Ah, Moab. The proverbial bastion of the American West and all that follows: the open road, the unknown, freedom, and solitude. At one point, the towering sandstone spires and expanses of open, lonely desert prompted quiet meditation and eager excitement. Now, of course, the secret is out. Spring breakers, city-slickers, and an exponentially growing community of outdoor enthusiasts has turned Moab from a quiet canteen-fill town to a big fat red pin on the iPhone screens of thousands of people each year. It is simultaneously exciting (for Moab's board of tourism) and disappointing (for anybody seeking solitude). But fear not, compadres. In Saloon back rooms and whispered campfire conversations, we have extracted a list of activities to make the most of your time in Moab without dodging crowds and packed parking lots. Just don't share this on Facebook.
1. Hike through Negro Bill Canyon
Plenty of adventure options exist outside the bounds (and crowds) of Arches National Park. Negro Bill Canyon, located South of the Colorado River off Highway 128, is a shining example of a less-traveled hike with all the natural appeal of a classic Moab hike. The trail leads through a deep sandstone canyon, winding through towering sandstone walls and crossing a stream several times. As with any great Moab hike, after just 2 miles the trail reaches Morning Glory Natural Bridge, an awesome sandstone arch feature right at home in the National Park to the North.
2. Sight-see at Dead Horse Point State Park
Even though Dead Horse Point State Park requires a 45 minute drive from Moab proper, once there, you'll be rewarded with more solitude, and unreal views of the Colorado River as it snakes its way into the expanse of Canyonlands National Park. While the East Rim Overlook Trail and Dead Horse Point get a good amount of play, the more challenging West Rim and oft overlooked (get it) Big Horn Overlook trail are just offer views just as breathtaking, with less people in the way of them!
3. Explore Slot Canyons in Klondike Bluffs
Sometimes, you have to go out of the way to avoid crowds in the more popular areas. Arches has so much concentrated use in one small area, while the rest of the park gets sparse visitation. A little research on the area landed us at the Klondike Bluffs: park at 38.783936, -109.719456 and follow the road east to the washes (38.787613, -109.705691). Tons of off-trail route finding and slot canyons cut through the rock formation, which is essentially a giant ramp to the Tower Arch area (38.789821, -109.687090). One field agent made the trip in peak season and reported seeing zero people once on the wash. Get at it! Just don't tell all your friends.
4. Stand Up Paddleboard through Labyrinth Canyon
A couple of years ago, field agent Mitch Warnick and his buddies did a marathon sprint (yes, both) through the Green River via Labyrinth Canyon from Ruby Ranch to Mineral Bottom. Hot weather, hot water, but stunningly beautiful canyon isolation with essentially no other people. Go off season and you will be rewarded for your sacrifice. Those who chose to do this should do extensive research and preparation before embarking, though! Bonus: the Intrepid Trail system includes 16.6 miles of killer single-track options.
5. Mountain Bike the Bar M Loop
Most of the more-traveled MTB loops in Moab proper get so much play on peak season that an uninterrupted run is nearly impossible. We get it, slick rock is awesome, but where can you go to get away from the crowds and let 'er rip? Look no further than the Bar M Loop. A true local's spot, the Bar M is a fairly beginner loop of slick rock and dirt with plenty of route options to increase or decrease the difficulty. Bonus: it's location means fairly consistent breathtaking views for the entirety of the ride.
6. Find the Perfect Campsite in the BLM (respectfully)
If you've gone with a friend to their "super secret BLM campsite", you already know there's some things that need to stay secret. Instead of promoting these places, we suggest you play some roulette and explore the vast amounts of BLM in the area. Who knows, you might just find one of our secret spots. A great way to get the lay of the land is visiting the main visitor center in Moab. Tons of very large maps to view and smaller maps to purchase (don't try and take photos of the larger maps, it won't fly with the establishment).
7. Summit Mt. Peale in the La Sals
The La Sals, looming on the horizon of any view in Arches, are not so much secret as they are severely overlooked. Mt. Peale is the highpoint of the La Sals, and a brief, albeit steep (2,600 vertical in 2.5 miles) hike up to the summit offers unbelievable views of the surrounding peaks, and some of the Moab desert basin. Hit it on a clear day in late Summer and you will not be disappointed. It's distance from the more popular Moab parks means you may be the only people up there if you're lucky. This is one you should tell your buddies about. The La Sals deserve more attention!