The Portal Overlook Trail near Moab is located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, nestled alongside the western side of the Colorado River. This 5-mile hike will challenge your legs and lungs, but the top views are so worth it.

Moab is a mecca of towering spires, delicately carved arches, natural bridges, and picturesque landscapes. It’s one of the best outdoor recreation areas in the United States, whether you’re into hiking, rock climbing, base jumping, off-roading, mountain biking or horseback riding.

Come along as we explore the ins and outs of the Portal Overlook Trail, including location, parking, length, difficulty, terrain, and what you can expect to see on this gorgeous trail!

Portal Overlook Trail Guide<br />

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I haven’t personally had the pleasure of hiking this trail near Moab but my brother and his wife did! And they were kind enough to write a guide to share with you all.

They blog about van life, hiking, and climbing, plus they do all of it with their furbabies by their sides. You can check out their blog here– Dirtbagswithfurbags.

So I’ll let Robyn take over from here and give us a front-row seat to their experience hiking the Portal Overlook Trail.

Views of the Colorado river on the Portal Overlook Trail in Moab

Where Exactly is the Portal Trail Location?

Moab is known for the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Still, there is plenty more to do near this beautiful city!

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) tells us that the Portal Overlook is located on just a tiny part of their 1.8 million acres of BLM canyon country land near Moab, Utah. The trail follow closely along the western side of the Colorado River on Potash Road before winding up the cliffside to the Portal overlook.

Beyond the overlook, you’ll hike up a few more switchbacks and winding trails until you reach the top and are greeted with stunning 360-degree views of Moab’s landscape. Unfortunately, there is no portal overlook trail map, but you can see a preview of the trail on AllTrails to familiarize yourself with the path direction.

The trail is open to hikers and mountain bike riders only, and you’ll typically have the trail to yourself or pass just a few other people. Watch your step; this trail has some gnarly drop-offs with no safety fence.

Panoramic on top of Portal Overlook Trail

Getting the Portal Overlook Adventure Started

To get started on this daring adventure, you’ll want to find a place to park, that’s close to the trailhead.

Finding a Parking Spot

Most hikers traveling to the Portal Overlook Trail will park at the Jaycee Park Campground. This is a tent-only campground, so you won’t have to compete with big camper rigs. However, it’s a relatively small lot, so consider getting there early or planning an alternative parking location.

The Jaycee Park Campground is off of Potash Road:

  • From Moab (12 minutes): Take US-191 N to UT-279 S. Continue for 4 miles to the campground on your right.
  • GPS Coordinates: N38.55648, W109.59025
  • Google Maps: Type in “Jaycee Park Campground”

Alternatively, you can park at a small roadside pull-off before the campground (if coming from the north).

  • GPS Coordinates: N38.55906, W109.58733

There is limited space in both parking lots, but even during the busy times of the day, there are usually spots open.

Finding the Trailhead from Jaycee park Campground

The trailhead is easy to spot if you park at the Jaycee Park Campground. It’s the only trailhead in the parking lot, located on the northeast side of the lot. There will be a sign reading “Portal Overlook 1.5.”

By the way, don’t be fooled by this sign! (Like I was). In its entirety, the trail is five miles long. The Portal overlook is reached before the end of the trail. I went into this expecting a 3-mile hike and was a little surprised it ended up being 5!

Finding the Portal Overlook Trailhead from Roadside Pulloff

If you decide to park at the roadside pull-off along Potash Road, you’ll cut off about a quarter mile, but you won’t miss anything spectacular.

Carefully cross the road from the pull-off and jump into the obvious sandy trail. Follow the trail until it intersects with the Portal Trail and continues onward.

Robyn on the Portal Overlook Trail in Moab

Length and Difficulty of the Portal Overlook Trail

The Portal Overlook Trail is a bit of a doozy. It’s not the best trail for a beginner, and even experienced hikers may have difficulty on the narrow ledges of this trail. That said, I still highly recommend it!

The challenge of reaching the top, paired with the views you see, makes this hike a memorable adventure.

The Long and Winding Trail

First things first, let’s chat about the length of this hike. The Portal Overlook trail is a 5-mile out-and-back trek. Expect to spend around three hours on the trail, give or take, depending on your pace.

Of course, it might take a bit longer if you’re like me and love to stop for a zillion photos (or snacks!). But hey, no rush – remember, it’s about the journey, not the just the destination.

