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Eastern Utah is filled with incredible hiking trails with unique landscapes and epic views. Many of the best hiking in Moab is found within the national parks: Canyonlands and Arches National Park. But if going into a national park just doesn’t fit in your itinerary, like if you’re hiking with your dog, you can still find some fantastic trails near town. These are 5 of our favorite Moab hiking trails you don’t want to miss.
Moab Hiking Trails Outside the National Parks
The entrances to two of Utah’s 5 national parks are conveniently located right off Hwy 191 in Moab. Our first visit to this land of outdoor adventure was all about exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Park. There’s no doubt they both have some of the best Moab hiking trails, but it can be quite a drive to reach many of the trailheads. Dogs aren’t allowed on trails within the park, so they’re not much of an option when adventuring with your pet.
Fortunately, there are many incredible hikes found outside the parks too, where you’ll find some great contenders for the best hiking in Moab. We hit these trails with as many as 7 kids with us on each hike, and they helped make sure these trails were good options for kids.
these 5 favorite kid-friendly hikes in Moab are perfect when you are short on time, have your pup along with you, or just want to avoid the national park crowds. (and make sure to read these tips for making hikes more fun for the kids!).
This post was written with a lot of help from Logan (12 years old), who thinks a day on the trails doesn’t get much better than hiking in Moab!
Tips for Hiking in the Desert
When planning any outdoor adventure in the desert, preparedness is essential. Even in the winter months, the sun is intense in the desert.
- pack plenty of water, especially in the summer months
- bring enough sunscreen to reapply during your time outdoors (check here for current recommendations from the American Dermatology Association)
- seek shady spots for breaks
- keep your pet safe too, with lots of water, shade, and breaks
Corona Arch Trail
The Corona Arch Trail is the most popular of our top 5 trails for the best hiking in Moab. There is limited parking at the trailhead but plenty of overflow parking along the road. Like many hiking trails in Moab, the hike to Corona Arch has little shade, so set out early if you want to avoid the heat of the day – especially in the summer.
- Distance: 2.3 miles, round trip
- Difficulty: moderate
- Facilities: vault toilet at trailhead
- Dogs: are permitted on the Corona Arch Trail (on leash)
Corona Arch Trail Highlights
“Corona Arch is an amazing trail with a beautiful arch at the end. The whole hike was beautiful. There are amazing views, wildflowers, and a little bit of scrambling, but there is not much shade on the trail. There are little caves you can climb up to that are not too steep, and you may get lucky to get some shade in those.” — Logan
We love this one for kids because of the features along the trail that provide a little distraction from hiking. Railroad tracks, a safety cable to guide hikers up a narrow stairway, and a ladder to help with a steep climb all caught the kids’ attention.
The sandstone terrain can make it tough to identify the right path, so watch for cairns to keep you on the trail.
Amazing views of Corona Arch are just around the corner after the climb up the ladder. There are more fantastic views from under the arch too. Plan to picnic in the shade under the arch while taking in the rocky desert landscape.
Related Reading: The Best Hiking Trails for Your Next Trip to Boulder, Colorado
Grandstaff Canyon Trail
Our last visit to Moab was a camping trip with a group of friends that make an annual trip to Moab – and they were the best resource for recommendations. The one trail that came up over and over was the Grandstaff Canyon Trail, so we couldn’t miss out on this one.
- Distance: 4.3 miles, round trip
- Difficulty: moderate
- Facilities: vault toilet at trailhead
- Parking: at the trailhead, with overflow parking across the street
- Dogs: are permitted on the Grandstaff Trail
Highlights of the Grandstaff Canyon Trail
The trail runs along a creek through the Negro Bill Wilderness Study Area. The canyon, hiking trail, and wilderness study area are named for William Grandstaff (sometimes noted as William Granstaff), one of the early settlers in the area. While the canyon and trail have recently changed names, the wilderness study area is still in the process of being renamed.
Be prepared to get your feet wet along the way in the stream that flows alongside the trail crosses over it at a few points too. The kids were excited to ditch their shoes to take on the soft, sandy terrain in their bare feet. (We always carry these Nite-Ize S-Biner carabiners to hook shoes – and other kid gear – to the outside of our packs)
The well-shaded area under the Morning Glory Natural Bridge at the end of this Moab hiking trail is perfect for the heat of the summer. It is the 6th longest natural bridge in the US, spanning 243 feet. While you’re there, keep a watch on the top of the bridge – you may catch rappellers coming down from the top.
“If you are lucky enough, you can see climbers climbing down the arch wall. Dogs are allowed, but they have to be on their leash. There are also nature tips on the trail, which I thought was really cool.” — Logan
The Sand Flats Recreation Area is known for mountain biking and off-roading and has some fun hiking trails. We discovered the Slickrock Trail on a show about off-roading in Moab and learned it is a great hike too.
