a person walking between two peaks on a slackline in front of the moon

Epic landscapes and ultimate adventures in Utah

A gateway to national parks, Moab draws ‘moon walkers,’ stargazers, and nature lovers.

Andy Lewis crosses a slackline as the moon sets behind the rim of a canyon in Moab, Utah, a popular spot for outdoor pursuits.
PHOTOGRAPH BY RENAN OZTURK
This story appears in the March 2021 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Located in eastern Utah, the small city of Moab acts as a gateway to two national parks, Arches and Canyonlands. Here enthusiasts of the outdoors find a wealth of activities whether it’s day or night.

Getting the shot

This image of Andy Lewis silhouetted against a full moon took four months to make. “Even with every piece of technology we could get our hands on, it came down to going there, scouting, and seeing what lined up,” says photographer Renan Ozturk, who aimed his camera from more than a mile away to frame the shot of Lewis on a slackline (a length of woven fabric that’s suspended in the air). When the weather, people, and moon did eventually align, “we only had about a 30-second window to capture the moment.”

(Discover more places to slackline in the United States.)

Night visions

With three designated International Dark Sky Parks less than an hour’s drive from Moab, those who can’t see the Milky Way from their homes (a majority of Americans) can get their star fix there. At Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and at Dead Horse Point State Park, visitors can gaze up at thousands of stars visible to the naked eye—compared with the few dozen, at most, visible from a big city. To help maintain these stellar views, Moab has strengthened its ordinances against light pollution.

Daytime moves

Surrounded by public lands featuring Jurassic-era sand dunes weathered into titian-tinted cliffs and spires, Moab lures adventurers and nature lovers who want to interact with the elements. Activities range from the mainstream (rafting, biking, hiking) to the extreme (slacklining, BASE jumping with parachutes or wingsuits). Parks in the area have also taken steps to make the outdoors more accessible for people with disabilities.

By the numbers

100: Approximate length, in feet, of the slackline shown above

300+: Age of the oldest rock layers, in millions of years, in Canyonlands National Park

2,000+: Number of arches in Arches National Park

Norie Quintos is an editor at large for National Geographic Travel. Follow her on Twitter.
Photographer and filmmaker Renan Ozturk focuses on humans’ connection to the natural world. Follow him on Instagram.

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