Tips on planning for first trip to Moab?

We are planning a trip to Overland Expo West next month and will be using the opportunity to hit up a couple of the National Parks in southern Utah. This was just decided yesterday. :smile: We are hitting up all of the NPs are we had been planning to make a 2-week vacation touring all of the NPs in Southern Utah but that wasn’t going to be until at least next year. So, my apologies for the very basic questions and please correct me if any of my current understanding is incorrect. We haven’t decided exactly which NPs we will visit, but I definitely want to do some light off-roading trails in the Moab area.

From my initial scouting via OnX, it looks like most of the trails are north of Canyonlands, between Canyonlands and Arches, but there are a few trails in each of those parks. I am anticipating 1 full day available to explore, so I would love recommendations if anyone wants to share what their “perfect day” picks would be. Since my fiancé will be along for this ride, I am aiming for trails that lean toward the scenic vs technical with a difficulty rating of around 5 or lower on a 10-point scale. For context on trail recommendations, I’m running a RAM 3500 Mega Cab Prospector XL. She’s a big girl with a loaded weight just under 10k pounds, a 3" lift and 40" tires, a 160" wheelbase and about 85" wide.

Right now, my big questions are:

  1. Where do I start with planning the things that I want to see? I know there is more to see & do in that area than we will have on this trip, so what are some of the best highlights to hit?
  2. What do I need to know and plan for ahead of time?
  3. Are reservations required for any of the trails inside or outside of the park?
  4. What is the best place to find current trail conditions and closures for trails outside the parks?

I am sure there are write-ups on some of these topics already, so if you want to just point me to them I am happy to do my research there. Given the relatively short notice on this, I’m just looking to jumpstart my planning with your help.

I am sure someone much closer than my 14hrs away will have better info, but i’d recommend Shafer Trail for a scenic dirt road and Hells Revenge for trail run. Both would be really fun in a 1ton truck.


I’ve explored quite a bit but usually just park my GFC and ride the moto.

Shafer is unreal as is the entire White Rim. Its a big truck to do the full WR but I’ve seen a Raptor do it (also dent a door). I would at least do Potash to Shafer. I’ve done it both directions and different view points. Its steep.

Depending on the time of the year if its too hot down low exploring all of the La Sal above Moab is fantastic. Cooler temps, great views. Look up La Sal loop road. A lot of offshoots.

There is some other really neat hikes and slots. Arches is average at best. If you’ve never been I’d still do it but Canyonlands is better, especially if you are in to long day hikes or better yet, over night loops. Think fun backpacking with slots, ropes, and ladders.


Map a route from valley of the gods to between bears ears, over to beef basin and into canyonlands.

You won’t regret it :grin:


Oh and check out hovenweep for sure! What dates are you going to be there if I am down there could show ya some cool spots

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You could spend a week just in Canyonlands if you really wanted to do stuff in the Maze, etc. We just did the NV—>UT national parks plus Moab, and I’d bet your truck would walk through most of Moab without issue even with the size. We did Fins N Things in our newer Chevy on 35s with no special build and it was perfectly fine so that might get your itch to wheel scratched without overdoing it for your fiancee. I wanted to do some slick rock without risking much and that was perfect.

In terms of trails and roads that lead to places, we went from Capitol Reef to Glen Canyon and had a good time. Camped in the middle of nowhere and then went towards Arches/Canyonlands the next day. For a two week trip, ScottH has the right ideas in mind as well. If you can get to it, Goblin Valley State Park was also pretty amazing. We went through it to get to Green River for MTB, but weren’t going to drive through without checking it out.

For trail conditions and closures, etc for the park, download the NPS app and save the parks for offline use. The maps aren’t anything special but they do offer some good info and the app updates with anything you want to know and links to the NPS website so you don’t have to continually web browse.

Can’t wait to see some pics of that rig out there. I love the AEV builds.

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Also another thing I did and found useful was download as many maps to Avenza for the areas as I could find. State parks, NPS, forest service or BLM, etc all offer free maps with their own info and it was useful when looking to find what linked on the maps. OnX isn’t as good there as it could be.

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It’s already been recommended but another vote for Shafer Trail here. Amazing scenery and not tech, though the switchbacks up & down from the top can feel sketchy.

Willow Springs Road will take you into Arches NP and is some nice scenery and very light offroading. There are some cool dinosaur tracks that you can check out on this route. If you are wanting to hit Arches I recommend this route as you skip the insane lineup of cars at the normal entrance.

Fins & Things is the best sampler for classic Moab slickrock. Depending on your setup it is likely that you’ll drag the rear down some of the drops on this trail.

