Moab locals have it figured out.
They know the best rides, the best routes, the best places to hike and camp and eat—and a few other important things about the right way to enjoy the desert. While the Utah desert seems like a rugged place, you might be surprised to learn its environment is more sensitive than you might expect.
Stay on the Trail
While the desert soil may look unassuming, it’s actually teeming with life. Biological soil crust (also known as cryptobiotic soil) is a major part of the desert ecosystem, and helps prevent erosion as well as trap nitrogen and other plant-friendly nutrients in the soil. Cryptobiotic soil is also incredibly sensitive, and can take decades to recover from even a few footsteps breaking through the crust. When you visit Moab, make sure to stay on established trails and roads—and if established routes aren’t available, do your best to walk through dry creek beds or on bare rock.
Leave No Trace
Most people with a conscience already know not to litter up the great outdoors, but there’s more to Leave No Trace than just packing out all your trash and recyclables. Due to high use, human waste is a serious health issue at dispersed camping sites. All solid waste must be packed out in approved waste bags or portable toilet systems. These may be purchased at the Moab Information Center and local outdoor retailers. When picking a campsite, use a pre-existing spot rather than placing your tent on top of vegetation, and make sure to stay at least 300 feet from water to avoid scaring animals away from critical sources of hydration. And speaking of wildlife, make sure to give them plenty of room in general—keep pets leashed, and teach children never to chase, approach, or pick up wild animals.
Respect the Rocks
Moab and the surrounding areas are home to an incredible number of ruins, artifacts, and ancient rock art. While it can be tempting to get up close and personal, make sure to admire from a distance—and look, but don’t touch. We want to keep these pieces of ancient history around for many years to come—so stay out of ruins, leave any artifacts you find in place, and encourage others to do the same, so everyone can appreciate the wonder of ancient civilizations well into the future.
Bring Your Own Bags
Starting in January 2019, the city of Moab enacted a ban on single-use plastic bags. It’s part of Moab’s efforts to help curb the use of disposable plastic products. Besides being a major litter problem, plastic bags also tend to make their way into waterways and oceans where they can harm animals, as the plastic bits don’t biodegrade even as they become divided into tiny pieces. Remember to bring your own reusable bags for any grocery or souvenir shopping, or pick one up at a local shop.
As part of its new sustainability strategy, Moab now features 10 electric-vehicle charging stations located throughout the city, as well as four additional Tesla supercharging stations that can charge Tesla vehicles halfway in about 20 minutes. A recent study by the Utah Department of Transportation estimates an average of 13,000 vehicles at the intersection of Moab’s Main and Center streets—if even a small fraction of those cars were electric, we could save hundreds of thousands of pounds of air pollution every year.
Eat & Shop Local
Another great way to visit Moab like a local is supporting local businesses that have made a commitment to sustainability. Keep an eye out for businesses with a Green to Gold sign—the Green to Gold program is a city-sponsored initiative encouraging establishments to take simple steps to reduce their environmental impact. In the summer of 2018 alone, Green to Gold businesses in Moab saved over 850,000 kWh—the same amount of energy used by 136 cars over the course of an entire year, or the annual CO2 emissions from 68 homes.
With these six tips in mind, you’ll be helping the cause of keeping Moab an amazing destination (and an amazing place to live) for years to come.