top of page
Search

Guide to Moab Utah: Arches National Park, Dog-Friendly Hikes, and Pet-friendly Hotels

Updated: Jun 26

There's a lot to know before you plan your trip to visit Moab, Utah. Here are some highlights and tips from the several different times i've been. This post is all about the national park hikes and things you can do with dogs during your visit to Moab Utah! Dog-friendly hikes are linked at the bottom of this post with photos!

a white woman kneeling on a rock at mesa arch at sunrise with the sun shining
Sunrise at Mesa Arch

Getting There

Moab isn't really close to any other major cities other than Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Denver; with SLC being the closest. Depending on what you want to do, your best bet might be flying into SLC to reduce your driving time, but if you want to see Colorado too, you can opt for DEN. A lot of people with more vacation time/retirement like to fly into Las Vegas and see the other National Parks in Utah before Moab. I've done the drive both from Las Vegas and from Denver, and they're really not that bad.


If you're driving there from Denver, then it will take over 5.5 hours. Add extra drive time if it's during rush hour from the city or if there is any snow or accidents in the mountains along I-70; keep in mind it can still be snowing in May, sometimes randomly in June in Colorado, so I-70 is unpredictable. One of my visits in April we drove through a snowstorm in the Breckenridge/Vail area before finally getting out of it in the Glenwood Springs region. Good stopping points along the way are Rifle State Park, Colorado National Monument in Grand junction, and Glenwood Springs Canyon (hanging lake hike is here but you need to get a permit on recreation.gov). Break up the trip if you have time and stay in the lovely Grand Junction!


Where to Stay when Visiting Moab


Camping

There a number of hotels along the main road in downtown Moab, but honestly they are very expensive for what you get because there is high demand, and small supply. I also didn't see that many airbnbs available either. Instead, opt for the cheap campsites or free dispersed camping on BLM land unless it's too hot out for your dogs. I've camped several times at the Sand Flats Recreation area (first come, first serve), but we definitely could have camped both nights as there are plenty of showers to rent/use throughout the town. We arrived to the campsite around 1030AM on a friday during the first weekend of May and saw plenty of open campsites and quickly claimed ours! We felt pretty safe in Moab, there are so many young people in their twenties/thirties out with friends adventuring.


Pet-friendly hotels in Moab

While I usually prefer camping, I have stayed at least one night during each of my trips in a hotel room, just to do some non-dog activities for the day.  If you're visiting during summer and have a dog, please just get a hotel; the heat is something else in the desert, it's not forgiving and heatstroke is a real issue for humans, and even more for dogs who only sweat through their paws. I've stayed at these two pet-friendly hotels in Moab and had good experiences (AC is a must for your pets!):

  1. Quality Inn

    1. This one was fine, nothing special, but affordable if you book early enough and gives you a safe place to crash between adventures.

  2. La Quinta Inn Suites

    1. I've stayed at this one twice, once on my cross-country move and it was safe enough to leave my belongings in my car during the night. They said crime is really unlikely out there. The walls seemed thin, but overall I liked our stay here which is why I came back. It's easy to access and they're very friendly to pups!

If you want an expensive, bougie experience, then you should check out the glamping options at Moab Under Canvas; it's pricey but looks really beautiful and a classic desert experience.


Canyonlands National Park

You'll see this park as you're driving to Moab (if you're driving south from the north into the town of Moab) and it's the ideal place for sunrise hiking since it has Mesa Arch (famed for golden sunrise views). You want a hike that faces the east for sunrise so you can capture the light as it rises and reflects on the rock formations; sunrise here is very soft, dramatic, and beautiful. It was the most breathtaking sunrise i've ever seen, just expect there to be a crowd! We went on a friday morning in late April and we arrived at 6am to the arch and couldn't get a spot inside the arch - we spoke to others and some of them arrived at 4am to claim their spot with their tripods and cameras; this was during covid times though, so hopefully things have calmed down since then.


Shortly after the sunrise, the arch clears up and you can take some stunning photos within moments after the initial rise is over. Sunrise is best for photography because morning air is clearer and cooler, so more visibility, less wind, and it's colder than the sunset; you also wont get as longer of shadows. I recommend bringing a sturdy tripod, I use this one, and a remote, so you can take photos like we did!

