Photography: Craig Perronne
Moab holds an almost mythical status among four-wheelers. Like Valhalla or Shangri-La, it seems almost too good to be true. The difference between Moab and those places of lore is that it is indeed real. You can actually go there and don’t have to die in a Viking battle or wander around the Himalayas for decades to do so. Just point your vehicle to southeastern Utah and head on out.
Once you get there, it is easy to see why Moab is held in such high regard. Simply put there is no other place like it that we know of. Its combination of a vast network of trails and stunning scenery all within a few miles of town make it unique. Moab truly is a gem and, unlike any of the Star Wars prequels, it really does live up to the hype surrounding it.
If you are reading this article then you probably already know about the magic of Moab. More than likely you are planning a trip to check it all out for yourself. While it might seem as simple as hopping in your rig and heading out, there is a lot more to know about Moab. Like any trip, doing some research before you go can make the difference between having a great time or wandering around like a noob. Luckily we have been to Moab enough times to be able to kick down some knowledge on what you need to know before you go. Some it revolves around Easter Jeep Safari, but we have also included plenty for those that are going at some other time of the year too. Read on and happy Moabing!
Easter Jeep Safari (EJS)
Easter Jeep Safari is what helped put Moab on the map and turn it into an icon. Run by the Red Rock 4 Wheelers, the event was started way back in 1967. The initial idea of EJS was to help Moab grow beyond being a uranium mining town and a location for western movies. The city council wanted to create an event that would bring people from across the country to check out Moab. Back then, there was only one run on the Behind The Rocks trail on Saturday. Since those simple times, EJS has absolutely exploded in size and popularity. Now there are over 40 trails and it lasts a full week.
Using EJS to attract more people to the area has obviously worked. It is now one of the biggest events in Moab and the town is bursting at its seams with Jeeps and Jeepers everywhere. This means that the trails are crowded, lodging gets more expensive, and the wait at restaurants can be long. We don’t say this to keep you from going, but you should know what you are getting into. If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing time while hitting the trails, Easter Jeep Safari might not be for you.
The Trails Aren’t Exactly Open During EJS
If you are coming out to Moab expecting to hop on any trail you want, you are going to be in for a surprise. During EJS, trails are only open to those on an official Red Rock 4 Wheelers run. If you aren’t registered for the run that day on that specific trail, you will not be allowed on it. There will be a “guard” at the entrance that will politely but firmly tell you to turn your rig around.
We were ready to call our civil rights attorney when we first encountered this. If necessary, we were prepared to take our battle all the way to the Supreme Court. However, it does make sense if you look at it from a certain point of view. If you were leading a Red Rock 4 Wheeler run with dozens of vehicles, the last thing you want is to encounter is a bunch of vehicles in front of you stuck on an obstacle or broke on the trail. It would make a long day even longer.
Moab isn’t completely shut down during EJS. The workaround to the “closures” is to just go on a trail where there isn’t an official run that day. That is getting harder to do as more runs are added, but it is still possible. For the full schedule of 2019 EJS click here. You can also grab a newspaper in town for the latest schedule at almost any market or gas station.
The Pace Is Slow
You will find the pace of the Red Rock 4 Wheelers pretty slow if you are used to hitting the trails with a few friends. It is a bit like herding cats anytime you hit the trail with dozens of rigs, and EJS is no exception. The Red Rock 4 Wheelers do a great job of keeping things running smoothly and moving along. However, there is not getting over the physics of dozens of vehicles tackling the trail. Trail runs usually take all day so be prepared for a full day on the trail.
By now you might be reading this and wondering why you would go to Moab during Easter Jeep Safari? The answer is it really depends on what type of Moab experience you are looking for. If you are experienced wheeler with a well-built rig and know your way around Moab, there are probably better times to go. But if you are newer to wheeling and Moab (or both), then Easter Jeep Safari is perfect. Once you sign up for a trail run with the Red Rock 4 Wheelers, you really don’t have to worry about much else except for your rig. They will guide you through the trail and have spotters to help you in the more difficult sections. A tail gunner will make sure you don’t get left behind. And, it is an excellent opportunity to meet others who love to wheel as well as check out their rigs. We have made life long friends at Moab on trail runs and can’t wait to go back.
There Are A Ton Of Trails In Moab
Moab isn’t like your local off-road park where there might be a few trails here and there. At last count, there were over 40 trails in the Moab area. Some are right outside of town, while others are dozens of miles away. The trails also run the gamut of difficulty from relatively mild to absolutely insane. Yes, the advent of GPS has made finding the trails easier. However, if you wander a bit off of some trails, you can fall off of some fairly large cliffs and that is never a good time. It is really a good idea to know your way around Moab or go with someone who does. If you don’t, signing up for a Red Rock 4 Wheeler run during Easter Jeep Safari is a great idea. Once you get the lay of the land, you can hit the trails on your own or with your own squad.
