The great American West meets higher flyer luxury
Moab, Utah, despite its remote location on the Colorado Plateau, is a hub for intrepid explorers, nature enthusiasts, and backpacking tourists. Its close proximity to two ruggedly beautiful national parks — Arches and Canyonlands — is the main draw, and Moab attracts more and more visitors with each passing year. The local hotel scene is expanding in order to cater to them, and the town’s first upscale property, the Hoodoo, opened in Summer 2019. As part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, it’s a charming, well-designed, and luxurious four-star, but it’s also one of the most expensive places in the area. To the delight of higher flyers though, these costs can be easily offset with points and, better yet, there’s plenty good value to be had!
Moab’s hotel market is about as seasonal as they come. The demand to visit the desert is virtually non-existent in the dead of winter, but it’s astronomical when the weather’s not-too-hot in the spring and fall. Room rates adjust accordingly, and during my stay in January 2020, a standard room at the Hoodoo cost $89 per night. That in and of itself is a steal — the average during that time of year is more in the $150-$250 range — and the deal was all the sweeter when I was upgraded to a suite at check-in (thanks, Hilton Gold status).
My good fortunes can be attributed to the fact that only about a dozen other guests overlapped with me at the Hoodoo; I probably wouldn’t have been so lucky in warmer months. With a total of only 117 rooms, the Hoodoo is best classified as a small resort, and its relatively limited capacity unfortunately leads to inflated rates when the town is flooded with tourists. To illustrate this, note that a suite in the winter ($340/night, as shown above) is cheaper than the standard offering in the summer ($380/night, as shown below).
Award redemptions at the Hoodoo can be a bit of a mixed bag. Per Hilton’s “Points Explorer” tool, prices are most-always 70,000 points per night; based on THF‘s valuation of 0.50 cents per HHonors point, that equates to roughly $350. That’s steep when it’s the dead of winter and cash rates hover around $180, but it’s more reasonable during peak tourist season and rooms are going for $400 (if not more). Like with so many other things in higher flying, your best move at the Hoodoo depends on your personal preferences. How much are you willing to part with in exchange for four-star splendor?
To answer that, it’s worth thinking about what you want to get from your accommodations. If you’re going to be planning to be out and about exploring the natural wonders all day, then what you likely need most is a clean, comfortable bed to sleep in. You can get just that for far less at one of Moab’s many budget options, and no matter how good the Hoodoo is, $380 or 70,000 points per night (or more) could be a tough sell if you’re only going to be there for a relatively short amount of time. The hotel is excellent and deserving of recommendations and accolades, but some might characterize its luxuries as overkill.
Due to its remoteness, getting to Moab is challenging. The only nearby airport, Canyonlands Field, is subsidized by the Essential Air Service and it doesn’t have a lot of airline connectivity. Going by car isn’t much easier as the closest major city, Salt Lake City, is about 230 miles away. I thought that the drive from Denver — a 350-ish mile route that requires traversing the Rockies — would be fun, beautiful, and relatively stress-free. It was the middle of January — how stupidly naïve of me! — and a blizzard was rolling through the mountains on the day of my trip. So, not only did the trip take more than eight hours from start to finish (it should’ve taken five-and-a-half per Google Maps), but the conditions were impossibly snowy, accidents abounded, and to top it all off, the interstate was completely shut down for hours because of a police chase that ended in a shootout. Then, on the only detour around the crime scene, a tractor trailer proceeded to tip over and block all lanes of traffic. Ouch.
While the driving itself was arduous, actually navigating to the Hoodoo was far more straightforward. The property enjoys a central location right off of Moab’s main street, and it’s within walking distance of the town’s main attractions (national parks excluded) and many of its restaurants. Parking, as an added convenience, is free and ample.
For what it’s worth, ethical tourists might take offense to The Hoodoo. It’s built on what used to be a trailer park, and it’s competing against locally-owned, Mom & Pop-type ranches and BnBs (and Hyatt Places). If you’re interested, check out Mark Sundeen’s essay, “Utah Wanted All the Tourists. Then It Got Them.”, in which he condemns the growing commercialization and gentrification of Moab. He implies that the Hoodoo is emblematic of both of these trends, and when you first approach the property, it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from.
