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Gateway to Adventure: Moab, Utah

Arches National Park

After spending two days in Sedona, Arizona, we continued north to Utah on our national parks road trip adventure. We checked out of the Wyndham Sedona and after a breakfast of coffee and Safeway cinnamon coffee cake, we repacked the car and headed north on U.S. Route 89 through the recreation areas of Slide Rock and the Coconino National Forest. Though it was rather windy, with tumbleweeds blowing onto the highway after the transition to U.S. Route 160, we made it onto U.S. Route 191 just south of the Arizona-Utah border. From there, it was a straight shot to Moab and our campsite at the KOA in the southern part of the city.

Our plan was to visit the three southern Utah national parks that we had not visited on our previous trips to Utah. As Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are located right in Moab, and Capitol Reef is within driving distance from the city, Moab was the logical choice for our home base from where we’d head out on our treks.

Playing ladders at the Moab Holiday KOA

Moab is a city that is spectacularly scenic. The sedimentary red rock cliffs seen in many a visitor guide as well as other media, were formed over eons of sedimentation, geologic uplift, and erosion. Water was an essential component to the geology of the area, from the deposition of sediment in ancient seas to the carving of the uplifted rock by the Colorado River. The Moab Fault is visible west of the park from the start of the Scenic Arches Drive in the national park. And in addition to beautiful natural areas, Moab is an eclectic town with kitsch souvenir shops, microbreweries, interesting artwork, and some pretty good coffee. As most of the shops are along Main Street, it is easy to navigate.

While we did bring quite a bit of camp food with us from home, we did enjoy some of the food offerings in the town. After visiting Canyonlands on our first full day in Moab, we had some time before our timed entry ticket into Arches. We decided to head to Moab Coffee Roasters for a caffeinated pick-me-up while working on our Arches junior ranger badges. This shop quickly became my favorite coffee spot in Moab, and possibly all of Utah. Moab Coffee Roasters roasts their organic coffee beans daily, yielding a smooth coffee flavor in their variety of lattes and other espresso creations. I opted for a mocha latte with oat milk as did Sami, however Michael ordered a strawberry Italian soda. This too was quite delicious, and as we completed our workbooks, Sami kept sneaking sips of her dad’s drink whenever he got up.

After hanging out at the coffee shop for about an hour or so, we headed out for National Parking part two. Unfortunately, I had gotten the times mixed up on our Arches entry tickets, which were at 3 and 2 pm on consecutive days. The ranger at the entrance gate could not allow us in earlier than our specified time, so we headed back into town. Fortunately the Arches are only about a five minute drive from the downtown area, so on Sami’s suggestion, we checked out a French bakery in town.

Bonjour Bakery and Cafe was not something that I would have thought of when I imagined a stay in Moab. The ambience was rather understated, but elegant, and on the menu are a selection of breakfast and lunch offerings, including flatbreads, sandwiches, gelato, and of course a variety of pastries. The cost was rather more than I would have expected, at between $7-10 for dessert, but the fruit tart was really good. The crème brûlée was a bit more like flan than I would have liked, but to be fair, I am picky about my brûlée. Still, sitting in the air conditioning and enjoying a treat was a nice way to kill some time before trying the national park again.

Pretending to be arches at the entrance of Arches National Park

The second time was a charm, and we were able to visit Arches National Park and earn our junior ranger badges. After another half-day of hiking and exploring some impressive natural landmarks, we were ready for some dinner. We decided that pizza and some cold soda sounded better than camp food, so we stopped in at Moab Canyon Pizza Co. Apparently half the town thought similarly. The restaurant was bustling with what looked to be other families coming back from the parks. Even so, we were able to get our family-sized veggie pizza within a reasonable amount of time. I don’t know if it was the activity of the day or eating camp food the evening prior, but the pizza was really good, and even with just the three of us, it was devoured in a matter of minutes. The cost was about what I would expect to pay at a pizza restaurant- a bit more than chain restaurants, but less than some of the fancier places. Regardless, pizza and a large orange soda really hit the spot after a day of adventuring.

The Moab Canyon Pizza Co. on Main Street

Being a small, touristy area with one main drag, there weren’t many of the typical chain grocery stores or restaurants. While there were fast food staples such as McDonalds and Subway, the only Starbucks in town was inside the City Market. Grocery stores included the City Market and Village Market, and if organic items are more your jam, literally or figuratively, there is the Moonflower Community Cooperative. This was not a problem for us; we were able to purchase all the items we needed for a few days of camping while in town. And I did not miss Starbucks at all with the local coffee shop meeting all my caffeinated needs.

Moab is definitely an interesting place to visit. As we spent most of our time and money in the national parks, we really didn’t do any souvenir shopping within the town itself. There looked to be some cute places to acquire kitschy mementos and cute clothes should you have time on your Utah adventure. Perhaps next time we’ll have an opportunity to check out more of the businesses on Main Street. But for this trip, the food and the national parks more than sufficed. And I ten out of ten recommend the white chocolate mocha latte at Moab Coffee Roasters- which I insisted on getting again before heading out of Moab.

Me and my latte

For more information and to plan your visit, check out:
VisitUtah.com
DiscoverMoab.com

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