Why Moab Is Mandatory

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Thousands of routes. Perfect rock. Splitter fall weather. Just go.

This little town of 5,000 is right up there with Washington, D.C., Disney World, the Grand Canyon, Wall Drug, and the beach. Everyone should go at least once. But for climbers, of course, Moab trumps all.

As the desert opens up and spired cathedrals of red rock sprout from the sand, your mouth will naturally fall open—stunned by the awesome alien landscape and an immediate sense that you have arrived somewhere you were always meant to be. It’s an almost-holy playground.

You can find climbs ranging from single-pitch sport at Potash Road to hauntingly beautiful tower climbs on Moses and Zeus in Taylor Canyon to big adventures on the Titan (at 900, feet it’s the largest freestanding tower in the country). Bring your rack, your friends’ racks, and your friends’ friends’ racks for the endless sinker splitters at Indian Creek, and don’t forget a pad or two for small stones throughout the area: Big Bend has enough bouldering to keep you busy for a few days, but recent development in Indian Creek (seriously, watch this) has opened boulderers’ eyes to new possibilities throughout the region. The options may seem boggling, but one thing’s for sure—you will leave Moab with some of the best climbing memories of your life and a burning desire to return.

The 10 Best 4-Star Routes

As ranked by Mountain Project users

Regular Route (5.7 A1)
Trisstin’s Tower, Lockhart Basin
“Wow! As far as clean desert aid routes go, it’s a crown jewel. It’s by far the thinnest seam I have ever climbed. Not a single piece of fixed gear on the entire route—props to the first ascent team.”

Kor-Ingalls Route (5.9+) | Submitted by MP user Christian Knight

Kor-Ingalls Route (5.9+)
Castleton Tower, Castle Valley
One of the earliest modern desert routes. “What an awesome climb. The views from here are phenomenal! Everyone should get to the top of Castleton.”

Stolen Chimney (5.10) | Submitted by MP user greg t

Stolen Chimney (5.10 or 5.9 A0)
Ancient Art, Fisher Towers
“This is by far the most popular route in the Fisher Towers. I had a dream in which I wrapped my arms around the corkscrew summit, crushed it, and watched it fall. I giggled about that dream when I saw how solid that incredible last pitch really is.”

Supercrack of the Desert (5.10)
Indian Creek
“Wear a long-sleeve shirt. Better yet, tape it down around your wrists, so that when you show up at work the next day you don’t have to explain those nasty scabs covering the insides of your wrists and forearms.”

Summit of In Search of Suds (5.10+) | Submitted by MP user Shannon Davis

In Search of Suds (5.10+)
Washer Woman Tower, Canyonlands
“What a cool and unique route! The roof on the third pitch was exhilarating and well-protected, and the last pitch is spicy. Rapping through the arch is truly a surreal experience—so good!”

Coyne Crack (5.12a)
Indian Creek
“This crack is sometimes confused with Supercrack, and I know of at least one leader who thought they were starting Supercrack. He soon realized his error, but found himself in this thin-hands crack with many large cams dangling from his harness. He barely completed the climb for an impressive flash. This style, the ‘ignorant flash,’ is even more coveted than the onsight flash.”

Fine Jade (5.11a)
The Rectory, Castle Valley
“Amazing. That’s the only word for it. We camped on top, and the sunrise was life-changing.”

Annunaki (5.11+) | Submitted by MP user Dana Felthauser

Annunaki (5.11+)
Indian Creek
“If you are a strong sport climber or boulderer, this is the route for you. The entire middle of the climb is bouldery, powerful moves between good holds that are formed by the crack’s zigzags. However, there is still a final fingerlock move at the anchor.”

Sacred Ground (5.12b)
Castleton Tower, Castle Valley
“Super sick! Deserves more attention than other routes on the tower. Rock is unreal on the last pitch, like pinching hardened wax. Do this stellar line!”

Excommunication (5.13a)
The Priest, Castle Valley
“The crux pitch is devious and cryptic, but fair at the grade. The second pitch is scary, as the arête is sharp from calcite. Gets my vote for best route in Castle Valley.”

Submitted by MP user Bill Grasse

Live Like a Local

[Camp] It’s as if the menu of accommodations in the Moab vicinity were all designed with the dirtbag in mind. BLM land offers numerous first-come campsites on the banks of the Colorado River just minutes from town. There are also several national park campgrounds with amenities like bathrooms and electricity. If you prefer to stay in town, check out Up The Creek Campground. There are tent sites, showers, and it’s walking distance to downtown (rates vary). The Access Fund acquired a plot of land at the base of Castleton Tower and provides it for use as a free, climber-specific campground (with toilets!). Camping in Indian Creek is plentiful (though crowded on weekends) and free. Random free desert camping certainly exists, though specific gems are sacred to locals—ask nicely at a local gear shop. If tents aren’t your thing, there are more than enough hotels in the area, but the Inn at the Canyons in Monticello, just outside of Indian Creek, is managed by climbers, and offers discounts depending on the season and availability. And they have a pool.

[Coffee, Burgers, Beer] Stop at Moab Coffee Roasters on your way through town for the best espresso pull in town. Milt’s Stop and Eat, Moab’s oldest restaurant, dishes out grass-fed burgers, hand-cut fries, and old-fashioned malt drinks in a classic order at the window and eat outside setting. Looking to party before a rest day? Try Eddie McStiff’s, with great food and a full bar. If you’re after a ritzier place to take your belayer post-session, the Desert Bistro is owned and chefed by Karl Kelly, a pioneer of southeast Utah climbing who has also published several guides on the area. Oh, and beer. Moab Brewery offers growlers of microbrews, including the exceptional Black Raven Oatmeal Stout. Pick up beer for camp at the State Liquor Store on W 200 S; it’s the only game in town. Or you could pack your own from out of state, which is technically illegal (we said could, not should).

[Find Water] It’s the desert; water is precious. You’ll go through a lot of it just staying hydrated and cooking. Pack a five-gallon jug and refill at the spring on the right side of 128 just after you turn east off 191. GearHeads Mountaineering also has free filtered water.

[Gear Up] GearHeads Mountaineering and Pagan Mountaineering are both among the country’s best specialty outdoor retailers. They cater to (and are run by) Moab climbers. GearHeads offers an absurdly extensive gear selection, making their shop a great place to find everything from that #5 you didn't think you'd need to hard-core mountaineering and backpacking equipment. Stop into either establishment for specific route information, local guidebooks, or simply to chat about adventures in the desert. The staffs of both have a wealth of knowledge on the area.

[Clean Up] The desert is dusty. For $5, you can find showers at Canyonlands Campark on South Main Street or Lazy Lizard Hostel off Highway 191, among a host of other possible showering spots. For the same price as most showering options, however, we recommend a trip to the Moab Aquatic Center, which includes a swimming pool and weight room in addition to hot showers.

[Spend a Rest Day] Rest-day activity? Options range from mountain biking some of the country’s finest trails, rafting the Colorado River, petroglyph viewing in Arches National Park, to wine tasting in town. If you're bored here, you are seriously missing something.

Explore More Moab

EPICENTER is a destination guide series highlighting America’s best climbing areas, produced in collaboration with Climbing magazine.

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