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Can’t Get a Reservation for Arches? Here Are 9 Things to do Nearby

7 FREE but AWESOME things to do in Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah is most famously known for its proximity to Arches National Park, named for the hundreds of natural stone arches that you can find within its boundaries.

Arches National Park has begun using a Timed Entry system that requires a reservation to enter the park on busy days.  If you can’t snag one of the coveted park reservations, Moab offers so much more than just the national park, from rivers to dinosaurs, petroglyphs, and every outdoor activity you can imagine. 

I’ve visited Arches and Moab over 10 times and I’ve found there is so much to explore and do in the area!

Keep reading for more great things to do in the Arches area in case you can’t get into the park.

1) Cross the Tracks and Visit Corona Arch 

Photo Credit: Megan Judd

Just 12 miles west of Moab is one of the most stunning arches you can find outside the park. The trail to Corona Arch begins near an old train line and crosses the tracks before continuing up to the arch.

The hike is rated as moderate, and has two short ladders that even small children can climb. Dogs are permitted on a leash at Corona Arch, so bring your favorite four-footed friend along with you! 

2) See Dinosaur Tracks and Petroglyphs at Longbow Arch

Photo Credit Djamel Ramdani via Pexels 

This 2.2-mile family-friendly easy/moderate hike is like a window to the past as you hike past dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs from Moab’s indigenous peoples as you make your way to LongBow Arch. Experts agree that the dinosaur tracks were created nearly 190 Million years ago.

The petroglyphs are much newer but still estimated to be around 1600-2000 years old. They would have been created long before explorers from Europe ever came to North America. 

Many visitors turn around after the dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs, so you may even find yourself with time alone at Longbow Arch, a nice break from the crowds that can gather inside Arches National Park. I personally found the beginning of this trail to be a bit confusing, make sure to watch for signs that guide you!

3) Cool Off in the Stream as you hike to Morning Glory Natural Bridge

Photo Credit: Megan Judd

To beat the summer heat, consider visiting Morning Glory Bridge. Created by a natural spring on a sandstone fin, Morning Glory is classified as a Natural Bridge. 

The trail to Morning Glory winds back and forth across the spring-fed stream where you can cool your toes while you look forward to the stunning arch at the end of the trail. You may even see a visitor rappelling down from the arch above. 

4) See an Arch from Above and Below on a Rappelling Tour


Photo Credit: Rachel Augustus  (with permission) 

For more adventurous guests, several local tour companies offer guided trips that include rappelling from Morning Glory Bridge, as well as many other canyons and cliffs around Moab. Full-Day or Half-Day trips are the most common, and guides provide full support so no previous experience is required for most trips.

My last rappelling group included guests from age 24-70+ most with no previous experience at all. The rappel down from Morning Glory arch is a free-hang, where you step back from the cliff and gently slide down to the canyon floor while hanging completely free under the arch. 

That’s me in the photo, about to drop down through the arch!

5) Catch a Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park

Photo Credit  Sandra Seitamaa via Pexels

Some of Moab’s best sunset views are just a 30-minute drive from downtown, at Dead Horse Point State Park. Take a short walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint that overlooks the Colorado River, and watch the cliffs and canyons below shift through beautiful red, orange, and pink shades as the sun sets.

The history of Dead Horse Point is as interesting as the views, according to legend, wild mustangs were rounded up and herded out to the point which acted as a natural corral to contain the horses. Explore the cliffs to the north of the viewpoint for more stunning views, or stay a night at the campgrounds to have a view of the night sky that is hard to beat.

Dead Horse Point is a certified Dark Sky Park, providing excellent star-watching conditions and views of the Milky Way belt. 

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6) Or a Sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

An early morning alarm can provide a truly unmatched sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands Island in the Sky area. A short hike will take you to Mesa Arch where you can watch the sunrise over the Green and Colorado River canyons.

When the sky is clear, you’ll watch the sun turn Mesa Arch into a brilliant glowing orange frame of the valley below. Mesa Arch is a favorite spot for photographers and other guests, so plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunrise to explore the area around the arch and find the best view for sunrise.

After sunrise, many photographers and guests head straight back home, so I love to use those early hours to explore more of the park without any crowds. The Green River Overlook and Grand View Point both offer stunning views in the morning while the canyons are still cast in shadows from early light. 

7) Imagine Prehistoric Animals Today at Moab Giants Dinosaur Experience

Photo Credit: Megan Judd

With activities for all ages, Moab Giants gives a look at prehistoric times in Utah. Walk a trail through the desert with lifesize dinosaurs before digging for dinosaur bones, then join the 3D Aquarium tour to get a peek at underwater creatures from the past.

After seeing dinosaur tracks up close in the museum, my 5-year-old twins spent over 30 minutes playing on the playground and taking photos inside the mouth of a T-Rex. We rested our feet while they played and then headed to the cafe for a light lunch before we headed back to town.

8) Float on the River that Carved the Grand Canyon 

Photo Credit: Megan Judd

Several tour companies in Moab offer river trips for varying ability levels. One popular half-day trip offered by multiple guides begins with a bus or van ride several miles up the Colorado River from Moab and travels gently down the river back toward Moab before guests are picked up and returned back home.

In the fall, heavy rains can cause flash floods that churn up mud in the river and turn the Colorado River completely brown! We did the trip in August and couldn’t see our hands just an inch below the surface because of all the sediment, but still had a blast riding the river.

For more daring travelers, book in the Spring/Early Summer months when snowmelt causes the rivers to run high and fast, or choose a more adventurous trip through Cataract Canyon near where the Green River joins the Colorado. 

9) Get your Heart Pounding Sitting Down on an ATV or Jeep Tour

Moab has one of the most extensive off-road trail systems anywhere, drawing in visitors from all over the world who want to experience the red rocks of Southern Utah by driving over, around, and through them.

Ride along with a guide or drive your own ATV across river washes, through canyons, and up and down Moab’s best trails when you join a tour. 

Need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do in Moab and Arches? Check out our itinerary

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

More resources for Arches and Moab

ABOUT US

We’re Matt and Cheryl, and we’re in the Rockies. :) We are both teachers. Cheryl teaches special ed, and Matt teaches American history. We love the American West and the national parks. We want to help you have a great vacation on your next trip to the Rockies.

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