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Top Summer Hikes in Moab: Stay Cool!

Moab is a high desert ecosystem at an altitude of 4,025 ft., and although not as toasty as Tucson, summertime brings daytime temperatures in the high 90’s and low 100’s. Situated on the immense Colorado Plateau and the edge of the Colorado River, summer is one of the best seasons to explore the vast red rock country due to fewer crowds. Unlike most tourist destinations, summer is actually “off season” in Moab. So do what the locals do: Get out early morning or later evening and explore some of the cooler hikes – literally and figuratively – that you might not choose in the spring or the fall.

1. Monitor/Merrimac Trail or Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail – An off the beaten path canyon and slick rock hike (and the author’s personal fave for an early morning run with her heat sensitive hound) is the Monitor/Merrimac Trail. M/M is a 7 mile loop and follows a cool, shaded wash, which might still have stagnant ponds of water remaining from spring storms. Once you hit a buck rail gate, follow the faint stripes on the slick rock, counterclockwise around the immense butte in front of you. After circling the butte, take a left on the slick rock (find your white stripe & don’t take the road that you see to the right). Follow the trail west down into the wash which will bring you back to the gate. If you prefer a more historical and short ¼ mile hike, jump on the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail and follow the interpretive signs, which explain the prolific dinosaur fossil remains found in the rock. For either hike, head north from Moab on US Hwy 191 for 15 miles and take a left on the dirt road marked “Mill Canyon.”  Follow signs for the next 0.8 miles to the parking lot for M/M and the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail.

2. Hunter Canyon – Another local favorite is Hunter Canyon on the Kane Creek Road, 7.5 miles west of its intersection with US Hwy 191 (canyon is on the left, one mile beyond the switchbacks). There are six dispersed, walk-in campsites at the mouth of the canyon and a pit toilet. The 3.5 mile hike is an out and back and you will cross and recross the wash and creek many times. If you lose the trail, just keep heading up the creek bed and it will re-emerge. It is interesting with numerous pour overs, large rock pinnacles and ample shade provided by big trees and shrubs. Look for the large arch, Hunter, on the right, about a half mile beyond the trailhead.

3. Negro Bill Canyon to Morning Glory Natural Bridge – This hike has become a scene in the spring, thus you are lucky to explore it with less crowds come summertime. Located 3 miles East on Utah Hwy 128 this is a 4 mile hike which follows water in its entirety. The canyon crosses the stream numerous times and because it is an oasis in the summer, water fowl and birds are abundant. The hike terminates at the gorgeous natural bridge, which has an expanse of 243 feet, making it the 6th longest in Utah. Watch out for the poison ivy on this hike!

No matter which of these hikes you choose, be certain to carry plenty of water (at least 32 ounces), wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. With the heat of summer, the colors of the desert are beautifully muted, plus you get bragging rights for hiking Moab in the summer!

Tags: What to Do