Moab, Utah is my second home. I can always count on a four-hour road trip south into the red rock with my family or friends at least once a year — more than once, if I get my way.
As a result of these frequent trips, I’ve had plenty of time to learn the lay of the land and have experienced some awesome Moab hikes. Though many people who travel to Moab are focused on seeing the big tourist sites and taking the popular hikes, such as those in Arches National Park, there are plenty of beautiful spaces without the tourist frenzy. The area truly is a hiker’s paradise, with trails criss-crossing all varieties of desert terrain. These are the top two on my list of must-hike Moab trails:
My favorite place to spend the day hiking in Moab — and really my favorite hike anywhere — is Millcreek Canyon (not to be confused with the canyon up north in the Wasatch Range). This is an especially good option for those who are staying in or around town, as it’s a short bike ride from the center of town. This is also a great option if you don’t have a whole day but just a couple of hours and want to experience the best of red rock country; you can make the hike as short or as long as you desire.
The trailhead can be a little tricky to locate the first time around. Just ask at any local restaurant or gas station for directions, and you’ll be on your way in no time. Once you make it up the short gravel-and-dirt road to the parking area, you will inevitably encounter a few other hikers, most of them locals during the week. Though there can be quite a few people on the weekends, there are plenty of places along the trail to branch off for a quieter walk.
Also, keep in mind that if you’re there over any holiday weekend, the place will be swarming with Jeep drivers. It’s usually good to avoid the area during this time, even if it is fun to watch them attempt to drive up the cliffs.
Millcreek Canyon sports an easy-to-follow trail that meanders along the creek, while crossing over it from time to time. Recent trail markers have made it easy to keep on-trail throughout the creek crossings. Your feet will get wet on this hike, so it is always nice to wear a pair of waterproof sandals that you can comfortably wade and hike in. Not only is there potential for wading, but there’s also a nice spot for a cool swim. The natural swimming hole at the end of the short canyon is a great place to relax and take in the scenery.
The proximity to the water makes it an excellent choice for a hike with your four-legged pal, but be careful because the sand can get too hot for a dog’s paws at times. If you want a longer hike, you can hike out of the canyon and follow the creek from above.
My other favorite hiking area is farther from town, which entails a scenic 30-minute drive down Highway 128, snaking along the Colorado River. The drive alone is worth the trip, but the destination — Fisher Towers — boasts a pretty awesome hike.
Once you see the sign and turn off the highway, you are faced with a long dirt road and an awesome view of red drip castle-like towers looming up the hill. The hiking trail starts at the top of the road from a small parking lot and winds its way around the base of the awe-inspiring rocks.
The trail can be hard to follow at first, as it’s not clearly marked, but there are enough cairns built up along the way that you aren’t lost for long. The hike is an easygoing four-and-a-half-mile round-trip. The relaxed trail presents views of mesas, valleys and canyons as far as the eye can see. It is especially spectacular when a storm is moving across the landscape, dropping low clouds and some occasional lightning.
Fisher Towers is also a popular spot for climbers, so most likely you’ll be able to gaze up at the brave souls scaling the vertical formations as you traverse the trail.
In case you don’t feel like making the return journey right away (you won’t), there is a small campground situated just beneath Fisher Towers with secluded sites overlooking the valley all the way to the river. The campground is especially spectacular at sunrise and sunset.