Backcountry Safety Tips

Behind the Rocks

The Moab area offers challenging trails amidst world-class scenery. The characteristics of the area that make it a special place for outdoor recreationists also make it extremely important to follow safety procedures.


Carry lots of water and high energy foods.
Take two large bottles and a reserve supply in a water bladder or other container. Eating at intervals provides an opportunity to rest and the energy needed to complete the trail. During the hotter months, you should carry at least 1 gallon of water per day. Avoid drinking untreated water unless your life depends on it.

Stay found.
Grand County has the highest incidence of search and rescue in Utah. The high costs of these operations is typically the responsibility of the rescued party. If you are lost, do not continue on in hopes of finding your way. Retrace your route back toward the trailhead until you pick up the trail or find someone who knows the area. If you cannot retrace your route, stay put, conserve energy and water, make yourself visible and await rescue.

Carry trail maps and use them to track your position.
Great trail maps and guidebooks are available at bike shops, the Moab Information Center, bookstores, and other locations in town. Check the alignment of the route and key junctions. Moab is surrounded by a maze of deep canyons and towering cliffs. Never try to cut cross-country to shorten a trail.

Be prepared in case of emergency.
Don't venture into remote areas with nothing but a t-shirt and shorts. Carry a windbreaker, sunscreen, sunglasses, maps, matches or lighter, repair kit, first-aid kit, and extra food, water and clothing. Travel with someone else and stay together in case of problems. Discuss your situation calmly and make a plan to improve it. Let someone know of your plans.

Check your vehicle frequently.
Moab trails can cause vehicle failure or damage. Frequent inspections reduce the possibility of injury when mechanical systems fail..

Develop basic skills on the easier trails.
Trails like Porcupine Rim, Pritchett Canyon, and Behind the Rocks are not suitable places to learn or teach basic skills. Try easier trails like Gemini Bridges or Monitor & Merrimac.

When cycling, dirt biking, or riding ATV's, wear a helmet.
Most trails are very rocky. Even the best riders can get tired and make mistakes. Helmets can prevent or reduce the severity of head injuries. Medical professionals say that the average cost of treating a major head injury is over half a million dollars.

Watch out for lightning.
If you see lightning approaching, take cover in a vehicle or crouch in a low, dry spot. Avoid metal objects and never take shelter under a lone tree, at the base of a cliff, or in a shallow cave.

Avoid swimming and diving into the river.
The Colorado, Green, and Dolores Rivers look calm but there are whirlpools and currents you cannot see. If you insist on swimming in the river, wear a life jacket. Judging the depth of the river is very difficult because the water is not clear--NEVER dive into the river.

Be careful when camping or hiking in dry washes.
Even when the skies are blue above, flash floods can come down dry washes. Remember that water can travel many miles down drainages.

Don't rely on your cell phone.
There is no cell coverage in many portions of the Moab area. Please do not rely on your cell phone to call help.

Leave your pets at home.
Do not leave your pet in the car when temperatures are above 65° F. Pets can die from heat exhaustion in a very short time. Leaving pets tied up outside your vehicle is also not a good idea. Pets often knock their water over and are left with no water until you come back. Temperatures during the summer months are often above 100° F.

Respect the desert.
Tread lightly when traveling (don't leave vehicle tracks off trails) and leave no trace of your camping. Help keep the Canyon Country clean by taking your trash home and picking up after the less aware. Protect and conserve scarce water sources for wildlife by not polluting or bathing in them. Allow space for wildlife by maintaining your distance, and leave historic sites, rock art, ruins, and artifacts untouched for the future.

Have fun and learn about the special features of the area.
Great trails are not the only reason Moab has become an international destination. Take time to enjoy the scenery, study ancient Native American rock art, or marvel at the harmony of a cryptobiotic soil garden.

Canyon Country Minimum Impact Practices