It’s not that the Hoodoo looks bad, but in a sleepy Mountain West town, it definitely stands out. It’s just three stories tall, but the structure feels monolithic, especially compared to the quaint, ranch-style homes nearby. The front entrance is equally grand, and it’s bolstered by ornate accent pieces scattered about.
Indeed, chrome and other flashy metallics play key parts in the Hoodoo’s design, and that continues through to the inside of the front door, where a pair of cute, shiny pigs stand guard.
It was midnight when the road trip mercifully concluded, and at that moment, these two porkers seemed to be the only ones around. Seriously though, there were no people staffing any of the reception desks. Granted it was the lowest of low season, but the welcome greeting or lack thereof was eerily non-existent.
While it was lifeless at the time of arrival, the lobby boasts a uniquely furnished, well-lit seating area near the entrance. The arrangements are inviting and well-laid out, so should you choose to hang out here, you won’t feel like you’re on top of other guests. Of course, if the property is hosting at 10 percent of its capacity, it’s unlikely you’ll be fighting for personal space either.
The front desk is situated further back and, like everything else, it was completely barren at this hour. The set up is striking, but after spending the past eight-plus hours trekking through the Colorado Rockies, a blizzard, and a crime scene, good looks are only worth so much. Checking in and getting to bed was the only priority, and not having anyone there to help out was frustrating to say the least. There was even an administrative office off to the side, but that too was vacant. The whole thing felt fishy; where was everyone?
Eventually, after a few minutes of standing around, a uniformed woman emerged from a corner to check me in. She was playing a board game (Dungeons and Dragons, maybe?) with whom she later explained to be her husband. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said in a sing-song voice, “But gotta get through the graveyard shift somehow, right?” After resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I handed her my drivers license and a credit card, and she proceeded to type away at her computer for what seemed to be an abnormally long time. “Aw shoot, the network is down. How about I just give you a room key and then we can figure the rest out tomorrow?” It’s not like there were other options for recourse, so I reluctantly accepted. Besides, what could’ve gone wrong?
As it soon turned out, quite a bit. Nothing was terribly serious in the grand scheme of things — and she kindly upgraded us to a suite for all the troubles — but it was an amateurish showing nevertheless. The room’s wifi was non-functioning until the visit was officially registered eight hours later, only one of the four room keys were correctly programmed, and breakfast passes (complimentary by way of Hilton’s Gold Status) for the Hoodoo’s in-house restaurant, Josie Wyatt’s Grille, weren’t issued. There’s also a “convenience store” adjacent to the front desk, and the two Gatorades that I purchased before going to bed were never added to my billing portfolio.
I went to remedy these issues the following day, and a different associate working the front desk quickly and apologetically fixed most of the problems. As she handed over a pair of $15 restaurant credits and some updated key cards, she had some choice words for her colleague. “Ugh, we’ve been having lots of trouble with some members of our night staff” she said with a sigh and eye roll, “thanks for letting me know about this.” I was grateful to have everything squared away, but being let in to the behind-the-scenes staff drama seemed unnecessary and unprofessional.
Anyway, despite being only a few months old, the primary elevator banks were completely non-functioning for the duration of my stay. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the integrity of the structure, but at least there were operational service lifts in the two wings of the hotel.
To find one, you have to walk down a hall and then through an alcove complete with a coffee table, some armchairs, and a fairly wide staircase. Since the hotel is only three stories tall, it wouldn’t be too problematic for most guests to climb up to their rooms instead, but try telling that to someone who has a lot of luggage (or, more importantly, is mobility challenged).
Such public spaces are in the same spot on every floor, and they’re distinctly less interesting than the lobby. Some of the better-furnished ones could comfortably host family card games, but the others seem like they’re wasted potential.
There are easily-overlooked fire doors in the corners of these rooms, and the service lift awaits behind them.
Assuming that the regular elevators work, navigating the hotel is straightforward. As was alluded to earlier, there are two L-shaped wings branching from the centrally-located lobby. The two halves aren’t connected on higher floors, so if you want to walk from one end to the other, you have to go down to the ground level. Everything else is pretty obvious, and whenever I was wandering around exploring, a staffer would, without fail, appear to offer directions.