There is so much in and around Moab. I’ve got a trip planned down there mid-May and can’t wait! Have fun!

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Oooh good call about Willow Springs!

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Just remembered another favorite hike of mine - Corona Arch trail. It’s right off Potash road on the way to Shafer Trail. Great hike to see two sweet arches up close, Corona & Bowtie.

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I’ve received several recommendations for Shafer Trail, thank you! I was a little unsure about Hell’s Revenge if a long, wide truck would fit through some of those obstacles, but I’ve put it on the list and I’m going to keep researching that one more.

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I spent an hour or two digging in on this one last night, researching The Needles and looking at possible routes. That looks like a really fun one to do. One thing I wasn’t sure about is if I could come in from the south and exit through the east side of the park without backtracking. Do you know if that’s possible? When I looked over the NPS map, if I come in from Bobby’s Hole and want to exit from the Visitor’s Center, it looks like the only path that connects them is Elephant Hill. I read a couple of places that it can be tight and windy through there, so I wasn’t sure if my big rig would fit.

Hovenweep looks awesome, I’m not sure if it might be too far off the path for this trip, but I’ve got it marked on my point of interest and will definitely get there on one of these trips. :slight_smile:

After digging in on The Maze, that is 100% the kind of stuff I’d be into. It won’t happen on this trip, since I’ve only got 1 day, but that looks like an amazing experience. Fins & Things is high on the list for me. It’s a classic trail, doesn’t look too technical, and has some great sights. It might push my fiancé’s fear of heights a little bit, but for now it’s a top contender. Maybe she’d feel more comfortable taking “hero shots” for me while I’m climbing the obstacles. :joy: Capitol Reef and Glen Canyon will likely need to be on another trip, but definitely looking forward to them and will tie in Goblin Valley when we do.


White Rim looks like an amazing drive. From what I’ve seen, it can be done in a long day, but I’d really like to camp it. I’m keeping it on the list for now, but that one might need to wait for a longer trip to fully enjoy it.

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Camp it! We did it in 1 day on motos and were beat after!

Might as well spend 3 and enjoy the evenings with no one around.


The Willow Springs & Dino Tracks sounds like it could be fun. I could maybe tie in Fins & Things with that and make a full day of it that way. The trip will be from May 18 - 22 (@ScottH you were asking about dates, as well). We have to be in Flagstaff on the 20th for Overland Expo West, and I’m not sure if we’ll be hitting Moab on the way down or the way back yet. I’m kind of leaning toward hitting it on the return trip so that if something breaks, the main purpose of the trip isn’t ruined, and because I might be able to stretch it into 1.5 days on the way back.

I really appreciate all the suggestions and feedback so far. Sorry I’ve been slow to reply on here, when I get into “research mode” I go pretty hard, so I wanted to start doing my due diligence on your suggestions before I responded. This is all really great feedback and the more I dig in on the area, the more confident I am that I will need to plan many trips over the coming years to start making a dent in all the cool places I want to go. This is such a great community, and I’m very grateful for the time you all have spent to share this with me. I also ordered the Funtreks book for Moab on recommendation from someone else, so after that gets here tomorrow I’ll be burrowing deep into research and planning for the rest of the weekend. :nerd_face:

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Some more thoughts:

  • I did not list Hell’s Revenge as it sounded like you are not looking for harder trails. Your full size would likely be fine, I’ve seen others out there. As with a lot of Southern Utah 4x4 trails they aren’t width constrained like where I live in the PNW. The main issue would be breakover and rear overhang that you have to watch out for. That being said, Hell’s Revenge has some real-deal exposure and if anyone is freaked out with looking out their window at a drop of 50-100 or more feet then I don’t recommend it.
  • I have not run Elephant Hill trail but coincidentally will be there May 19/20 for an overnight. Based on what I have read a full sized rig is not recommended due to tight switchbacks as well as a couple tight squeezes between rocks (exception to my above statement about Southern Utah trails not width constrained).
  • Both Elephant Hill and White Rim overnights require permits that can be challenging to get high season.
  • You could absolutely fit Willow Springs into Arches, hike out to delicate Arch & see other stuff in the park & wrap up with Fins & Things. It’ll be a full plate but totally doable.

Have fun!

Thanks for the confirmation on Elephant Hill, sounds like I’ll have to plan that one as an out & back trip from the south when I do it, but probably will skip it for this trip due to time constraints. I’ve been watching some videos of Hell’s Revenge and, yeah, I think I’ll have to do that one without the fiancé or she might divorce me before the wedding. :joy:

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