Moab is the primary gateway to both Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Don’t let its outsize image and status as Grand County seat fool you: only about 5,000 people live here year-round—compared with the 1 million who visit annually. Near the Colorado River in a beautiful valley between red rock cliffs, Moab is an interesting, eclectic place to visit, especially if you would welcome a variety of restaurants, Southwestern-inspired souvenirs, art galleries, and a plethora of lodging options. Also, here you'll find an array of sports outfitters to help you enjoy the parks. For those who want civilization and a sprinkling of culture with their outdoor itineraries, Moab is the place to be.
The next-closest town to Arches, about 47 miles to the northwest, is Green River. Unlike hip Moab, this dusty highway outpost is off the tourists' radar screen, except for boaters headed Moab’s way on the Green. It's worth a visit for Ray’s Tavern. Also, each September the fragrance of fresh cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew fills the air, especially during Melon Days, a family-fun event celebrating the harvest on the third weekend of September.