Rocky Roads Ahead

Now, let’s talk terrain. The trail features ramps of Kayenta sandstone, which makes for some pretty spectacular views, but it also means you’ll be trekking over mostly rocky ground.

I won’t lie – it’s a little tricky in places. But don’t worry, your effort will be rewarded with those breathtaking views! It’s not a bad idea to bring some trekking poles, although we didn’t have any and did just fine.

Another recommendation would be a good, sturdy pair of hiking shoes with good grips on the bottom.  Jess wears the Danner 600 Hiking Boots and LOVES them.

📖 Read Next: Best Gifts for Hikers

Elevation Gain: Not for the Faint of Heart

Alright, brace yourselves. The total elevation gain on this trail is a whopping 900 feet! So, while this trail might not be the best fit for beginner hikers, those with a bit more experience under their belts (or boots?) will find it an exciting challenge.

It’s not every day you get to conquer such heights!

The Portal Overlook trail is a tough cookie, but oh-so-worth-it for the stunning vistas and the bragging rights. Take it at your own pace, bring plenty of water, and, above all, enjoy the adventure!

Overlook trail in Moab Utah

A Journey Through Nature’s Masterpiece: 7- Step Guide to the Portal Overlook Trail

1. The Beginning: Flat and Sandy Trail

The trail begins on the flat, sandy terrain of the Portal Overlook trail. Here, you’ll find:

  • Cobbles: These unique formations were deposited by the mighty Colorado River, adding a touch of geological history to your hike.
  • Vegetation: Look out for the native trees and stream side vegetation that add a dash of green to the sandy landscape.

2. The Rocky Benches: A Desert Oasis

As we move forward, the trail transforms into landscape of rocky benches surrounded by:

  • Cactuses: These prickly plants are a staple of the desert landscape, surviving and thriving in the harsh desert sun. If you bring your pup, watch out for these tiny but painful plants, which can get stuck in their paws.
  • Saltbush: This hardy shrub adds a touch of silvery grey to the surroundings, contrasting beautifully with the red rocks.

Get ready for the elevation increase at the half-mile mark – it’s time to start climbing! But before you trek on, note the trail register box at the half-mile mark and consider signing in to the visitor box!

3. The Wild Side of the Portal Overlook Trail

As you hike along the beautiful scenery, there are a few critters you may share the path with. Moab has a unique landscape that requires adaptations to heat, lack of water, and rocky terrain.

On this hike, you may encounter:

  • Jackrabbits
  • Mule deer
  • Desert cottontails
  • Porcupines
  • Songbirds
  • Rock squirrels
  • Lizards
  • Snakes
  • Eagles and hawks

Most other animals in the area are nocturnal, meaning they’re snoozing while you’re sweating it on the trail.

Views of the La Sal Mountains in Utah

4. The Portal Overlook: A Panoramic Deligh

Reaching the 1.5-mile mark is a feat, but the real reward is the stunning view from the Portal Overlook. Here, you’ll see:

  • The Colorado River: This mighty river carves its way through the landscape, a ribbon of blue amid the red rocks.
  • Moab Valley: The quaint town of Moab looks like a toy set from up here – so small and yet so charming! Additionally, Moab Valley contains miles of red rocks, mesas, plateaus, and cliffs.
  • Arches National Park: Catch a glimpse of the iconic arches that give this park its name.
  • La Sal Mountain Range: Get a sneak preview of these distance giants, their peaks reaching for the sky.

5. The Ascent: A Test of Endurance

The last mile to the top will have you gaining about 250 feet of elevation. It’s a challenging climb, but the views at the top make it all worthwhile.

Watch out for the narrow ledges and steep cliffs of this route. Those with a mountain bike are warned to dismount their bikes and walk at specific points of the trail. But if you’re an adrenaline junkie like me, this is the fun part!

Man sitting at the top of Portal Overlook Hike

6. The Top: A 360-Degree Spectacle

Once you reach the top, you’ll find yourself on a somewhat flat mesa with a 360-degree view that is nothing short of spectacular.

  • North: Marvel at the stunning landscape of Arches National Park.
  • East: The La Sal Mountain Range dominates the eastern skyline, their majestic peaks are a sight to behold.
  • West: As the sun sets, the mesas and plateaus to the west take on a magical glow.
Portal Overlook Trail at Sunset

7. The Sunrise Spot: A Morning Like No Other

There’s no better way to start your day than watching the sunrise over the La Sal Mountains. The early morning light paints the mountains in hues of pink and orange, creating a breathtaking spectacle worth every step of the climb.

