Is Moab Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On June 27, 2024
Moab, United States
Safety Index:
84
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Moab, Utah, is synonymous with rugged outdoor adventures.

Its place on the eastern side of the state is remote enough that you really have to want to be there.

What started as a Colorado River crossing on the Old Spanish Trail promised a bright future for Moab.

However, the Indigenous Ute Indians kept settlers from staying too long at first.

Once tribal lands were established, Moab became a Wild West town.

Another attempt to settle by the Latter-Day Saints stuck.

Soon, the region was known for its agriculture and mining.

As with most mining towns in the 20th Century, Moab had a boom and a bust.

The economy now hinges on tourism, as Canyonlands and Arches National Park are two big draws, in addition to other outdoor wonders that are kept secret as long as possible.

The region brings a contrast of desert landscapes, dynamic rock formations, and the churning of the Colorado River north of town.

More recently, another population boom has brought those looking for second homes the opportunity to enjoy the pleasant weather and numerous outdoor activities.

You might be surprised to find out how many times Moab and the surrounding area have made the big screen, from Thelma and Louise making a final drive in the closing scene of the movie to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

(Which, as we know now, was NOT the last crusade.)

Moab isn’t where you go to tackle a hike, necessarily.

It’s for the more experienced adventurer who wants to go off-road, cliff climbing, or explore natural parks that aren’t as crowded as Zion near Springdale.

With those additional risks comes a lot of safety advice we need to go through.

Warnings & Dangers in Moab

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

The risk of crime is low, but the region does come with natural hazards that you need to prepare for, including weather, fall risks, and isolation.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Check to see if Moab Area Transit is running during your visit. This pilot program is in effect as of 2024 and offers on-demand and fixed-route free transit to reduce congestion on the main highway through Moab and surrounding highways. Download the Moab Transit app. Don't rely on a rideshare or taxi to get you to and from the park, as mobile service for the pick-up would be spotty. A rental car offers the most flexibility.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

No pickpockets or purse snatchings have been reported in the past five years, but the risk is still there if you're not vigilant about protecting your stuff. The bigger concern would be someone snatching an unattended backpack or stealing something on a trail or at a campsite.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, winter storms, avalanches, excessive heat, and wildfires are the biggest risks, and that's emphasized by how fast storms can form in the summer. Learn about the summer monsoon and winter elevation microclimates before you go.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

This is a low risk, with the most recent robberies involving archaeological artifacts. You shouldn't let your guard down, especially at night, but robbery is not a problem here.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is a low risk as the region is very remote and has a small population. However, keep your eyes open for things like artifact theft or defacing park property, as it is a federal crime.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Utah is the 11th most likely state to see scams, so check local law enforcement social media sites for the latest reports. While there's not an overwhelming risk of a scammer targeting tourists, be skeptical of new people, even when just borrowing your phone. In one scam, the fraudster pretends to need to make a phone call on your phone and then drains your bank accounts or cash apps.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

As long as women know wilderness, weather, and survival skills, the risk isn't any higher for them. I'll punctuate this point often in this article, but don't go into the wilderness alone. Groups of three are ideal, so one can go for help if there's an emergency, and the second person can stay and help the third person who's injured or sick.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The U.S. has strict standards for tap water per the Safe Water Drinking Act. Communities are required to provide a Water Quality Report (Consumer Confidence Report) once a year by July 1. The latest report posted is from 2021, which is three years behind at this point, but no violations were reported. You can call 435-259-5577 to get a copy of a more recent report. Do NOT drink water found in the wilderness unless you have filtering abilities.

Safest Places to Visit in Moab

DiscoverMoab.com is the official tourism website for the city and the region.

You can learn more about Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park in their respective sections of nps.gov.

To learn more about Manti-La Sal National Forest, you’ll need to visit its section on the U.S. Forest Service website.

Dead Horse Point is right next to Canyonlands, but it is a state park, so it will have a separate website.

Moab does have a vibrant downtown, with the red rock landscapes peeking out above the charming district.

Stores, restaurants, and bars line the street for nightlife or a big post-hike meal.

Dinosaurs used to roam this area, and that’s just one reason to visit several of the museums in town.

Moab Giants Dinosaur Park offers a 3D film showcasing the life of dinosaurs in ancient times.

You can also hike the paths these massive beasts once walked, take a virtual tour underwater in a prehistoric aquarium or learn about the dig sites where more dinosaur fossils are still being unearthed.

The Moab Museum is your typical history museum, but it covers so much amazing backstory of this remote town that it’s worth a visit.

From the legend of Dead Horse State Park to the Japanese American Prison Camp housed here during World War II, there’s so much more than Wild West antics and pioneer lifestyles.

Movie buffs shouldn’t miss the Film Museum at Red Cliffs Ranch.

You’ll see how the landscape inspired some of the classic Western movies and eventually brought stars like Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Harrison Ford, and Sean Connery to the Utah desert.

Arches National Park is just five miles north of Moab and is definitely the “easier” of the two national parks nearby.

