Tourism Growth in Moab

Photo by Colleen S. Good. A group of West Virginia University students and professors hiking in the Needles District near Moab, Utah.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
A group of West Virginia University students and professors hiking in the Needles District near Moab, Utah.

Moab, Utah is a town brimming with activity. While its year-round population is small, with only 5,100 full time residents, over one million people come to Moab and the surrounding parks each year to enjoy the wide variety of outdoor adventuring the area offers.

Moab, Utah: Adventure Capital

Rick Myers, 62, has worked at the Moab Information Center as an information specialist for the past several years.

“A few years ago, Forbes Magazine had us as the number one adventure capital of the world,” Myers said.

Photo by Colleen S. Good. Climbing is getting increasingly popular in Moab. Jen Skinner waits her turn at Ice Cream Parlor.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
Climbing is getting increasingly popular in Moab. Jen Skinner, 19, waits her turn at Ice Cream Parlor.

While Myers has only called Moab home for 12 years, he’s been coming to the area for over 25 years. He said the number of visitors just seems to keep on growing.

“We get busier every year. More and more people are coming in,” Myers said. “Spring and fall are our biggest seasons, although summers are getting busier. We get a lot of European tourists in the summer who don’t seem to mind the heat so much.”

Weather Trends Affect Local Travel

Yearly weather trends also have an impact on who comes and when.

Herb Crimp, 32, works as a guide and office manager at Desert Highlights, the oldest canyoneering guide company in Moab. The good weather has brought Desert Highlights a lot of business this year.

Photo by Colleen S. Good. Merv Davis changes a bike tire near the Moab rail trail, which can be ridden right into downtown Moab.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
Merv Davis, 22, changes a bike tire near the Moab rail trail, which can be ridden right into downtown Moab.

“For us for the month of March, we’ve done twice as many trips as we had last year. And it’s kind of hard to look on it on just a year-by-year basis because we’re very weather dependent,” Crimp said.

When the weather is nice, Crimp said that more local tourists come in for day or weekend trips.

“When that happens, we see a lot more local visitation from Denver, Salt Lake…Southern California,” he said.

Tourism Marketing Emphasized by the State

Tourism marketing spending by the state has helped bring people in.

“The state of Utah has put a lot of emphasis on marketing tourism, and trying to get more visitors to come, especially from areas like Colorado and Salt Lake…I don’t see that letting up any time soon,” Crimp said. “And the evidence of that is the steady growth of new hotels and B&Bs and whatnot. It seems like the whole town in general is preparing for that continued growth. And we’re certainly hopeful too.”

Photo by Colleen S. Good. Arches National Park at sunrise.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
Arches National Park at sunrise.

A Calmer Tourist Town

But the Moab area wasn’t always as bustling.

Nate Syndor, 35, owner of Moab Desert Adventures, said the commercialization of the area was initially slow coming.

“For a long, long time, Moab was kind of a glorified trailer park,” Syndor said. “You know, there weren’t many housing developments or mansions, or any of those things that kind of happen to mountain towns, whereas that’s slowly happening to Moab.”

Syndor is happy that commercialization hasn’t taken hold as much in Moab.

Photo by Colleen S. Good. Birdie Hawkins takes in the view at Arches National Park.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
Birdie Hawkins, 21, takes in the view at Arches National Park.

“It’s good that we don’t have a ski resort, because that would probably be the death of what we know of as Moab,” Syndor said. “But almost every demographic is growing—more mountain bikers, more jeepers, more rafters, more climbers, more people that are doing canyoneering—just more people in general.”

Some Tourism Demands Still Need Fulfilled

There are some things Moab still needs to develop to support its growing tourist trade.

“We’re probably short on restaurants here,” Myers said. “In season, if you go drop in at seven o’clock on a busy weekend, you’re going to be waiting a while.”

But the great land is the area’s best resource.

“We have a great deal of public land here. Nearly 70 percent of Utah is public land,” Crimp said. “Because of that, there’s a huge amount of terrain available.”

