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Introducing Moab

An island of busy civilization in a sea of desert wilderness, Moab is southern Utah's adventure base camp. Day trippers to Arches or Canyonlands National Parks can return to a hot tub and pub food, a boon after a dusty day on the trail. Unlike the rest of the region, here you can shop for groceries till midnight, buy a bottle of tequila, get a cell signal and even a late dinner.

For those coming from the wilderness, the hubbub can be jarring. Corporate chain motels line Main St, souvenir shops abound and streetlights and neon signs blot out the night sky. Still, there’s a distinct sense of fun in the air. Everyone is here to play in Utah’s recreation capital – from the hiker to the four-wheeler, recreationists’ enthusiasm borders on fetishism.

Starting in the 1950s, it was miners in search of 'radioactive gold' – uranium – who blazed the network of back roads which laid the groundwork for Moab to become a 4WD mecca. But neither mining nor the hundreds of Hollywood films shot here had as much influence on the character of Moab as the influx of youth-culture, fat-tire, mountain-bike enthusiasts. The town gets overrun March through October, and the impact of all those feet, bikes and 4WDs on the fragile desert is a serious concern (use existing trails). People here love the land, even if they don't always agree about how to protect it. If the traffic irritates you, just remember – you can disappear into the vast desert in no time.