An island of civilization in a sea of stunning wilderness, Moab serves as a terrific base camp for area excursions. Hike in Arches or Canyonlands National Parks during the day, then come back to a comfy bed, a hot tub and your selection of surprisingly good restaurants at night. Here you can browse the shelves at an indie bookstore, shop for groceries till midnight, sit down for dinner at 9pm and still find several places open for a beer afterward. There's a distinct sense of fun here in 'Utah's Recreation Capital'. Dozens of rafting and riding outfitters (mountain bike, jeep, ATV, horse…) based here take forays into national parks and onto public lands.
It was miners in search of 'radioactive gold', ie uranium, starting in the 1950s that blazed a network of back roads, laying 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. Development does come at a price though: chain motels, fast-food joints and T-shirt shops line the main drag. 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.