The Devil’s Garden Trail is one of the most popular and can be done in an easier out-and-back or a tough loop through the Primitive Trail slickrock section.

The longest arch in North America, Landscape Arch, is on the first mile of the trail.

With more than 2,000 natural arches in the park, there isn’t a bad option.

Short on time?

Take the 19-mile scenic drive through the park to soak it all in!

Canyonlands National Park is a tough place to visit in its entirety, so as our good friend Indiana Jones was told in the Last Crusade, “Choose wisely.”

With four sections to explore, they are not connected, and road access between any of them takes hours.

Island in the Sky is the most popular and the best for beginners.

The Needles is a moderate experience, with the highest elevation in the park.

The Maze is remote, rugged, and dangerous for anyone but the most experienced explorers.

In fact, it’s dangerous for them, too, but they won’t listen.

Dead Horse State Park offers a rugged yet accessible slice of Utah’s dramatic canyon landscape.

If Canyonlands National Park feels like an expedition, Dead Horse is its user-friendly sibling.

Perched on a narrow mesa, the park offers a staggering view of the Colorado River as it snakes through the Canyonlands below.

Its signature overlook, accessible by a short drive, rivals any scene Indiana Jones might seek.

The legend of its name, a grim tale of cowboy-era mustangs trapped and perished, adds a haunting allure.

This is also where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff in the movie bearing their names.

Peak baggers should head to Manti-La Sal National Forest, where Mount Pearle tops 12,700 feet.

Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle (with at least two friends) and take the La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Byway for stunning views of Utah’s second-highest mountain range.

Can you tell I love Moab with all the writing I’m doing about it?

Word count be damned, I also want to tell you about the night skies here.

They are among the darkest in the nation, and both national parks are designated International Dark Sky Parks.

You won’t believe how pristine these skies are, especially if you visit them during the new moon.

Most parks host night sky events throughout the year.

You definitely don’t want to go to bed early here.

Places to Avoid in Moab

Moab is a welcome sight after a long drive through the Utah desert and mountains, but once you get there, I have a few things you should know.

First, the city is struggling with affordable housing.

It’s common nationwide in tourist attractions.

Tourists flock to an area, and people move to beautiful locations, yet the people who provide basic services are suddenly priced out of the housing market.

That creates problems from homeless people on the streets to a lack of services because there isn’t enough staff.

You should also avoid attempting anything beyond your limits.

If you don’t know how to deflate a tire to handle a back road, don’t let this be the first place you try it.

If you’ve never hiked in 100-degree heat, don’t try it here.

It’s worth mentioning here that Moab Police were at the center of one of the biggest American investigations in the past decade.

The world saw body cam footage of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie in August 2021.

Petito would later be found dead in Wyoming, and Laundrie would later take his own life in Florida during an intense investigation and manhunt.

As of this publication, a lawsuit against the Moab Police by Petito’s family claims they didn’t do enough to recognize the warning signs, and that ultimately led to her death.

While this doesn’t mean you should avoid Moab or police officers, the connection is worth noting since it was such a high-profile case.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Moab

  1. Moab has a local police department. You can follow them @moabpolice on Facebook. The phone number is (435) 259-8938 if you have specific safety questions.
  2. Sign up for Grand County Alerts through the county’s website. This will get you information about severe weather, dangerous flooding, or other public safety hazards. While you’re on the website, bookmark the wildfire map, USGS water alerts, and avalanche center.
  3. Arches National Park has a timed entry system from April through October 2024. If that is successful, the park will continue that plan for years to come. Check the website before you plan a trip to see if you’ll need a timed entry ticket.
  4. If you plan to visit several national parks in Utah, consider purchasing the America the Beautiful pass. For $85, you can get free entry to more than 2,000 public lands nationwide for a year. Otherwise, you’ll pay about $30 per park to get in. By the time you visit three parks, you’ve already covered the price of the annual pass.
  5. This region is full of slickrock. While it’s beautiful to look at, the name gives away the risks – it’s slick. Even when it’s dry, the dust on top can make every step an ankle-breaker if you aren’t careful. In some places, you’ll have to slide down slickrock and yet others require you to climb it, which can easily tear up your hands. Bring gloves and wear shoes with good traction at the bottom.
  6. Being this close to the Colorado River means the risk of flash flooding. In fact, when the city was first settled, a good portion moved away because flooding kept ruining the crops. Today, flooding can easily wipe away roads, flood canyons, and create a wall of watery debris.
  7. Be sure to bring at least a gallon of water per person per day. The arid climate means you won’t even notice you’re sweating because it evaporates so quickly. You also must mix in some electrolytes or bring salty snacks to replace what you’re losing. By the time you are thirsty and lightheaded, you are already deprived of water and minerals.
  8. Download the NPS app to get information about Arches and Canyonlands. The system also has an option to download offline maps. Be sure to do this when you have a good private internet connection. Don’t wait until you are in the park. If you’re visiting during the summer, bring a cooling pouch for your phone, or it will get overheated quickly.
  9. The beautiful rock formations are caused by erosion, and that erosion is still happening. Eventually, all the arches of Arches National Park will fall. When you walk Devil’s Garden in Arches, you’ll see the remains of a fallen arch. Always be aware of your surroundings, and if you hear cracking or see rocks falling, get out of the way – fast.
  10. Only go into the wilderness in groups of three, never alone. If you don’t have any friends or family to go with, book a guided adventure tour. This is a vast, remote area, and your cries for help won’t be heard.

