Home to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and an abundance of public land, Moab has become an outdoor sports mecca of the Southwestern United States. Its picturesque and awe-inspiring landscape draws thousands of tourists in every year.
Whether you come for the world-class mountain biking trails, to climb the historic desert towers found here, play in the Colorado River, or dive deep into a slot canyon, Moab has you covered.
So, what is the best time of year to visit Moab, Utah? The best time of year to visit Moab, Utah is between September and November. Since children are back in school, you’ll be able to avoid a lot of the typical crowds. The other benefit is the cooler temperatures. Visit in September if you enjoy the heat and come closer to the end of November if you want cooler temps.
Busiest Tourist Season:
Moab is definitely a summer destination for many. Once school is out, families head straight to Moab to enjoy the high desert sun and endless activities.
There are other events that occur throughout the year that draw crowds out to Moab. One example is “Creeksgiving.” This is a gathering of climbers that come through Moab to camp and climb in Indian Creek, just south of town, during the week of Thanksgiving. Many colleges and universities that have an outdoor program will lead Spring Break trips to Moab.
There is a nine-day long Jeep gathering and expo around Easter, and a mountain bike festival every March and October.
Moab weather for each season – what to expect:
Spring in Moab is the most unpredictable time of year. The nights are cold, so if you are camping, come prepared. The springtime wind makes warm, sunny days not so warm anymore. And rain is likely throughout this season. Spring rain can create some very muddy trails that are not ideal for mountain biking or off-roading.
Summer is hot and dry, but the nights do cool down quite a bit – which is great for camping! Sunscreen is a must in this high desert! Do come prepared with large water jugs that you can easily refill. You can refill these for free at the Arches National Park Visitor Center (only after you pay the park entry fee), or at GearHeads, a gear store in town.
Fall in Moab is amazing! The days are still warm, but not as hot as the summer. Early fall will have warmer nights, but in late October-November, the nights will cool down quite a bit. Late summer-early fall will be the warmest time of year for any water sports you’re looking into!
Winter is fairly moderate in Moab. When the sun is out, the days can easily get up to 40-50 degrees. While it doesn’t snow a ton, hiking in the winter might require some traction spikes, as trails with shade can accumulate packed snow.
What is the best month to visit Utah?
If you’re not afraid of the heat… September! September is still summer weather, but the kids are back in school, and that means less crowds! The river will be warm(er), the trails won’t be packed, and you’ll have some cooler days and afternoons for climbing.
If you’re looking for some milder temps, November is your best bet! November is a popular time for rock climbing in Moab due to the cooler temperatures and dry rock. If you’re looking to squeeze in a winter getaway, Moab is the perfect choice.
Best time of year to visit by activity:
While the summer might be the busiest season to visit, some outdoor activities can be brutal in this heat. The summers here are hot, dry, and unforgiving when you are not prepared. Here is a breakdown of some of the most popular activities in Moab and the best seasons for each.
Spring-fall will prove to be the best time to visit if you are looking to mountain bike. The only thing to pay attention to when planning your trip is to look at rainfall prior to your visit to avoid muddy trails. Spring and Fall here can experience some rain, but these seasons will provide some lower temperatures for all-day fun without worry of over-heating.
Biking on trails when they are muddy is not only going to get you covered in red dirt, but can lead to heavy erosion of trails that we all love so much! So, please avoid biking on muddy trails.
To avoid burnt hands, climbing here is best from fall-spring. It is possible to climb here in the summer if you are prepared with gallons of water for the day, seek out shady cliff-faces, or climb in the dusk/dawn hours.
As a warning, I have seen someone come off a cliff-face with second-degree burns and blisters on the palms of their hands from climbing a wall that got nothing but hot afternoon sun. The black rubber on climbing shoes can leave your poor toes feeling pretty toasty, too.
Moab is a big fall-winter climbing destination due to its moderate to warm temperatures that can be found here during these seasons. One thing to keep in mind is to never climb on wet rock! When sandstone is wet, it becomes brittle; making it dangerous and unethical to climb on since you can destroy iconic climbing routes.
