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Moab notebook: Plan early if visiting during summer months

Arches National Park's best-known formation, Delicate Arch, can be photographed from afar from near a parking lot or up close after a three-mile hike. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Don Davis

Visitors stopping at a Moab motel in the winter likely will face little trouble getting a room.

Don’t try that during peak tourism season, from just before Easter through at least September. In a town based on tourism, expecting a no-reservation room during peak season is risky.

In fact, while in Moab in early December, one of my motel’s managers told me to book a room then if I wanted one any time during the peak season. They were going fast.

If you are not into four-wheel-drive events, it is best to avoid the nine days before Easter, the start of the main tourist season. That is when the Easter “Weekend” Jeep Safari takes place. It attracts thousands to Moab as people try their hand at often-difficult off-road driving.

If going in the summer, be prepared with water and sunscreen.

Even travel promoters warn of extremely hot weather in the heart of summer. While I often heard complaints about “115-degree temperatures,” the average high for July and August is just below 100.

Warnings are everywhere about the need to drink extra water, something that does not just apply during the hottest of days. I found the need to drink more water than expected even as I was shivering from single-digit temperatures (above and below zero) and surrounded by snow.

Don’t limit trip to the big parks

There is a lot to see in the Moab area beyond Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

First on many tourists’ lists is Deadhorse Point State Park. It is small, but has an inspiring canyon view that many like better than anything they see in nearby Canyonlands.

A couple of Utah state highways just north of Moab also are worth trips. Utah 128 runs northeast along the Colorado River, just outside Arches.

When road and weather conditions permit, Utah 128 begins a loop around the La Sal Mountains, a small but picturesque range southeast of Moab.

Another favorite is Utah 279, which follows the Colorado to the southwest. It goes near a well-known arch (a short hike from the highway), but may be best known for ancient American Indian writings that are high on a cliff, in easy view, right along the highway. The spot is well marked.

There is much government land around Moab, including areas allowing bicycle treks, off-road vehicle driving and other uses. Before leaving home, investigate what is available for your interest.

The downtown Moab Information Center is a great place to learn about less-used roads, but still ones easy to travel, to provide a unique vacation adventure for those who do not want to venture too far off the beaten path.

Moab is a pricey place

Try to plan in advance so you do not need to buy much in Moab; it is expensive.

There are no Walmart or Target stores there, but there are some small department stores. At most stores and restaurants, prices were a fair amount higher than in more populated areas.

Motels are a bargain in the winter (as low as $30 a night on my trip), but not so much at other times. The motel room where I stayed went for $40 a night in the winter, but could top $100 during peak season.

Some motels featured an even bigger price swing from season to season.

Don’t be afraid of rangers

When visiting parks, pump the rangers for information.

When I went to the Arches visitors’ center information desk, a ranger marked up a map to show the best places for morning and afternoon photos, a real help on my first visit to the park. It certainly reduced the scouting time I needed to find the best spots to set up.

Speaking of photos, the Moab information Website and other sites include photo suggestions. I found more photo ideas for the Moab area than anywhere else I have visited, other than Yellowstone National Park. Do a “Moab photo” Internet search and you will come up with hundreds of ideas.

More information

Plenty of information is available about planning a Moab trip, starting with the area’s official information service, or (800) 635-6622.

The official tourism website features plenty of pictures to tempt you. It includes quite a bit about off-roading, and there are lots of YouTube videos about off-road adventures, which will scare some folks away while attracting others.

Arches National Park is at, while Canyonlands National Park can be found at

An Internet search can locate many other websites, including some private ones of organizations ranging from friends of the parks to four-wheel-drive groups.

Statewide tourism information is available at

A popular site that allows people to book lodging and flights and to get reviews of destinations is

Reviews posted there proved right on about my old-fashioned, modest motel and provided other pre-trip information I found valuable.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.