Moab isn’t exactly a locals’ secret—not with two of the Big Five National Parks, some of the world’s most famous mountain bike trails and a limitless fleet of off-road rental vehicles. Despite Moab’s ubiquitously-known charms, the area isn’t the easiest place to travel with you dogs. Trails full of jeeps and bikes aren’t particularly friendly for the four legged, and the arid environment can lead to overheating in a hurry. These three easy dog-friendly hikes in Moab all feature water, are easy to access from parking areas and are suitable for families. Despite a few off-camber sections and steep scrambles, I was able to complete each of them with a 13-year old mutt and his shot knees, so your dog will likely be fine.
Grandstaff Canyon to Morning Glory Arch
The hike up Grandstaff Canyon to Morning Glory Arch—it was formerly called Negro Bill Canyon—starts from a parking area 3.6 miles down 128, where the Colorado River has cut a gorgeous canyon. The journey to Morning Glory Arch is just shy of five miles roundtrip, but even if you don’t make it to the end, you’ll be treated to towering sandstone walls, numerous river crossings and more lush, green vegetation than you thought could exist in the desert.
Total elevation gain is only around 390 feet, but the hike can still feel rather strenuous if it’s hot out. Fortunately, trees lining the creek and overhanging sections of rock provide ample shade throughout the day. Your dog will enjoy swimming in the creek, running through the sand and generally turning into a red-muck covered monster, even if the person who cares for the upholstery in your back seat is less enthusiastic.
At certain times of the year a lot of poison ivy grows in Grandstaff Canyon, so keep your dog on the established trail even though there aren’t specific leash laws on BLM-managed land. Be responsible and remember to pack out all your dog’s waste—there’s a receptacle specifically for that purpose at the trailhead.
Field Office,82 East Dogwood,Moab,, Moab, UT 84532
Mill Creek Trail to Swimming Hole and Falls
The swimming hole and falls along Mill Creek are some of Moab’s more popular destinations, especially during the warmer months, so this hike is best suited for playing hooky midweek. Once you leave the trailhead just past Sand Flats Road, it’s easy to see why it’s such a hot spot. Open expanses quickly narrow into sheer faces of varnished rock as you travel up the creek. Several mandatory creek crossings mean you’re going to get wet feet, so bring some sandals unless you’re willing to endure bare feet or wet shoes.
After about a mile, you’ll reach a small waterfall where there’s a pool deep enough for you to swim alongside your hound. It’s common to see people hiking this trail with towels draped around their necks in anticipation of reaching the oasis.
To add a little spice to your hike, turn back the way you came from the falls. About 100 yards down the trail on what’s now your right side, take the faint game trail and scramble up the rocks heading north back up past the falls on the ledge above. You can continue up the canyon—which is far less crowded once you pass the falls—before turning around and heading back the way you came.
1339 Powerhouse Ln, Moab, UT 84532
Hunter Canyon Trail
The Hunter Canyon Trail is marginally more difficult to access than the previous two described here, but it only receives a fraction of the traffic, making it a good choice for a hike with a bit more solitude. Access the trailhead by heading out Kane Creek Road from 191 on the south end of town and continue for about two miles after the road narrows and turns to dirt. The trail begins at a parking area for the Spring Creek Campsite.
The trail meanders up a narrow canyon at a mild grade, following the shape of creek, which it crosses repeatedly. The walls are tight enough to provide ample shade on most of the trail, which helps to moderate temperatures during the heat of the day. The vibrant scarlet of Indian paintbrush and blooming prickly pear cacti add to the ambiance.
Don’t be deterred by having to pass two separate lineups of off-road vehicles waiting their turns to tediously grind up rocky trails on the way to the Hunter Canyon. The parking lot only holds around 12 cars, and it’s rarely full. You and your furry companion will enjoy the relative seclusion among such popular recreation areas.
Moab Kane Creek Blvd, Moab, UT 84532
Read all of our outdoors coverage here.