Moab Sand Flats RA, Slickrock

Moab city panorama from Slickrock, Utah, USA

Moab overview, Utah. Photo by Michael Grindstaff

Visiting Moab

Originally a support centre for uranium mining Moab is now the hub of three superb parksArches National Park, Canyonlands National Park as well the quite different Sand Flats Recreational Area which is not just a pretty face but specialises in off-road activities – both engine-powered and human-powered – so the streets are awash with Hummers, ATVs, 4WDs pulling rubber rafts and RVs towing Big Foot offroaders while the sidewalks are loaded with bookstores, bike rentals, rude T shirts, crystals, kaleidoscopic rocks, interesting fusion dining and more young people than in the rest of Utah.

Moab city street, Utah, USA

Moab is a comfortable and lively little town unlike most small Utah towns in the Grand Circle region, not especially pretty but plays a good rôle as Utah’s black sheep, delivering wild action with a smile, Sundays no problem.


Hummer in action, Moab Sand Flats RA, USA

A typical 4WD moment in Moab’s Sand Flats Recreational Area, offering not much sand, nor much flat.

The word slickrock was coined by early settlers whose metal-shod horses found the bare rock slick and difficult to travel across. These days of tyred travel, however,  the slightly coarse surface of the apparently smooth rock creates a perfect friction that permits tyred vehicles – bikes or trucks – to move up and down them at ridiculous gravity defying angles.

Slickrock Bike Trail

Slickrock Bike Trail in Sand flats, Moab, USA

Slickrock Bike Trail is marked with white dots and is ‘like riding on sandpaper’.

Slickrock is also home to a spectacular 12 mile long loop that mountain bikers should allow 4 hours to ride. There is also a 2. 3 mile Practice Loop for newbies and they should definitely try this first as the main trail is tough. You must pay a small fee to enter the Sand Flats Recreation Area, which includes the Slickrock Bike Trail.

Slickrock trail is conveniently marked out with white dots, but with cheat routes available for those who prefer not to toe the line. Aficionados claim that it is the most popular mountain bike trail in the world, hosting over 100, 000 visitors a year, even though the trail was originally developed by/for motorcyclists in 1969. It is still useable by motorcyclists.

Sand Flats Recreation Area

Sand Flats 4 WD's parked on a vertical rock fin, Utah, USA

Insane 4WD moments. Is there anywhere less vertiginous to park?

The Flats offers not only the best mountain bike trail in the USA, Slickrock, but also trails for serious 4WD users, and offroad motorcyclists. Hummer Tours are popular, impressive and occasionally extremely scary.

View from a Hummer going down a rock fin in Sand Flats, Moab, Utah

Sand Flats. Insane moments from the other side.

Hummers used here are ex-military with no top speed but geared for astonishing climbing tricks on the abrasive and frictitious (if that word doesn’t exist, it should! ) rock. There are many other sorts of jeeps offering tours of Slickrock.

Moab Activities

• Slickrock mountain biking, as well as Klondike Bluffs Trail, Merrimac trail.

• Slickrock, Hell’s Revenge, White Rim Trail and Long Canyon Hummer/Jeep/ATV tours, or even bring your own 4×4/ATV, but travel with at least one other vehicle and consider locked differentials. This will test your 4WD driving skills to the max.

• hiking, especially Negro Bill Canyon Trail.

• white water rafting, kayaking and jet boating on the Colorado River.

• Canoeing and kayaking on the Green River.

• Horseback riding from Hauer Ranch or MH Cowboy around the incredible red rock landscapes.

• Scenic drives along Potash Road and the La Sal Mountain Loop. Start alongside the Colorado River and some red rock canyons before moving into a picture-perfect valley resembling Monument Valley. If you follow the La Sal Mountain Loop Road (around 50 miles long) you’ll climb up to an alpine forest which is a world apart from the arid landscape below. Be prepared to spend several hours on this drive as the road is steep, very winding and the views spectacular.

• Golf at Moab Golf Club.

• Climbing trips from beginners to advanced.

• Canyoneering (simple climbing combined with jumping into pools and rivers).

• Skydiving.

• BASE jumping (short parachute jumps off tall rocks! ) which is illegal in many parts of the world but not, of course, in the Moab vicinity where mad activities are just another day at the rock face.

• Ballooning in nearby Canyonlands.

• Visit the spectacular rock formations in nearby Arches National Park and Canyonlands.

A hiker and strange cloud formation on Sand Flats, Moab, Utah, USA

Wandering lonely as a cloud.

Hiking Sand Flats

Of course hiking Sand Flats is an option but it’s not geared for the feet and the baking rock dehydrates people fast so lots of water needs to be carried. That being said, in the cool months you can venture to places you’d never go on a bike and see few other visitors.

Hell Roaring Canyon with Navajo Pictographs, near Moab, Utah, USA

Hell Roaring Canyon with Navajo Pictographs, near Moab. Photo by Michael Grindstaff.

Moab Weather

Best April-May, September-November with almost no rain, highs between 60F – 85F, lows 30F-50F. These months are also less crowded and prices may be marginally cheaper.
Mid summer months sizzle towards/over 100F while wintertime can get cold with average lows of 20F-30F and snow on the ground a possibility.

The Gemini Bridges Mountain Biking Trail, Moab, Utah, USA

The Gemini Bridges Mountain Biking Trail near Moab. Photo by Artmill.

A jeep on the the Shafer-switchback near Moab, Utah, USA

A not-untypical Moab area jeep route, this one is the Shafer-switchback. Photo by Greg Willis.