to the Upheaval Dome Overlooks.

Daniel and I at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.
The view of Park Avenue from the top of the trail in Arches National Park.
Interesting weathering happening on the sandstone bluffs at the North Rim Overlook in Canyonlands National Park.

On our way to a photoshoot in Castle Valley, we passed by a pullout for Grandstaff Trailhead in Negro Bill Canyon. William Grandstaff (aka “Negro Bill”) was a half-black, half-Native cowboy who prospected for minerals and metals while running cattle through this area in the 1870s. Officially, the canyon was renamed Grandstaff Canyon in 2017, but most of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) signage still says Negro Bill Canyon. The name of the canyon was even more crude until the 1960s. Our government is slow to make things right.

A view from a couple miles within Grandstaff Canyon.

Back to Grandstaff Trail. Because Grandstaff Canyon is BLM land and not National Park Service (NPS) land, the rules are different. BLM land tends to have more primitive trail markings, and you are allowed to bring your dogs with you. Almost all of the NPS sites don’t allow pets on the trail. Another key difference on this particular trail is the vegetation. Most of the hikes in Arches and Canyonlands will leave you exposed to the desert sun for the majority of the hike, which is incredibly draining. The Grandstaff Trail is almost completely shaded, and right along a stream that feeds the Colorado River, so the trail remains cool and fresh. This trail will lead you to Morning Glory Arch, a natural sandstone bridge tucked in the narrower part of the canyon.

When we spotted the turnoff for Grandstaff Trailhead, we were on our way to Castle Valley for a honeymoon photoshoot with Angela Hays. Daniel is a photography nerd, so my wedding gift to him was a couples photo session in the desert. I started where I always do – Google. Angela’s name kept popping up, and her website was beautiful. I found out later that she had been a park ranger in this region before she was a professional photographer, so she definitely knew the nuances of the area.

Not only is she a skilled photographer, her prices are fair and of good value. We paid approximately $400 for a 1.5 hours couple session, and we received 168 digital images that could be downloaded in web-resolution, high-resolution, and original formatting. She told us that she had a two-week turnaround, from shooting the images to returning them to us, and yet we had ours back in just over a week. We’re also getting a free 11×14 print from her, as part of a deal she offers (I can’t give away all of her secrets!).

We had a fantastic time, and we can’t wait to visit Moab again. Here are some links to the places mentioned:



National Parks: ;

Food: ; ; ; ;

Happy trails!

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