Moab, Utah: A world of wonder |

Moab, Utah: A world of wonder

Janet Urquhart

MOAB, Utah It’s no secret the desert beckons when the lifts close.Show up in Moab, Utah, on an April weekend and you’re likely to run into the very people you thought you left in Aspen.

But unlike my fellow escapees from the land of mud and melting snow, I rarely have a fat-tired contraption lashed to my camp gear-laden vehicle. Others head en masse to this mountain-biking Mecca for its fabled slickrock rides, and I don’t doubt I’d find them spectacular, if only I could see beyond my life passing before my eyes whenever I venture onto bike trails that look every bit as deadly as their names imply. Poison Spider, to name one.Nope. For me, a Moab getaway is a chance to hike in the warm sunshine and camp in the comparatively balmy nights afforded by temperatures that don’t plunge below freezing as soon as the sun goes down. I’m not sure those who head to Moab with a single-track mind ever discover the hiking opportunities that abound there, but I’ve got some favorites that I visit like old friends, whenever I return.Mill Creek Canyon tops the list. A half-day out and back, the canyon features the requisite towering walls, best captured in their early morning brilliance, and a creek that runs year-round. There’s something about the presence of water that makes a desert canyon come alive – gives it a lush, inviting appeal.

Professor Creek, accessed off Highway 128, is another favorite. Unlike Mill Creek Canyon, it’s not immediately apparent that you’re onto something wondrous. Instead, the creek looks like an alkaline flow meandering through patches of grass, sand and cow pies. But follow it upstream and rocks gradually rise up on either side until you round a bend and find yourself in a little canyon, sloshing through the water as it cuts a curve in the sandstone and pools in the deepening shade. The hike ends when you reach a waterfall created by a choke stone blocking the canyon above you.Finally, there’s Hidden Valley, which yielded a surprise I didn’t expect. The trail starts up a steep set of switchbacks and enters – you guessed it – a hidden valley. The hike offers plenty of great views, but the real find is at the far end of the valley, when the trail crosses a low pass and eventually connects with a four-wheel-drive road. Venture off-trail at the pass to examine the rock wall rising up on the right. It’s loaded with petroglyphs.The downside to hiking in Moab: There are so many hikes I want to repeat whenever I visit, I’m having a hard time fitting in new explorations.For more information on these and other hikes, stop in at the Visitor Center in downtown Moab. Moab is about a 4-hour drive from Aspen. Keep in mind, summers in the Moab area are blisteringly hot. The most popular/comfortable times of the year to visit are March/April and late September/October.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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