“It’s a beautiful place,” Syndor said. “It’s very easy to be amazed here.”

Making the Move: Ex-Tourists Move to Moab

That sense of wonder has driven some tourists to Moab to make the town their full-time home.

Living in Moab from Colleen Good on Vimeo.

Planning your own trip to Moab?

See 15 travel tips for your adventure here.

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Moab, Utah: Photographer’s Paradise

While many visitors know of the adventuring opportunities Moab, Utah offers, tourists should also be sure to take advantage of the many photo opportunities. Whether you are an amateur or a professional, you won’t get bored here.

Photo by Colleen S. Good. Cairns help mark the way along trails in the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
Cairns help mark the way along trails in the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Photo by Colleen S. Good Jen Skinner in a moment of contemplation at Big Bend Campground near the Colorado River.

Photo by Colleen S. Good
Jen Skinner, 19, in a moment of contemplation at Big Bend Campground near the Colorado River.

Photo by Colleen S. Good. The Moab area offers many beautiful vistas for visitors to enjoy.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
The Moab area offers many beautiful vistas for visitors to enjoy.

Photo by Colleen S. Good. Matt Shreve coming back down from a climb up Ice Cream Parlor near Moab, Utah.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
Matt Shreve, 32, coming back down from a climb up Ice Cream Parlor near Moab, Utah.

Photo by Colleen S. Good. Kayla Sistilli leads the pack mountain biking at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Photo by Colleen S. Good.
Kayla Sistilli, 20, leads the pack mountain biking at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Taking in the Land: Hiking in Eastern Utah

Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear—the earth remains, slightly modified.

—Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968)

The overlook at Dead Horse Point State Park. Photo by: Colleen S. Good.

The overlook at Dead Horse Point State Park.
Photo by: Colleen S. Good.

People come to Moab, Utah to enjoy participating in a variety of activities; all come to enjoy the unique beauty the area has to offer.

To have the opportunity to truly take in the splendor of Moab’s natural features, one activity is a must: hiking.

Hiking Around Moab

Members of West Virginia University's Adventure Journalism Travel Writing and Photography class hiking in the Needles District. Photo by: Colleen S. Good.

Members of West Virginia University’s Adventure Travel Writing and Photography class hiking in the Needles District.
Photo by: Colleen S. Good.

Hiking gives visitors to Moab a chance to take in the scenery at their own pace, allowing visitors of a variety of ages, abilities and experience levels to participate.

Six Hiking Musts

When heading out on a hike, remember these six tips.

1. Bring at least two water bottles per person

Moab’s climate is arid. The dry air in combination with the high afternoon temperature in the spring, summer and fall makes carrying plenty of water a necessity.

2. Wear good hiking boots or shoes

Make sure your shoes have good tread for traversing rocks and walking on loose sand.

3. Wear hiking socks

Non-cotton socks with thicker bottoms are important for preventing blisters.

4. Pack a map and a compass

In the Moab area, one wrong turn can take your hiking party hours out of your way. Be sure to double-check your map at each trail crossing.

5. Bring snacks

Hiking trails in Moab can require a lot of physical exertion. Be sure to pack good snacks to help you refuel along the way.

6. Have sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses and a sun hat

Many of the hiking trails in the Moab area are very exposed. Sun protection is an important part of making your trip an enjoyable one.

Recommended areas for hiking:

Marking Your Journey

Cairns are used as trail markers along many hiking trails in Moab, Utah. Photo by: Colleen S. Good.

Cairns are used as trail markers along many hiking trails in Moab, Utah.
Photo by: Colleen S. Good.

One unique feature of hiking in Moab are the cairns, stacks of rocks that help mark area trails.

In the Needles District, cairns are used quite frequently, as the surrounding landscape usually doesn’t provide other opportunities for marking the trail.

Keep an eye out for cairns on your hike to avoid missing any sudden turns or steep climbs along your route.

Final Advice

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The Needles District offers beautiful views. Photo by: Colleen S. Good

While it’s easy to get in a groove hiking, and to move at a brisk pace throughout your journey, be sure to make time for occasional stops.

