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Desert Canyons by Two Wheels and Four: Vanlife and Mountain Biking in Moab

With road trip season upon us here is a way to get your vanlife and mountain biking adventure fix in the heart of Utah's desert playground.

By: Josiah Roe + Save to a List

The sheer diversity of outdoor adventure in and around Moab defies easy categorization. From the gloriously iconic Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, to the hundreds and thousands of miles of ATV and mountain biking trails on public land, and to the greatest river in the United States, the mighty Colorado, Moab has become an outdoor adventure mecca complete with quirky bars, restaurants, galleries and guides. 

And perhaps the best part is that the majority of the land surrounding Moab is public land, meaning endless locations to camp (often free of charge) with absolutely breathtaking views.

So grab your overlanding rig, your mountain bike, and our Vanlife and Mountain Biking Gear Kit and head out to enjoy our favorite campsites, roads, and nearby mountain biking trails in Moab.

Camp at Porcupine Rim

Overlooking the La Salle Mountains, the Colorado River Canyon, and Castle Valley and yet somehow only 30 minutes from downtown, the Porcupine Rim Campground is free camping area (only 1-5 sites) with unbelievable views and easy access to the famous Porcupine Rim trail.

Mountain Bike the Porcupine Rim Trail

Tough, technical, and one of the most iconic mountain biking trails in the world, the Porcupine Rim Trail is a must-do trail for anyone visiting Moab. It is typically done as a 10 mile point-to-point ending near the awesome Negro Bill Canyon but if you are craving some serious uphill to go with your bone-jarring singltrack downhill, you can make it a 35 mile loop back up the relatively easy (but uphill) Sand Flat road. Don't forget a couple cans of Sufferfest victory beer when you finish.

As you break camp to head off to the next adventure, you must stop at the fantastic Moab Kitchen Sri Lankan vegan food truck tucked away off the main drag in town and next to the vanlife-friendly artspace "The Helipad". Hit up the owner of the Helipad, "Heli", a badass German lady who drives a kickass Volkswagon Vanagon Syncro. She may even let you post up for the evening under the cottonwood trees out back and next to the creek.

Drive Fins and Things

The area around Moab is big, really big, and I would be the first to admit I have an innate aversion to loud ATV and offroad vehicles but one of the great things about the managers of the public land around Moab is the active role they take into responsibly limiting/contain mechanized travel. There is a surreal, zen-like adrenaline rush you get from bombing up, over, and around the maze-like slick rock. The well-marked Fins n' Things trail is one of the easier (but no less beautiful and fun) ATV trails you can do. If your rig is not setup for 4WD travel you can easily pick one up at one of the many adventure rental companies in town. 

Camp at Lone Mesa

On the other side of Moab from Porcupine is the Lone Mesa area and its fantastic network of mountain biking trails, with numerous campsites (both official and unofficial) and easy access to the fantastic Deadhorse State Park, Canyonlands, and the Colorado River canyon. The campground itself is a nice if you are looking for shade, picnic table, and restrooms. Get a good night sleep because tomorrow it is time to wake up and kick ass with some Kicking Horse Coffee and mountain biking.

 Bike Big Mesa Trail

Access to the Navajo Rocks trail system and the Big Mesa Trail can be had right from Lone Mesa Campground. When done as a loop with the Ramblin' Trail, you get an excellent taste of all that the system as to offer: technical downhills, fantastic singletrack, and of course epic and expansive views.

Drive Long Canyon

Lettings your legs rest from a morning on the trail, taking a drive down Longs Canyon with a decent-clearance vehicle is one of those experiences that words and pictures simply cannot do justice. Grab friends, put your SOUNDBOKS on the roof and crank your tunes, and let 'er drift.

Drive Shafer Trail

While some are crazy enough to tolerate the traffic while mountain biking it, Shafer Trail is far better done as a mind-blowing drive, with amazing views along the Colorado River and into Canyonlands National Park, and then up nail-biting switchbacks to some of the best views in the area.

Camp at Hunters Canyon

Hunters Canyon along Kane Creek Road is a gorgeous camping area and in the hot summer months, cooler than some of the other campsites in the area (like The Ledges) due the shade the high canyon walls and trees provide. Its location also provides easy access to some excellent rock climbing, mountain biking, and 4WD/ATV routes.

Mountain Bike HyMasa Trail

The entire Kane Creek mountain bike trail network is fantastic and is easily accessed from Hunters Canyon, and when the awesome HyMasa trail is done as a loop with Amasa Back / Cliffhanger, is a thrilling technical ride with grueling uphills and delightful singletrack downhills.

Drive Hurrah Pass

Hurrah Pass at the end of Kane Creek Road gives remarkable views down into the Kane Creek and Colorado River canyons including Cutler formation hoodoos that look very similar to Fisher Towers. The road itself is impassible after rain and will defeat all but the most determined of 2WD high-clearance vehicles, so you are better off taking an ATV or 4WD vehicle, especially if you are planning on heading down into the Colorado River Canyon aka "Chicken Corners". 

For more information about awesome outdoor adventures to do around Moab, checkout the Moab Destination portal and enjoy!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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