Here's a fun dose of reality vs instagram at Mesa Arch around 6am:



There is a rim overlook spot that our rappelling local guide told us about since I asked him where I could bring my dog in Canyonlands. There's an overlook you can bring your dog out and get some stunning photos from. I took this with my mavic air drone.



Arches National Park

Arches is best explored during the early morning or evenings. At night, this place lights up with stars and views that are breathtaking. One of the most photographed arches is called Delicate Arch, and it's a moderate hike. It is about 3 miles and the trailhead is almost always full, so arrive early if you can! Check regulations, but you may need a permit to enter the park depending on the time of year, check recreation.gov.


Unfortunately there's not much to do with the dogs in the National parks here. I did a little driving tour of Arches since I had already hiked there on a previous trip, and I took some photos with Sora on the pavement and at the La Sal Mountain viewpoint (below).


Dead Horse State Park

Other than viewpoints and overlooks, you can't really do anything with them, so it's not really worth it in my opinion. The picture below on the left is taken at a viewpoint in Dead Horse Point State Park. We just took a scenic drive throughout this park since we wanted to stay out of the heat. This rim loop is short, but dog-friendly.

Dead horse state park dog-friendly hike
Dead Horse State Park

Astrophotography and Stargazing

Utah is the place to be to see dark skies with very low chance of cloud coverage/rainfall, make sure to go on a new moon phase to get the best potential for milky way viewing. La Sal Lookout Point is a wonderful drive up spot for a scenic night shot, just remember there will be lots of cars driving through, so you may have to be patient with your long-exposure night shots. If you're brave enough, try hiking Delicate Arch at night for some stunning shots; we were not about that. Salt Flats Recreation Campsite is also full of unique opportunities to capture the scenery right outside your tent. The slick rock makes for really interesting and contrasting shots.


Things to Do in and around Moab

There is no shortage of cool things to do while you're on a trip to Moab, Utah. Some of the more popular hikes are in the national parks obviously, but there are some that are less trafficked and also stunning ones you can find. Use AllTrails and filter on whatever it is you're looking for in a hike (dog-friendly, waterfall, shade, etc.). I'll list some activities that I enjoyed (or didn't) during many visits to the desert.


Mountain Biking

One of the most popular activities in Moab is to mountain bike! I had never tried it before, but had such a blast. I will say that I go to indoor cycling a lot while i'm home and I used to have a road bike that I used to get around the city when I lived in Baltimore. I am familiar with gear shifting for uphill/downhill, and i'd say that experience helped to ensure I didn't tire out. If it's your first time, I recommend getting a guide like we did.


Kayaking or SUP

We did SUP though the scenic Colorado river, but i would not recommend this. Instead, switch to a kayak because the current does not actually move or flow, so a paddleboard requires too much effort vs a kayak where you can gain distance a lot quicker. The company we rented SUPs from also refused to help us transport them back so we had to deflate them in the hot sun after enduring hours on the slow river and try to get them to fit into my MINI cooper; it was a disaster and we hated it!


Moab Hiking

Obviously hiking is one of the main things to do here. Use AllTrails to search for hikes within the park you want to go to as well one that meets the filters you need (mileage length, elevation gain, dog-friendly, etc.) Some of my favorites were Delicate arch, Corona arch, Mill creek falls, and Professor Creek & Mary Jane Canyon.


If you have a dog, be aware that Fisher towers trail is very difficult to complete with a dog due to a steep ladder/drop at the end. Check out my Moab Dog Guide here.


It was mid May, so we had to start early! We arrived at Corona arch just before 9am. The hike is pretty easy and doesn't take very long, we didn't really encounter many people for a weekend. There is a somewhat difficult ladder area you have to help your dog up, but it's not that bad.I like this hike because it's really gorgeous, sunrise produced some really beautiful views. I used two different lens and it captured the views quite differently. The lighter images were with my sigma 30mm lens and the other was with the sony kit lens for the a6300.