Use these times to really take in the area you’re hiking through. Look around. Sit and think. Connect and be present where you are. The land will be there long after you’re gone.

Moab: Starry Nights

For the past five days and four nights, my classmates, group leaders and I have been camping, biking, rock climbing and exploring the wilderness in Moab, Utah. With fifteen students and five leaders, our adventure travel writing and photography class has been able to experience a lot of what the area has to offer.

The weather has been beautiful—highs in the low 70s and lows in the 30s at night. Our camp site was just an easy five minute walk from the Colorado River.

Days were spent on excursions throughout the area, sometimes as one big group, and at others split into two smaller, more manageable groups. But no matter what, for dinner we all came together as a group. During these dinners we would talk, laugh and share our experiences from the past day, breathing in the crisp desert air and taking in the beauty of stars without the harsh light pollution of the city.

While the trip has been replete with new and gratifying experiences, Sunday’s hike to the Delicate Arch was one of my favorite ventures in the Moab area.

Arches National Park is located just outside of Moab.

Earlier in the day, our group explored the Windows Section of the park, practicing our photography skills at the North Window, the Double Arch and the other natural features of the area.

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The Window Section of Arches National Park. Photo by: Colleen S. Good.

In the evening, we hiked out to the Delicate Arch.

Map of Arches National Park . The Delicate Arch is located within the Wolfe Ranch section of the park.  Map courtesy: National Park Service, nps.gov.

Map of Arches National Park. The Delicate Arch is located within the Wolfe Ranch section of the park.
Map courtesy: National Park Service, nps.gov.

Our goal was to reach the Delicate Arch by the “golden hour,” the short period of time around sunrise and sunset when light is ideal for outdoor photography.

While the arch itself was breathtaking, the area began to show its true beauty once the sun went down.

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The night sky as seen from the Delicate Arch.                       Photo by: Colleen S. Good

As night fell and the stars came out, the group became quieter. As we got ready to depart, the group split into smaller parts heading back down the path.

While we were all equipped with headlamps to guide our way, it was refreshing to make the hike down without them, relying on our eyes and other senses to guide the way. The moon was almost at its smallest, just after the new moon, but still, it was bright enough to illuminate the rocks below our feet.

Looking up at the stars, it was easy to feel overwhelmed by the beauty of the land we were visiting, and thankful for the short amount of time we had to spend there together.

People of Moab, Utah

Moab is a town found in Grand County in eastern Utah, just south of the Colorado River. With its arid desert climate, Moab has attracted a diverse mix of people over its history.

Ancient Roots

People have lived in the Moab area for a long time. According to the Moab Museum, archaeologists believe the region has seen continuous human occupation for over 12,000 years, with evidence of artifacts from archaic hunter/gatherers, ancestral Peubloan (Anasazi), Fremont, Ute cultures and Navajo.

Pioneers, Filmmakers and Miners

By the mid-1870s, the first permanent pioneer settlers came to the Moab area, many becoming ranchers and farmers.

Moab, UT is well known for its natural landscape. In the late 1940s, director John Ford filmed a series of Westerns at the Red Cliffs Ranch. John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and Henry Fonda were among the stars featured in the films. Films and commercials continue to use the location. A small film museum is located in the basement of the Red Cliffs Lodge.

In the 1950s, large uranium deposits were discovered at the Mi Vida mine. Moab was a busy uranium mining center through the early 1960s, though the demand (and miner population) declined significantly by 1964.

Today

Locals

Moab today has around 5100 residents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population has remained relatively steady over the past decade. 12.8 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino, 5.9 percent are American Indian, and 78.8 percent are White. With 2.39 people per household and 24 percent of the population under 18 years old, Moab is home to many families.

Tourism

Moab has a long history of tourism, beginning in the early 1900s. The Colorado River, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and other natural features provide many outdoor recreation opportunities. Tourists come to whitewater raft, kayak, canoe, mountain bike, rock climb, BASE jump, hike, slackline and ride 4x4s.