Year-round! There are so many trails in the Moab area, it would be an insult to not explore them. Especially when you can hike here all year. As mentioned before, if you are planning on hiking in the summer, come prepared with water and sunscreen!
If you are looking to hike in the winter, do check the weather beforehand, and plan accordingly. Trails can be muddy or snow-packed in the winter, so traction spikes are recommended but not necessary.
Canyoneering is very popular in Moab, and there is an abundance of slot canyons to explore. Due to the high committing nature of canyoneering – meaning that once you enter the canyon, your safety depends on absolutely no rainfall or chance of flash flooding.
Rainfall even five miles away can risk the chance of flood water falling into the slot canyon you are in and can quickly become a dangerous situation.
Because of this potential danger, canyoneering is safest in the middle of summer. Any pools in canyons will be at their lowest, and rainfall is very minimal in the summer. Always check radar in the surrounding areas, and if you are not very experienced canyoneering or rappelling, book a guide in Moab!
Float Trips/Rafting/Paddle Boarding
Late spring-early fall is the best (and warmest) time for these prime water sport activities. The mild nature of this part of the Colorado River makes this a wonderful section of river for float trips or even paddle boarding.
How many days do you need in Moab?
If you’re short on time, a three or four-day weekend is the perfect amount of time to get in a quick and activity-filled getaway. However, to have the most fun in this beautiful town, try finding a week to spend here!
You’ll never be short on things to do. There are abundant opportunities for climbing, mountain biking, river sports, off-roading, and hiking available year-round. In Moab, it is rewarding just to hang around camp!
Is Moab worth visiting?
Do you enjoy being outside? And do you enjoy visiting towns that have built an entire, wonderful atmosphere and community around getting outside? Then Moab is absolutely worth a visit! I, personally, have been making trips to Moab a few times a year for the past four years, and have never found myself short of things to do.
Does Moab “shut down” in the winter?
Yes, and no. Many shops and cafés do close for the winter since Moab relies so heavily on seasonal tourism business from the spring and summer months. The stores that do stay open might have “winter” hours that are different from normal hours. It is important to note, though, that not everything closes during this time.
It varies by storefront, and each store that does close, closes and opens at different times of the year. For instance, there are three cafés on a major street intersection, and two of them close for the winter, but one does remain open year-round. Many tourist/souvenir stores do close from December-March; so, coming here in the winter may not be the best time to look for that vacation T-shirt.
Can you camp for free in Moab?
If you do not mind camping a bit out of town and without amenities, it is possible to camp for free on Bureau of Land Management or National Forest land that surrounds Moab.
It is important to do some research on BLM land areas, because not all BLM land around allows free camping. For a quick starting list: Willow Springs Road, La-Sal National Forest, Castle Valley, Indian Creek (limited free sites)
How close is Arches National Park?
The Arches National Park entrance and Visitor’s Center is 5.2 miles north of Moab on Highway 191. Its proximity to town makes this a great way to spend the day. The park entrance fee is per vehicle and is good for seven days! So, if you are in town for a while, I suggest taking advantage of this week-long parks pass as much as you can.
What is Cryptobiotic Soil?
“Crypto” is a soil crust that forms in this high desert landscape as a means to stabilize the soil and prevent wind and water erosion. This crust holds in moisture and nutrients so that plants in this landscape can flourish. This sensitive soil crust is extremely slow growing; taking up to 50 years to repair itself once crushed.
Without this soil crust, the Western Slope Desert would turn into something like the Sahara Desert… nothing but sand.
For information on how to leave a minimal impact on this delicate desert, visit our article on the 7 principles of Leave No Trace.
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Daniell is a certified outdoor climbing guide with professional experience climbing throughout Colorado’s Western Slope region. She is based out of Fort Collins, CO and enjoys trail running, desert climbing and overnight canoe trips.