So... How Safe Is Moab Really?

It’s worth mentioning off the bat that Utah’s violent crime rate is 40% lower than the national average.

That helps make sense of why the Moab violent crime rate is 201% higher than the state average and 84% higher than the national average.

Now, before you say, “WOW!

That’s high!”

Moab has an asterisk next to most crime data, and here’s why – the city has 5,400 residents, and a combination of raw crime data and the population figure out the crime rate per 100,000 people.

However, in any given year, Moab can have between three and five million people visiting.

Those crowds not only negate the crime rate calculations (a good thing) but also create an environment where you don’t know what kind of people will be in the next group to come to town (not always a good thing).

Even half of the violent crime that happens here is between people who know each other.

In addition, 68% of violent crimes over the past five years had victims under the age of 40.

(One of the few times I’m thrilled that I’m over 40!).

The theft rate is 21% higher than the national average, but the same logic applies to the population vs visitors.

Even at the low end of visitation, you have a one in 32,967 chance of being a victim of theft.

One thing the crime data doesn’t reflect is thefts or violent crimes in national parks, as those are overseen at the federal level and crime data isn’t easily available.

The most stolen items here fall into the category of “Other,” which can be stuff left at a campsite, abandoned backpacks on the sidewalk or outdoor equipment left unattended.

You are about 2.5 times more likely to have a bicycle stolen than to get your car broken into.

However, don’t let personal safety standards slip, even in remote areas.

Creating the layout for a crime of opportunity isn’t smart anywhere you go.

Then, there are the outdoor risks – scorching heat, little shade, bitter cold, snow, storms, sunburn, dehydration – the list goes on.

You’ll have little to no mobile service outside the city, and you should be well-trained in self-rescue.

Moab is one of my favorite places on Earth.

Certain parts excite me, and other parts terrify me.

Even though you’re near two national parks, visiting this region is not just an easy walk in the park.

But it sure is fun!

How Does Moab Compare?

CitySafety Index
Moab84
Las Vegas62
San Francisco61
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
St. Louis58
Brussels (Belgium)60
Shanghai (China)66
Belize City (Belize)37
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

All international visitors need either a visa defining the purpose of the trip (tourist, work, school, etc.) or a visa waiver. Start the process using the Visa Wizard module on the U.S. State Department website. You’ll quickly find out which one you need. Also, keep in mind that your passport must be valid for at least six months after our trip, or you’ll need to apply for a new one.

Currency

Currency

Only the U.S. Dollar (USD) is accepted in the United States. International airports usually have a currency exchange desk on site, while regional airports won’t. Your home bank offers the lowest fees. For those using credit cards, check to see if there’s a foreign transaction fee before you start racking up charges. Some national parks won't take cash for entrance fees, so plan accordingly.

Weather

Weather

Utah temperatures can be extreme throughout the year, and the biggest challenge is the vast difference between daytime highs and lows in spring, summer and fall. Temperatures can fluctuate by 30–40 degrees each day. Summers are hot, with highs near or in the triple digits (F) from June through August. Winters will get below freezing each night, with above-freezing lows not until late March or April. Bring layers of outdoor clothing and extra sunscreen. You need hiking boots that are already worn in and clothing that can get dirty and sweaty.

Airports

Airports

Moab has Canyonlands Regional Airport just 19 miles outside the city. It's not a large airport, but it can get you to Salt Lake City or Phoenix. Considering the closest larger airport is in Salt Lake City, and the drive is about 3–4 hours, it's worth at least comparing travel prices vs. the price of gas.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Comprehensive insurance offers the best protection and peace of mind. If you plan to do things like rock climbing, off-roading, or multi-day backpacking, I would suggest looking into travel insurance. Injuries in remote areas can cost a lot of money and exponentially more if you need to be airlifted out.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Moab Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 0° C
Feb 4° C
Mar 10° C
Apr 15° C
May 19° C
Jun 25° C
Jul 28° C
Aug 27° C
Sep 22° C
Oct 14° C
Nov 7° C
Dec 1° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
7111823283538363123147
Low
°C
-7-32610151818125-1-6
High
°F
4552647382951009788735745
Low
°F
192736435059646454413021

Utah - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Bicknell81
Brigham City82
Bryce Canyon City82
Cedar City86
Green River83
Hurricane83
Kamas79
Kanab79
Layton81
Lehi74
Moab84
Ogden72
Orem82
Panguitch78
Park City78
Provo94
Salt Lake City55
Sandy93
St. George94
Vernal83
West Jordan94
West Valley City65

Where to Next?

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