The corridors blend wooden, Western stylings with minimalist ones commonly found in contemporary luxury hotels. The pleasing aesthetics put it on par with some of the best in the world, but the Hoodoo boasts some flair of its own. There are, for example, lanterns at each door, big, readable room numbers actually cut in to the walls, and massive photographs of Moab’s most-famous natural formations.
I was assigned room 306, which is a top-floor suite that’s relatively close to the property’s center AND both sets of elevators. If you like, its door (along with all the others) can be unlocked with digital keys.
A somewhat drab-looking foyer awaits on the other side of the front door. The dark faux woods (which are common throughout the room) and grays from the exterior hallway extend here, but they do so in a way that’s a bit utilitarian.
Don’t get that twisted though: the design of the three-room suite is top-notch and the first impression of it is undoubtedly positive. The ceilings are high, the lighting is excellent, and the furnishings are unique. There was even a “new” smell to it. It clearly draws inspiration from the surrounding environment too; the carpet resembles desert sand and there are orange stripes in the drapes to match the color of the region’s red, arching rocks.
The foyer gives way to the living area, which is both inviting and warm in large part due to the abundance of those earthy tones. In case you have any doubt of where you are, a massive painting of a natural arch further creates a sense of place.
For a hotel chain that has its fair share of “boring” properties, the Hoodoo is not one of them. There’s something that’s both functional AND interesting everywhere you look, but nothing feels gratuitous nor tacky. The coffee table for example is sturdy, expansive, and very, very orange…
…And there’s a credenza constructed from sleekly woven wooden slats opposite that (complete with a 55-inch flat screen television on top).
Notice that for some added character, there’s a pedestal-mounted sculpture in an adjacent nook.
The two lamps flanking the sofa are quirky — the stacked spheres’ varying materials and sizes are particularly compelling — and the end tables fashioned from what appear to be (petrified) tree stumps are subtly imposing.
These eclectic features encompass many different tastes and styles, but they fit well together regardless. The grayer, more generic side of the room doesn’t make for the most impressive entrance, sure, but even that is still appealing in the context of this space.
The living area is also home to the suite’s minibar, and unlike everything else nearby, it’s much more basic. Being nondescript doesn’t warrant a penalty, but furniture made from faux wood isn’t exactly becoming of a four-star luxury hotel.
This is where, each day, housekeeping will deliver two bottles of water. They’re complimentary for Hilton HHonors elite status holders, and they’re two bucks for everyone else.
Open up the cupboard and there’s a (empty) mini fridge inside…
…And a Keurig coffee machine complete with a complimentary selection of K-Cups.
The bedroom, which is connected to the living area through an archway, is equally impressive when you first walk in. It maintains the same style, but it introduces a few more unique design elements to mildly differentiate it from the other spaces.
The room’s already tall ceilings, for example, are further accentuated by an inlaid “tray,” recessed lighting, and hanging bedside lights. There’s a certain airiness here as a result — the minimalist wood paneling on the wall adds to that — and the dominating earthy tones keep it warm and inviting.
There are more region-specific furnishings here too, the most notable being a floor lamp made to resemble fixtures commonly found in the stone quarries local to the Mountain West, and they further add to the suite’s charm and character.
More importantly the bed — arguably the most significant feature of any hotel room anywhere — exceeds the already high expectations for it. It’s firm without being rock hard, but it’s soft enough that you’ll feel great crawling in to it after hiking around the nearby parks all day. The same could be said (written) for the supportive-but-squishy pillows, and its linens are clean and soft.
An easy way and common baseline for me to evaluate a hotel’s service is whether or not the staff honors a note in my hotel loyalty account profile(s). I’m allergic to down bedding, so I always request synthetic comforters and foam pillows; the Hoodoo was thankfully able to/remembered to provide them. This meant I could sleep without sniffles and sneezes (which is always a good thing).
One of the most underrated benefits of the Hoodoo’s recent construction is that its rooms are outfitted with plenty of electrical outlets, so finding a handy place to charge your devices is painless. Next to the bed alone, there are a total of four 110v plugs, four standard USB jacks, and two USB Type-C ports (in addition to the usual fixings like an alarm clock, a landline, and a notepad).
On top of all that, there’s a work desk across from the bed, and that too has its own pair of easily-accessible outlets built in to it. Powering your laptop/iPad/what-have-you while working has never been so easy!
