There's so much to see and do near Moab! Experience even more of Utah's beauty and adventures.
By Redtail Air Adventures
You can’t come to Moab without exploring the surrounding national parks! Of course, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks always offer unforgettable experiences, but ONLY visiting the parks wouldn’t provide the most well-rounded trip to Moab. There are so many worthwhile views, activities, experiences, and destinations in Utah outside of the national parks that are every bit as stunning, exciting, and memorable.
Here are a few things to do outside Utah’s national parks that are well worth your time!
Reasons to Explore Beyond the Parks
When hiking in the national parks on weekends or holidays, it can feel like driving during rush hour traffic. The parking spots are few and far between, and hitting the trail almost looks like standing in a long line. Once you get to the view, you may be looking over rows and rows of heads – not to mention waiting for a chance to take an unobstructed picture.
When you’re in national parks, there are caveats with dogs, camping, backpacking… many things you may want to do. These regulations are necessary to protect the national parks, and we support them! Still, if you want to venture out to areas with fewer limitations, the surrounding backcountry and state parks may have a little more leniency. So whether your goal is to camp, backpack, climb, or 4-wheel, you may find a place to do it in one of the destinations outside the park.
National parks (rightfully so) have a few fees connected to enjoying the natural beauty within the park’s borders. At Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, the day rate for a private car is $30 each. If you want to skip fees, many destinations outside the national parks have fewer fees, save for the odd parking fee.
You may believe that the national parks are hiding all of the best views behind their borders, but there is much more to find if you’re willing to venture outside the parks. From little-known indigenous wall paintings to sweeping horizon views, you can find inspiring scenery in endless spots of the Southern Utah backcountry.
Places in Utah to Visit Outside of the Parks
Dead Horse State Park
The name may be bleak, but the views are magical. Dead Horse State Park is ideal for finding sweeping horizons, giant canyons and winding river views, with tons of overlooks and views that cover several miles of land. Dead Horse State Park is open until 10 pm, making it a popular stargazing spot.
Great Views in Dead Horse State Park
East Rim Trail
The East Rim Trail is a 4-mile out-and-back trail that meanders past several stunning scenic outlooks. The East Rim Arch and Basin Overlook are the stars of the show for must-take photo ops along the way.
West Rim Trail
The West Rim Trail is across the way from the East Rim Trail and offers a longer, slightly more challenging hiking experience. You’ll walk through campgrounds and along cliffs that double as the boundaries of the park. This trail is packed full of scenic overlooks (Meander Overlook, Shafer Overlook, Neck Overlook and Rim Overlook) that showcase the beauty of this state park.
A secluded oasis that rests on the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley is a picture of the great American West. The expanse of untouched desert landscape is broken up by giant sandstone features that are exceptionally unique to this land.
Great Views in Monument Valley
The iconic Mittens is one of, if not the top Monument Valley view when traveling to this area. This scene is stunning year-round and especially magical if you catch the shadow of the mitten.
The Totem Pole is another famous sandstone formation in Monument Valley that seems to defy gravity. Like it sounds, the Totem Pole is a very tall and thin column that is over 400 feet tall from its base.
Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods has a little bit of everything you want to see when you venture out into the desert. Everywhere you look, you’ll see sprawling land peppered with buttes, pinnacles, and creative formations.
Sand Flats Recreation Area
Are you more of a doer than a seer? The Sand Flats Recreation Area allows you to see beautiful views as you take on an adventure activity!
This BLM area near Moab has much more flexible parameters than the national parks so you can camp, mountain bike, ride jeeps, explore with ATVs, and more. The rounded rocks and technical trails make it a mountain biker’s dream and an incredibly popular place to visit with bikes in tow.
On top of the 2-to-4-wheeled adventures, the surrounding area is full of beautiful views. Stop by for a day of riding or reserve a campsite for an overnight trip.
