Rock and Roll
Utah's Southeast Desert Welcomes the Adventurer for Thrills and Spills
April 1, 2008
When the first pioneer settlers established a trading post in the southeastern portion of the state, they were probably more interested in the life-sustaining water provided by the nearby Green and Colorado Rivers than the death defying exploits their descendents would enjoy in the nearby landscape.
Indeed, William Pierce, Moab’s first postmaster, likely never uttered the words, “Dude, I just had an epic ride on a gnarly singletrack.” But on any given day in Utah’s southeast region, that is exactly the kind of conversation you’ll hear around town among the area’s adventure travellers.
The crossroads of two major western rivers and the most compelling desert landscape on earth create an adventure paradise in the Moab area. Flanked on the northwest and southwest by Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, respectively, the area is home to some of the most treacherously beautiful terrain in the state.
While the weather in Moab stays fairly welcoming throughout the year, the maiden voyage for many thrill seekers falls each year on Easter, with the Moab Jeep Safari. For the diehards who like to brave the crowds and the rocky terrain, the spring weekend is a dream come true. Hundreds of jeep owners participate in the safari each year, which winds through the desolate and rugged terrain surrounding Moab.
For the rest of you who look for a little respite from mad crowds and seek adventure in relative peace, 14-year Moab resident Jason Taylor recommends visiting the city later in the season. Late spring and early fall are best, if you are looking for a cooler experience, Taylor says.
Taylor manages Moab Adventure Center, a one-stop shop for visitors seeking a quick introduction to all that Moab has to offer. While hardcore off-road enthusiasts bring their toys with them, establishments like the Adventure Center provide the gear for weekend warriors looking for a taste of red rocked voyages.
White water tours and mountain bike expeditions are common offerings by tour providers in the area, but Taylor says the most popular excursions are of the four wheeled variety – either a Hummer safari or a self-guided Jeep tour.
“The must-do is the Hummer tour,” Taylor says. “Everyone is just blown away.”
Safe enough for a baby in a car seat or an occasional 90-year-old guest, the Hummer safaris take visitors over rocky and seemingly perilous terrain on the plateaus near Moab, and end with an overlook of the Colorado River and Arches National Park. The popular ride culminates with a view of the La Sal mountain range under a setting sun.
Those with a little more experience under their belt might be enthralled with a self-guided Jeep tour of the Moab region. Rentals are available through the Adventure Center for $130/day ($150 for a vehicle with a little more power and larger wheels). Maps to some of the best trails are provided, none of which require any special experience or caution. Most are dirt roads, Taylor says, with plenty of hiking and sight-seeing to do at various recommended destinations.
Beyond the red rocks, the outdoorsy visitor will find myriad other experiences and adventures in and around the Moab landscape. White water rafting, scenic flights, canyoneering, repelling, horseback riding or a short hike to the iconic Delicate Arch are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“For me, Moab still has that small town feeling,” says Taylor. “But I’m five minutes from Slickrock bike trail or 10 minutes from a trail to take my dog for a hike. It is just a great place if you are looking something fun to do outdoors.”
Take the Whole Team
The Moab experience doesn’t have to be limited to a family outing. Corporate events are also popular in a setting where teamwork thrives. The Moab Adventure Center has arranged team building activities for a number of clients, including one trip that required members of the group to use GPS coordinates to find their camp.