Many hotels located in remote areas struggle to provide reliable broadband, but the Hoodoo offers blazingly fast wifi. There’s a super-premium option that’s complimentary for Hilton Diamond members (or $13/day for the lesser/non-elites), but the free, standard offering should suffice for everyone. It’s fast enough that you can stream Netflix and the like to your personal electronics without hiccup, although you might not need to do that. The two TVs (one in the living room, the other across from the bed) are both of the “smart” variety, complete with built-in app support (Netflix and Hulu are accounted for, as are a few more niche services). That functionality isn’t groundbreaking — no one is choosing accommodations based solely on television quality — but it’s good to see that a recently-opened four-star property is at the cutting edge of things.
For added, TV-watching comfort, there’s an incredibly cushy, oh-so-Western leather armchair (and petrified wood end table) facing the screen…
…Which sits in front of one of the suite’s two near-identical closets.
Both closets are built from faux wood — they’re lame compared to all the other neat things crammed in to the room (in the same way that the minibar underwhelms) — but they’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination. The one in the bedroom is home to a safe, a pair of robes, and some other amenities (like a laundry bag and ironing board), whereas the one in the foyer boasts an extra linen kit and some more hangers.
The two are both conveniently placed adjacently to the bathroom’s barn doors. It works out nicely; you can swap your clothes for a robe, then immediately freshen up and indulge in a genuine spa-like environment.
As a brief aside: sliding doors like these are quite aesthetically pleasing, but the trade-off is that they’re not good at blocking sounds or smells. If you find yourself at the Hoodoo, you better hope that you’re very comfortable with your traveling companion(s) or that you feel no shame vis-a-vis your bodily functions (and/or your singing in the shower).
The interior of the suite’s bathroom, rather surprisingly, near-completely eschews the rustic, Mountain West-chic motif that’s so heavily relied upon at the Hoodoo. There’s a faux-wood-framed mirror with two built-in lamps made to look as if they were repurposed from a nearby mine…
…And that’s where the design similarities stop. Some of the earthy tones and metallics remain, but compared to the other rooms, they’re utilized far differently. The other bathroom fixtures are dramatically-styled in contemporary, vaguely minimalist ways. Smooth, polished sandstone tiles adorn the floors and walls, chrome accents are everywhere, and the above-counter sink is even shaped like a pea.
The best, most prominent feature here is the genuinely impressive bathtub and shower. Alas there’s no million dollar view, but there’s still a definite “Wow!” factor.
The tub is shaped like a mug or a bowl — its wide base is perfectly circular and its sides are steep and tall — and it’s big enough to fit two people. If that’s not bold enough for you, there’s both a “living wall” cutout (quotes because the plants are fake) and a recessed spotlight directly above for artistic effect.
The alternative is certainly less-impressive visually, but it still nails the fundamentals of a good shower.
The controls are close to the door — you don’t have to reach through the stream to turn on the water, so there’s no risk of getting icily doused — and easy to use. You can’t see in the pictures (whoops, my bad!) but there’s a rain showerhead in addition to the handheld one too. The water pressure out of both of them is excellent.
The Hoodoo’s toiletries, a shampoo, a conditioner, and a body wash — from Beekman’s esteemed “Fresh Air” collection — are some of my favorites. The fragrances are clean smelling and agreeable for all without being too overpowering; I want them for my own bathroom, and fortunately, they’re available in bulk from a hotel supply company (and from a more traditional source too).
Other amenities include a vanity mirror, a make up remover, some body lotion, and, if you can count them as such, cotton balls. If you need them, shaving and dental and sewing kits are available by request from the front desk.
The toilet is housed in a partitioned-off water closet that’s also accessible from the foyer. It’s practically-thought-out in that if you’re traveling as a family, someone can bathe and, at the same time, someone else can use the toilet without violating anyone’s privacy.
To complement the interior spaces, the suite boasts a decently-spacious balcony accessible from both the living and sleeping areas. The furnishings are a bit spartan — there’s nothing more than a pair of chairs — but they are comfortable and aesthetically appealing like most everything else at the Hoodoo.
