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Yes, it’s a dry heat. Many roll their eyes at that phrase. Seriously, though, if you fear those 90-degree humid days on the east coast or Midwest when you’re drenching wet with sweat, forget about it. It just doesn’t happen that way in the desert.
It’s not unusual that summer visitors to desert destinations like Moab would have some trepidation on temperatures. But have no reason to fear. Just a little bit of planning can turn toasty temps into a wonderful vacation.
With virtually no humidity, temperatures in the 90s can be quite comfortable. Survival on the hottest days in July and August is actually very practical if you approach your day strategically and stick to your plan. If you grab your mountain bike and head to the Slickrock Trail at 1:00 p.m. on a 100 degree day, you’re going to bake. But if you plan ahead on types of activities and time of day, you’ll be fine. Here’s a few tips.
Start your day early. Even on 100-degree days, temps in the early morning hours can be quite pleasant. Get up early, have a 7:00 a.m. breakfast and be on the road for your morning activity by 7:30-8:00 a.m. – earlier if you can. Sunrise will be around 6:00 a.m. so beat the crowds. With morning temps in 80s and even 90s, any half-day activity should be fine, even those in more open desert. Save shady activities for afternoon.
To enjoy your day, prepare yourself. Wear sunscreen and re-apply every hour or two. Bring water – lots and lots of water. And drink it. Wear a hat to create shade around your face and head. If you’re particularly sun sensitive, wear a very lightweight long sleeved shirt for protection. Today’s modern, technical fabrics really do work.
Carry a gallon of fluids per person. Be sure to include electrolytes in some form, not just water. Too much water can be bad too as electrolyte imbalance can occur. Especially for kids and older folks. Leave dogs home. APRIL THRU SEPTEBER is the wrong time for dogs in the desert. Pads get burned, snakes are out, don't have doggy daycare facilities and it your dogs are left in the car you wil be reported and/or dogs will be removed by animal control.
Regardless of the activity, look for shade breaks. Tall red rock monuments cast a nice shadow. Temps will be decidedly cooler in the shade. With the high sun casting directly down on the desert during the day, many redrock monuments don’t cast much of a shadow. Look strategically to see where the shadows are falling and follow them. It will feel 10-20 degrees cooler in the shade.
Give yourself a break for lunch. Moab has plenty of nice little restaurants that are air conditioned or offer very pleasant outdoor dining. Sweet Cravings, a new restaurant on the north end of Mains Street, has lots of space, diverse and quick lunch menu and plenty of cool seating. Peace Tree is especially nice for lunch, with shaded outdoor dining and refreshing, cool misters. Zax and Pasta Jay’s also have cool outdoor seating on the shady side of the street.
After lunch, take a dip in the pool or take your time walking down Main Street. This will become evident to you, but it’s generally shadier on the west side of the street. Enjoy a stroll and relax with some shaved ice on the chairs and benches outside the Back of Beyond Book store.
The afternoon will be the hottest time of day. But it doesn’t mean you have to stay inside. Look for shady activities – there are plenty. Nice afternoon hikes in shady, cooler environments include Negro Bill Canyon on SR128 just 10 minutes outside Moab, Hunter Canyon on the Kane Creek Road and Mill Creek right in downtown Moab. Each hike is easy, interesting and cool, with access to refreshing water, but be warned that there could be lots of mosquitos.
Look for interesting indoor destinations in the heat of the afternoon. Consider the drive out SR 128 along the Colorado River to Red Cliffs Lodge where you can visit the movie museum in the cool basement, or wander next door for a free wine tasting at Castle Creek Winery, just be sure not to hike afterwards.
Of course, there’s always the river with an afternoon float trip through Castle Valley a popular way to cool off. Still, keep in mind that while the water is refreshing, the sun still beats down hard. Wear sunscreen, a hat and t-shirt to protect yourself.
While evening temperatures often stay fairly high, the sun isn’t nearly as relentless as in the day. It’s a perfect time for an evening boat cruise on the Colorado or a 4x4 adventure high up on Hell’s Revenge. Even a hike up to Delicate Arch can be enjoyable towards sunset. Bring something long-sleeved along as it’s bound to be a lot cooler when you head back down after sunset.
Rocks release heat in evening. Not unusual for temps to rise after 5pm. Rocks can be 119 degrees.
People often ask, when’s the best time to visit Moab? Visit when it's convenient for you and work around the weather. If you approach your day with a little thought, you’ll have an amazing experience in one of the world’s unique travel destinations.
Enjoy and stay cool!