You Can Get Way In Over Your Head
As alluded to above, Moab really isn’t the place to wander down a trail to see what is on it. There are some seriously gnarly trails and obstacles at Moab. Big ledges, huge drop-offs, sketchy off-camber sections are found on lots of trails. On top of this, some trails skirt right by the edge of 1,000-foot tall cliffs just to add to the pucker factor. Yes, you can get seriously in over your head if you don’t know what to expect or where you are going.
You really should do your research before taking on any trail at Moab. Thankfully, the Internet has made it easy to do just that. A good place to start is with this section of the Red Rock 4 Wheelers’ website. It shows the official difficulty rating of each trail. You can also check out what the ratings require in terms of modifications to your rig. These guys know the trails the best, so it is good to trust their judgment.
We like to take our research a step further and head over to YouTube as well. Usually, someone will have uploaded a video of the trail you want to run. Sometimes it will be just of the major obstacles or the entire thing. Either way, they are worth watching to get a better idea of what you are getting into. Also, remember that while you might not be afraid of dropping off a big ledge right next to a giant cliff, your family or significant other might be terrified. That really doesn’t make for a good time for them or you. Make sure everyone will be cool with the trail you plan to take on.
Moab Is Beautiful
This is where Moab really does live up to the hype. Moab is absolutely stunning in terms of sheer natural beauty. You can look at pictures all you want, but nothing compares to experiencing it in real life. The vast vistas, vivid reds of the land, unusual rock formations, deep canyons, and rivers all make it one beautiful place to wheel in. We have sometimes let the group we are wheeling with get way ahead of us so we can experience its beauty in quiet solitude. It can be easy to just focus on the obstacles right on the trail, but make sure to look around while you are wheeling. The views are often jaw-dropping.
Many people ask when is the best time to go to Moab? If you are planning to go to Easter Jeep Safari, it is already decided for you as it is always the week before Easter. However, if you want to go some other time, the weather will play a big factor. Moab can get very hot in the summer making it a very sweaty time to go wheeling. Winter is also chilly and, even if you don’t mind bundling up, snow can make some of the trails extremely difficult. This makes spring and fall really the best times to go to Moab.
Even in spring and fall, the weather can be highly variable and unpredictable around Moab. We have gone on trips where it has been gorgeous one day and dumped snow the next. It is always an excellent idea to check the weather before you head out for the day. Even then, it is not unheard of for a small storm to pop out of nowhere so be prepared with layers of clothes. And, also know that snow and rain can make some of sketchier trails around Moab even more difficult. Trust us, sliding down a wet and slippery rock face in a snowstorm right next to a huge cliff is an experience that requires spare underwear. Sometimes, if the weather looks bad, it is better just to stay home or pick a milder trail.
Rent Your Ride
What some people don’t know about Moab is that you don’t even need your own Jeep to go. There are a lot of places in town that rent Jeeps and UTVs so that you really don’t have an excuse not to go. This also gives the option for those that live farther away to fly instead of making a long road trip. We have even encountered a bachelor party out at Moab that flew in, rented Jeeps, and hit the trails. It looked like a lot more fun than getting arrested in Las Vegas.
Like any rental, you will want to check out the fine print before you hit the trail. Make sure to know what you are responsible for if the Jeep breaks or, even worse, if you roll the Jeep. We stayed near a Jeep rental place during EJS one year, and by the end of the week there were three rolled Jeeps in their parking lot. That fun trip to Moab can get really expensive if you have to buy a rental company a brand new Jeep.
Where To Stay
One of the cool things about Moab is that it can really be done on any budget. There is free camping outside of Moab for those that are tight on funds or prefer a more “rugged” experience. Just remember there are no amenities to speak of so you will probably be testing the absolute limits of your deodorant by the end of the trip. A step up from that in both comfort and cost is camping at a paid site. These give the benefits of a reserved spot, a place to poop, and hopefully some showers to wash off your filthy body. Moab can get very cold at night (even in spring or fall) so make sure to bring a good sleeping bag if you are planning to camp.
If camping isn’t your thing, don’t worry as there are plenty of other options. While Moab is a smaller city, it has plenty of motels to select from. These range from somewhat shady to seriously swanky with prices that reflect that. Most are located right in town so you can easily grab some breakfast before you hit the trails or a nice dinner after a long day.
Another option is condominiums. These are usually the most expensive of the choices, but if you are traveling with a group, they can actually make more financial sense. Most condos can sleep at least six people, so they are cheaper than getting multiple hotel rooms. You can also cook as many of your meals as you want in them saving even more money. The majority of condos in Moab also have garages to store stuff like tools and spare tires securely. You can even fix your rig in the driveway as long as you don’t make a mess.