I love this hike. People are weirdly secretive about it for no reason. It's a long hike, so even if lots of people go, you're not seeing people the whole time; we waited maybe 5 minutes to get our shot at the end with the slot canyon. This is the perfect hike for a dog; the entire trail essentially follows the creek until you reach the end; it's so magical and you feel transported to another world, like you're a true explorer. I don't know why I felt that way but I do when I go here! It's further out from Moab (about 40 minutes) and most people are at the National Parks, so it's remote for sure.


This is an easy hike with lots of water access. At the end you'll find a swimming hole, but there will probably be a ton of off-leash dogs, so be aware if you have a reactive dog too! I like this hike because it's shaded at some parts and really flat. It's also accessible right from the town!


Rappelling Tours in Moab

I'm not a climber by any means, but we really enjoyed climbing in Moab with a guide; it was so much fun and safe! We got to have a small group with a professional guide teach us to climb 2 sections then rappel down 2 other sections along our hike for the day. It was a unique way to experience Moab and i'd highly recommend it even if you aren't an avid climber! Our guide was so knowledgable about all things Moab, so we loved asking him questions about his life there and learning more about local culture. We got some amazing videos and photos too. Here are some photos from 2 of the climbing sections and one of the second rappelling areas, and of course Funnel arch!



Downtown Moab

There's not much here to be honest. You can definitely enjoy some food while you're there as there are decent restaurants. I regularly return to Sweet Cravings Bakery Bistro for their delicious sandwiches. Take some time to walk around or shower while you're here! There's usually a lot of people and cute shops to visit and find some nice souvenirs.


Camping with Dogs in Moab

My dog is always down for a camping adventure! I only recommend camping when you know for sure the temperature will be in the 70s during the day, any higher than that and you're going to struggle with cooling down the pups. We tried to snag a first-come-first-serve campsite when we got into Moab on Thursday night, and every single site was taken along the river unfortunately, and every spot with shade was occupied. So our backup was the Sand Flats Recreation camping area since I knew from prior experience they usually have open spots; it's very large. My second backup was dispersed camping, but being a girl on her period I needed to have a working bathroom with toilet paper! We were able to snag a spot that had some trees and I also purchased a foldable canopy from Walmart before we left so that we could have additional shade. This is a great idea to ensure you can have more coverage during peak sun hours.

If you're camping, I recommend this camping tie out cable; I got the 30ft and up to 250lbs, so you can tie 2 dogs with it if needed. I like it because I know she can't chew through it if i'm not watching her the whole time. If you need a shower, you can take one in the Aquatic center in downtown Moab.


Tips

1. The best time to hike is early morning or in the evening due to the sun being so strong. I ended up getting heat exhaustion the last day of the trip due to how hot it was, and the lack of shade. During the middle of the day, try to go inside to eat somewhere or find a shady spot by the Colorado river to put up a hammock and hide from the sun. Spend time by the major river in Moab. When I went it was safe for dogs to drink and swim in.

2. Visit during the week days if you can. (Traffic is insane here due to construction in the last few years!) they often keep one of the two lanes closed each way and that creates horrendous backups and delays.The crowds on the road leading into the town from the north were insane. We waited an over an hour on a Thursday afternoon to drive only 15 minutes.

3. Visit the Aquatic Center in town for a shower to wash off that desert dust! Bring your own towel though as they charge for them during COVID times. It was pretty affordable to shower quickly here and it's a must when you're covered in "desert dust!"

4. Refill your water for free at Matrimony Springs. Right outside of downtown is a "natural" water fountain to refill your water bottles. It comes directly from the La Sal mountains and it's a cool natural feature that you'll see lots of people using in the town. You can just pull over and refill your water jugs here!

5. If you plan to bring your dog, then try to visit early april or late fall to avoid the extreme heat. Temperatures in the desert become dangerous around 80 or higher, so you'll have to keep them in shade or only hike in the morning to avoid heat stroke.


Comments


Hi! I'm Jackie and my dog is Sora. I work remote as an engineer, but I love to spend my free time in nature and by traveling to new places. I take my camera wherever I go, and sometimes my drone.

Somewhere With Sora is a Seattle-based lifestyle and travel blog that provides helpful travel and adventure tips for all kinds of trips, with or without the dogs.

Let me help you plan your next trip!

DSC07069-2_edited.jpg
  • Instagram
bottom of page