Great Views in Sand Flats
Off-highway Vehicle Trails
You can find almost 40 miles of Jeep and ATV trails to explore in this area, making for some of the best off-roading in the West. Venture out to sandstone and canyon views from the vehicle of your choice (though restrictions apply and licenses are required!)
Sand Flats has some magical sandstone features that are especially magical for those who want to take on a mountain-biking circuit like no other. Thanks to the technical nature of the trails, many routes should only be attempted by seasoned pros. But if you are up to the challenge, the unique sandstone terrain makes for exciting biking.
With bright red canyon rock faces on either side of this expansive river, the timeless beauty of the Colorado River is a cornerstone must-try experience for anyone visiting the area. This river stretches over 1,400 miles through multiple states, and you can find incredible scenery and experiences from start to finish.
Great Views from the Colorado River
Rafting and Kayaking
The water is calling you – it’s time to answer! Especially during days that feel too hot for hiking, the Colorado River is full of stunning views by raft and kayak. You can rent watercraft for a self-guided tour or book a trip with an outfitter for a guided adventure.
Camping along the Colorado River can feel especially luxurious, as it is a unique amenity to have beautiful running waters so close to camp in the desert. Depending on where you camp, you can either stay close to the riverbed for shore lounges and quick dips in calm eddies or camp well above the river for twisting and turning Colorado River views.
Little-known secret – you don’t have to go into Arches National Park to witness some stunning arch rock features in Moab! The Corona Arch is located on a 2.4-mile hike that is relatively challenging but well worth the views. Just off Potash Road, you’ll find this hike that features Corona Arch, Pinto Arch and Bowtie Arch, along with several other unique rock features. Corona Arch is one of the largest and most dramatic arches in Moab. So take advantage of this feature found outside of national parks!
One of the best destinations in Utah outside the national parks for hot days is Ken’s Lake! This man-made desert lake offers a place for lounging by the water, swimming, boating (electric motors only), kayaking, and more.
Bonus view: Venture on the Ken’s Lake trail for a little while to find Faux Falls – a manufactured waterfall just a short hike away from the lake. There aren’t deep pools for a proper swim, but it’s a good place to splash around and refresh on this out-and-back hike.
Goblin Valley State Park
Up for a 1.5-hour drive out of Moab? We promise it’s worth it. Goblin Valley State Park is a local and international favorite, thanks to the thousands of “hoodoos,” or unique, rounded rock formations peppered through the valley. The overall view is of sandstone bubbles bursting through the desert floor in shapes reminiscent of frogs, people, mushrooms, and goblins (hence the name).
La Sal Mountain
A short drive outside Moab will take you to the base of La Sal Mountain. This mountain is a beautiful part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, the second-highest mountain range in Utah. Venturing to La Sal Mountain will get you access to greener, shadier terrain than you can find within the borders of Moab. From bubbling streams to thriving aspens to lush mountain meadows, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a new world compared to the red rock scenery of Moab.
If you’re in the car exploring and trying to find some stunning Moab scenery, there’s a great chance you’ll eventually find yourself on Potash Road. This famous road in Moab hugs the Colorado River and can guide you to several stunning nature scenes in Moab.
Places to Visit off of Potash Road
- Scenic River Pullout: Just 2 miles down the road, you’ll be able to access the river.
- Wall Street: If you catch this area at the right time, you’ll be able to find some seasoned climbers traversing the Wall Street Climbing Wall.
- Indigenous Rock Art: Look closer at the Wall Street Rock Wall! You’ll find a gorgeous rock art panel along the base of the wall.
- Corona Arch: Mentioned above! This giant arch is located just off Potash Road.
Explore these destinations from above!
Now that you know where to adventure outside the national parks around Moab, it’s time to fill your trip with memorable explorations! Our helicopter and small airplane flight tours fly over several of the views in this blog post.
Reach out to our team for help planning a perfect aerial overview on a Moab airplane tour or other Utah national park adventure! We have lots of tours to choose from, or you can create your own airplane adventure with us!