So set that alarm, pack a thermos of coffee, and get ready for a sunrise like no other!

Portal Overlook Trail Tips

Unique Tips for Hiking the Portal Overlook Trail

The Portal Overlook Trail contains several unique challenges for hikers, from the hot desert sun in the summer to the chilly snow and ice in the winter. Not to mention the rocky terrain and elevation gain.

So, let’s talk specifics!

Rocky Terrain

Occasionally, you won’t have a cleared path throughout the trail and will simply be stepping over rock shelves. As mentioned earlier, trekking poles can be helpful in this kind of terrain, especially on the way back down.

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Pick the Right Time of Day

If you head to Moab in the hotter months – May through September – be careful about when you hike the Portal Overlook Trail.

During the day, the trail has no shade and can be scorching hot. Pack plenty of water and sunscreen, and consider wearing a sun hat or sun shirt. If you usually bring your dog on hikes, consider leaving them at home or packing a cooling vest and extra water.

If you do bring your doggo, make sure you bring all the essential items. Read about the 9 essential hiking items to bring for your dog.

Alternatively, you can hike the Portal Overlook Trail in the evening. At this point, the massive cliffs to the west block the sun, casting most of the trail in lovely, cool shade.

Weather Considerations

The rainiest month in Moab is typically in October. Still, even then, this desert region sees an average of only four days of rain. However, when it rains, gullies and seeps of water can form along the trail. Be mindful of wet, slippery terrain in the rain.

On the other hand, be mindful of the scorching sun as well. As I mentioned above, the trail is entirely exposed during the day.

Winter is a rare time to visit Moab, but if you hike the Portal Overlook Trail in the winter, be mindful of icy spots, snow, and chilly temperatures.  The lows in December, January, and February are down into the 20’s. Trekking pols and ice spikes are recommend for winter hiking on this trail, especially with the dangerous drop-offs.

Airbnbs Near Arches National Park

Best Time of the Year to Hike the Portal Overlook Trail

Fallen in love with the Portal Overlook Trail? If you’re prepping for a trip to this desert oasis, plan your hike for late spring or early fall!

The best time of the year to hike the Portal Overlook Trail is:

  • March
  • April
  • May
  • September
  • October

It’s not too hot or cold, and you’re not likely to encounter snow or ice on the trail at this time of the year.

Quick list of best Airbnbs in Moab Utah

Wrapping Up Our Adventure on the Portal Overlook Trail

The Portal Overlook Trail in Moab, Utah, is clearly a hiker’s paradise from the sandy beginnings to the panoramic views at the top. But before we wrap things up, let’s quickly recap what we’ve learned about this awe-inspiring trail:

  • Location: The Portal Overlook trail offers a hefty dose of adventure and stunning views in the heart of Moab, Utah.
  • Portal Overlook Trail Parking: With convenient parking at the Jaycee Park Recreation Site and a clear starting point, getting to the trailhead is a breeze.
  • Portal Overlook Trail Difficulty & Length: Clocking in at 5 miles out-and-back and featuring a 900-foot elevation gain, this trail is a fantastic challenge for experienced hikers.
  • Terrain & Scenery: From flat sandy stretches to rocky ramps and cactus-dotted landscapes to breathtaking overlooks, this trail is a feast for the eyes.
  • Hiking Tips: Remember, safety first! Take your time, carry plenty of water, and soak in those unforgettable sunrise views over the La Sal Mountains.

So, are you ready to lace up your hiking boots and hit the Portal Overlook trail? Whether you’re an experienced hiker seeing your next challenge or a nature lover looking to immerse yourself in stunning landscapes, this trail promises a unique adventure that will leave you with lasting memories.

But don’t just take our word for it – get out there and experience the magic of the Portal Overlook trail for yourself! And once you’ve conquered the hike, we’d love to hear about your adventures on the trail.

So please drop a comment below and share your story. Trust us, we love nothing more than hearing about your epic outdoor escapades. Happy trails!

Utah Travel Guides ↓

I travel all over the world and the southwest in the United States is still one of my top destinations! Check the guides below for inspiration in planning your trip to Utah.

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Best of Utah’s National Parks in 1 Week

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