- Distance: 1.7 (practice loop for mountain bikers) – 10.5 miles (full mountain biking trail)
- Difficulty: easy – moderate
- Facilities: no drinking water, but there is a vault toilet at trailhead
- Parking: large parking lot at the trailhead
- Dogs: are permitted on the Slickrock Trail, but the sandstone can be really rough on their paws
- Fees: $5 per day to enter Sand Flats Recreation Area (per vehicle)
Highlights of the Slickrock Trail in Moab UT
This isn’t your typical hiking trail. The vast sandstone rocks provide endless views but make finding the hiking trail tricky. Following the painted lines will keep you on the right track. There are also a handful of signs along the way for additional direction.
The Slickrock Trail is primarily a mountain biking trail (and a very technical one), so keep an eye out for fast-approaching bikers. While hiking is allowed, it’s best to keep out of the way of bikers on the trail – they won’t always be able to see you around a turn or over a rolling hill.
The endless views also mean little shade, even in the cooler months. Like many Moab hiking trails, Slickrock is best done in the early morning or into the evening, when the sun is not as direct. Make sure to bring plenty of water and extra sunscreen.
The best picnic spot on the Slickrock Trail? “The picnic area is really the whole trail because of hiking on a rock. Go off to the side a little and have your feast.” — Logan
Moab’s national parks might get all of the attention, but Dead Horse Point State Park is worth a visit for views that are just as incredible.
- Distance: 3 miles, round trip (3.5 miles if taking the Basin Overlook spur)
- Difficulty: easy
- Facilities: restrooms at visitor center
- Parking: large parking lot at the visitor center
- Dogs: are permitted on the Dead Horse Point State Park hiking trails, but must be on a leash
- Fees: $20 fee to enter the state park is good for three days (per vehicle)
Highlights of the East Rim Trail
The East Rim Trail is near two destinations at the state park: the visitor center and the Dead Horse Point Overlook. While you can also drive to the overlook, the East Rim trail is easy and so worth the views of the La Sal mountains, vast canyons, and the Colorado River.
Off in the distance, bright blue evaporation pools are easy to spot against the deep reds of the Moab landscape. The ponds are dyed to speed the crystallization process of potash ore, found deep below the surface.
The overlook at Dead Horse Point has a large shaded picnic shelter for an extended break from the sun. The overlook area provides a perfect view of the Colorado River, where you might also recognize the scene from the famous ending of the movie Thelma & Louise.
“Th” East Rim Trail to Dead Horse Point is an out and back trail with little elevation change. Dead Horse Point has some amazing views and a nice visitor center. At the end, there is a picnic area and a point where you can take pictures. The trail is mostly flat with a little uphill. There is shade at the trail’s end that you can eat under. There are lizards crawling all over the trail if you want to see some.” -” Logan
You Might Also Like: The Best of the Badlands in 4 Hours: Things to Do at Badlands National Park
MiddleEarth Waterfall and Overlook Ridge
The best hiking in Moab is a hidden secret. We stumbled upon one of the probably many unknown hikes in Moab – and it was by far our favorite. After a morning hike to Corona Arch, we set out to find a shady lunch spot and found ourselves in a small parking area at an unmarked trailhead. It took a little research to finally learn we had hiked to the MiddleEarth Waterfall.
- Distance: 2 miles, round trip
- Difficulty: easy-moderate
- Facilities: none
- Parking: small parking lot off Potash Road
- Dogs: there are no signs indicating that pets are not permitted on the trail
Highlights of the the trail to MiddleEarth Waterfall
This lesser-known trail is pretty easy to find. Heading west on Utah Highway 279, you’ll see a small parking area on the right, just a 1/2 mile before reaching the Corona Arch Trail parking area. Or, search GPS coordinate 38.566826, -109.631678 on Google maps.
The trail runs through a narrow canyon, ending at the MiddleEarth Waterfall. There isn’t actually a waterfall on this hike. At the trail’s end, a pool of water was about knee-deep on the kids – perfect for wading. With 7 kids in tow on this trail, we spent a lot of time skipping rocks in the water here and enjoying a break from the sun. This is also the perfect picnic spot.
This hidden Moab hiking trail doesn’t need to end here, though. First, climb to the overlook on the left for a great view down into the canyon. Then as you head back towards the trailhead, watch for the spot where the trail branches off on the left. A somewhat narrow ledge ascends to the top of the canyon, where you’ll discover petroglyphs in the upper canyon walls.
Climbing rocks and canyon walls, playing in the water, and discovering petroglyphs earned this hike the top vote of favorite kid-friendly hikes in Moab. And it was a relief to find a trail with some shade!
Where to Find More Moab Hiking Trails and Planning Your Visit
If you’re looking for a great hike that offers fantastic views without the crowds in the national parks, Moab has plenty to offer. These five trails provide some of the best hiking in Moab, and your family is sure to find something perfect for them regardless of their experience or fitness level. Just be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen because you’ll definitely need it! Have you done any Moab hiking trails? What was your favorite trail?
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