The view overlooks the property’s courtyard/pool area, as well as some red rocks further out in the distance, but there weren’t any obvious opportunities to appreciate them. I was never at the hotel during daylight hours — why be inside when you can be in a national park? — and besides, who wants to lounge around on a balcony in January?
The pool is a different story though. It’s heated and it’s, along with a hot tub, open all night.
While you can’t necessarily lie out when the deck is covered in six inches of snow, it’s still fun to relax here after a day on your feet. It’s spaciously appealing and well-designed — the hot tub’s massaging water jets are strong too! — and it’s probably all the better in the summer when the environmental conditions are more favorable.
If you want to exercise more thoroughly, there’s a gym in the basement with a few machines and a rack of dumbbells…
…And elsewhere (near the lobby) there’s a small office complete with a Mac, a PC, a printer, and a photocopier. It’s a good, well-lit set up with floor-to-ceiling windows, but hopefully you never have to step in here while you’re on a vacation!
For meals, there are a few restaurants (I recommend Arches Thai across the street for some fresh, authentic Southeast Asian cuisine!) within walking distance in addition to the in-house Josie Wyatt’s Grille.
The establishment extends in to the Hoodoo’s lobby — and matches the hotel’s eclectic style — and hosts happy hours and other gatherings here throughout the afternoon and evening. After hours, it’s free for guests to use sans reservation.
Josie Wyatt’s Grille also serves daily breakfasts to hotel guests. There’s no continental buffet but rather an a la carte menu. The selection isn’t as big as you might expect and prices are kind of high, but the trade off is generally higher quality food. If you hold Hilton Gold status or higher, the front desk will issue you $15 credits per guest per day (which is enough for any entree and a tip) upon check-in to help offset those added costs too. The woman who checked me in neglected to provide these, but it was no matter. The restaurant opens at 7am, and the two mornings I was there, I was out of the room before 6:30am (to catch sunrises!). The pictures you see below are stock images courtesy of the Hoodoo itself.
Everything about the Grille looks perfectly pleasant and appropriate for a four-star, and my experience with it reflects my lasting, holistic impression of the Hoodoo. There’s plenty to love here but not enough time to fully appreciate it. During my 36 hours in Moab, I was awake and at the property for no more than three hours. The rest of my time was spent either asleep or at one of the parks. To sum that sentiment up, I present to you a twist on an old, fabled question: If there’s something luxurious but you’re not around to indulge in it, is it genuinely luxurious? Perhaps you’re vacationing differently and plan to be at the hotel for stretches longer than I was — that’s perfectly fine! — but no matter your situation, the Hoodoo’s excellence, at the minimum, warrants the consideration of all higher flyers.
As with any hotel, there’s always the chance of disappointment, but the Hoodoo Moab is as certain a bet as anything. It does so much right, from the quirky, well-furnished rooms to the appealing public spaces like the lobby and pool area. Moreover, you really have a sense of the locality when you stay here; it’s charming and Mountain West cool without being over-the-top, and all this together makes for an easy recommendation… although that comes with a caveat: there might be too much. The luxuries are abundant, but if you’re going to be exploring natural wonders all day long, the Hoodoo’s nightly rates might be a bit too steep for a place to just put your head down. There are lots of decent budget options nearby, but none offer the rustic-glamour, the comfort, and the “wow” factor that the Hoodoo does. Is that worth the premium? Well, it all depends on how you choose to fly higher…
The good, the bad, the ugly of the Hoodoo Moab
- The Good
- In a rugged, remote mountain town like Moab, this is a genuine premium hotel without any major shortcomings of note.
- Guest rooms are spacious, comfortable, and well-appointed
- The staff is courteous and accommodating, if also a little unprofessional.
- The Bad
- During peak tourist season, room rates can get outrageously high. This is a nice hotel, but it’s not $400–per-night nice!
- The Ugly
- The Hoodoo is going through some growing pains, and there are some kinks that need to be ironed out. The most prominent of them are the inconsistent service and faulty elevators.
- There’s nothing wrong with faux wood, but there’s nothing right about it either (especially at a luxury hotel!).
- You could make a credible argument that the property, while so luxurious, is a bit overkill for an outdoorsy town.
- How do you feel about directly contributing to Moab’s gentrification?
Have you stayed at the Hoodoo Moab before? What are your thoughts?