Luxury Vacations: "Moab? Where's that? The Middle East??" said my best friend's mom. Moab, a quirky town of 7,000 in the heart of Utah, certainly doesn't rival the grandeur that Dubai does, I replied, but it's one area worthy of a trip. In my four-day stay in August, I rounded up the best picks for the open-minded luxe traveler:
The Sorrel River Ranch: This stunning resort defines the most regal middle-of-nowhere escape, as in no cell phone reception, no city noise, and no concern for time or stress. In a word, bliss. The Sorrel River Ranch hugs a portion of the Colorado River. This scenic river carves between walls of jutting amber mountains and the resort's perfect horse-speckled fields of grass. As Utah's only Small Luxury Hotel, the Sorrel River Ranch has a luxury-meets-cowboy design. The elegant guestrooms are appointed with log-beamed ceilings, copper-top furniture, hydrotherapy bathtubs, and rustic, handcrafted accents. I loved our front porch, where large rocking chairs and a swing beckoned us to enjoy the river view.
Although situated in a mesmerizing middle-of-nowhere, I never felt the urge to leave Sorrel River Ranch with it's full service spa, tennis courts, horseback riding, yoga, and expert guided hikes. Charming pastimes, such as watercolor classes and fireside stories and smores with a local "cowboy" made Sorrel River Ranch ever more enchanting. In addition, the Ranch features the Sorrel River Grill, the resort's signature Southwestern fare restaurant. We were delighted nightly by chef John Clickner's presentations of Bison Carpaccio, Grilled Pheasant Breast, and "Colorado" filet Mignon topped with cippolini onions and forest mushrooms.
Ales, lagers, and fresh-brewed beers-are all featured at the Moab Brewery, the town's pride for its authentic, award-winning brews of several varieties. Tired mountain bikers, dusty tourists, and laid-back locals fill this casual dining spot. The Brewery offers a fairly large and discerning array of menu items, including Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, spinach and cheese manicotti, and aundoullie sausage pasta. We liked the "beer to go," option available to patrons who dine in, as well as the beer sampler, a presentation of 12 beers on tap. Bonus treat: The Brewery makes it's own gelato in rare delectable flavors such as "Honey and Walnut" and Vanilla Bourbon.
As most locals will tell visitors, experiencing the outdoors is what one does in Moab. With two enormous national parks, the Colorado River, the world's "most technical biking trail," and a couple thousand miles of off-roading paths, there's no end to the hiking, rafting, biking and driving one could do in Moab.
Renting a jeep for the day to plow up and down some difficult terrain is definitely a must, but not for the faint of heart. My travel companion and I loved the adventurous crew at Cliff Hanger Jeep Rental, one of the many off roading rental options in Moab. What made Cliff Hanger stand out was the company's insistence to use the Jeeps and get them dirty. Our black two-seater, fitted with colossal treads, handled one of Canyon Land's National Park's most difficult trails, Elephant Hill, like a joy ride. Expert driving is required, as navigating sections such as the "Golden Stairs" and "S.O.B. Hill" take technical skill, but our Cliff Hanger Jeep took every obstacle in stride.
As an alternative to renting a Jeep, we enjoyed a Hummer Tour from the Moab Adventure Center. I was thankful for our guide, a true terrain expert who took our 9 passenger Hummer up and down some intense hills, up to 35 degree angles, on another one of Moab's most challenging trails, Hell's Revenge. Our guide, Mike, was engaging and relentlessly calm, even when our vehicle broke a part, resulting in a short respite from the insane humps and bumps. Again, hardly for the faint of heart, but one heck of an adventure for those who have an affinity for roller coaster like thrills in nature.