Moab and Salt Lake City are about a 4-hour drive apart if you navigate straight through from one to the other. However, you definitely want to stop and explore Utah’s gorgeous scenery. The landscape along the way makes you want to grab your water bottle — a must-have in the hot, desert environment — and hike through the red rock formations.
You will find exciting adventures, history, refined culture, and amazing cuisine along the way. Plan to enjoy a day or two on either end — Moab and Salt Lake City offer their own special characters and are unique in their offerings. Take a day in between the two and make the drive for a quintessential Utah road trip.
Note: Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
1. Quesadilla Mobilla
Whether you arrive in Moab by car, plane, or the Rocky Mountaineer, you will love the Western vibe in this dusty adventure town.
Downtown Moab is a fun place to shop, eat, and people watch. A mix of souvenir shops, jewelry stores, and Western outfitters line the downtown area, making it a perfect spot to stretch your legs and absorb the Moab outdoorsy vibe.
In one corner of downtown is a large food truck park where you can dine on everything from gelato to paninis. Around the corner from the park sits a lone, bright yellow truck — Quesadilla Mobilla. Monster quesadillas that will fuel you up with energy for your outdoor exploits are served up at this food truck stop. Grab a picnic table and a fist full of napkins — their ooey-gooey quesadillas are legendary.
2. Hell’s Revenge
Exploring Hell’s Revenge is at the top of everyone’s list when visiting Moab. The intrepid explorer can pilot their own ATV/UTV up and down the precarious rock formations following in the footsteps of many a skilled driver. For thrill-seekers who are happy to hand over the controls to a professional, there are large all-terrain vehicles where you can buckle in and enjoy the scenic route. With obstacles to attack with names like the “Tip-Over Challenge” and “Rubble Trouble,” you know you are in for an exciting ride.
To sit back and enjoy the slick rock ride, book a tour with Big Iron Tours and hop aboard the ‘Pain Train’ — a 1970 M35 military transport vehicle. As you navigate the bumpy, hair-raising descents, switchback turns, and steep climbs enjoy sweeping vistas of the La Sal Mountains while leaving the navigating to someone else.
3. Arches National Park
No trip to Moab is complete without visiting Arches National Park. A drive through the park is like visiting the moon or another unearthly planet. Every turn opens up new and unusual gravity-defying red rock formations.
The park becomes very busy by mid-morning, and parking can be difficult. Even short hikes through the park can be a challenging exertion and sturdy shoes are a necessity. If you don’t have time for a hike, a simple drive-through to enjoy the panoramic vistas is a minimum must-do when visiting the area.
Enthusiastic adventurers will want to make a reservation at Devils Garden Campground to enjoy the immersive national park experience. Try to take a midday nap and rest up for the amazing nighttime starlight dark sky extravaganza.
4. Dead Horse Point State Park
At the top of Dead Horse Point State Park, there is a large flat area — the point — surrounded by deep, rocky canyons with precipitous drops. The point is accessible by a precariously narrow road — don’t look down. In pioneer days, wranglers would drive wild horses into the flat and barricade the entrance, corralling them on the inescapable point. Legend claims at one time the horses were forgotten high on the point and died — thus the park’s name.
The beauty of the park’s wild landscape viewed from your perch high up on the point is stunning. No matter which direction you turn, the panorama is breathtakingly beautiful, offering views of Canyonlands National Park, the La Sal Mountains, and the Colorado River.
5. Canyonlands National Park
Avid hikers will love Canyonlands National Park. The park boasts hundreds of miles of hiking trails for all levels. Hiking in Canyonlands National Park requires some pre-planning — water, sunscreen, and a trail map are at the top of the list.
The easy-rated White Rim Overlook is just under 2 miles round trip with a rewarding view. Expert hikers can embark on the 10-plus-mile Alcove Spring Trail that brings you to the base of the Moses and Zeus Towers.
6. Ray’s Tavern
A little way down the road from Moab is Green River, home to Ray’s Tavern. Time your journey to land here for lunch. The order of the day: burgers and fries. Keep it simple and keep it delicious. This local dive bar has morphed into a must-stop eatery on any road trip between Moab and Salt Lake City.
7. Utah State University Prehistoric Museum
Dinosaur hunters will want to stop at the Utah State University Prehistoric Museum. Wannabe paleontologists, archaeologists, and geologists alike will find displays to captivate their attention. The Aggies are proud of their university and take great care in maintaining the museum for their guests to enjoy.
Throughout the West, you will come upon dinosaur museums in the most unlikely little towns. These ancient beasts left copious footprints and fossil evidence that will amaze you and peak your imagination.
8. Brigham Young University
Home of Brigham Young University, Provo is a good spot to stop and stretch your legs. Wandering around campus grounds brings back the halcyon days of college life. Mingling with students on the cusp of exploring their future imparts a sense of youthful exuberance, not to mention a trip down memory lane.
9. Caffe Molise
Salt Lake City
As you pull into the downtown area of Salt Lake City, the pretty views of the Wasatch Mountains explain why the Mormon leaders decided to call it home. The downtown area is a walkable section of the city offering visitors great dining establishments, shops, and historic sites.
One Salt Lake City restaurant standout is Caffe Molise. Offering fine Italian cuisine in an old brownstone, you will be charmed by the hip interior. The menu offers many tempting options. Start with the bruschetta misto or the pomodori e mozzarella to get your taste buds warmed up. The penne di caprino with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and artichoke hearts on a bed of penne is heavenly. You won’t be disappointed if you dine on the polenta con funghi — wild mushrooms on gorgonzola-enriched polenta. Top it all off with the crème brûlée for a truly decadent dinner.
10. The Tabernacle Choir At Temple Square
Salt Lake City
On most Thursday evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., The Tabernacle Choir entertains audiences with their famed choir rehearsals. Their harmonious voices reverberate through your entire being with their glorious musical prayers. Experiencing the world-renowned Tabernacle Choir should be on every music lover’s bucket list. Other musical events offered include their famed organ recitals, bell performances, Music and the Spoken Word, and other events.
11. Little America Hotel
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City’s Little America Hotel is a big surprise wrapped up in a neat package. Located on a tree-lined street downtown, the hotel exterior blends beautifully into the neighborhood in a charming and unassuming way. However, when you step into the lobby, you quickly realize you have found something special — a little hidden gem of a stay. The rooms are spacious and comfy. The hotel is in the perfect spot after a day of exploring Salt Lake City.
Two intriguing and different Utah destinations — Moab and Salt Lake City — are waiting for you to explore their gifts. From high-energy adventure to world-renowned musical talent, your road trip between the two will be filled with history, exploration, and great food.