Who We Are

Moab’s Original Canyoneering, Packrafting and Rock Climbing
Guide Service, Est. 1997

We are explorers and pioneers

In 1997, Desert Highlights began as Moab's first and only canyoneering guide service. Most of the routes that we guide in the Moab area are Desert Highlights original routes. We love putting forth the work to discover a new route and explore the options of descending an unknown canyon. This can mean using unique tools such as packrafts, mountain bikes, and highly specialized canyoneering equipment. As canyoneering has become more popular over the last 20 years, we have remained passionate about finding new and remote canyons as a way to provide our guests with a solitary experience. Click here to learn more about what it takes to create and officially guide a new canyoneering route.

We are passionate stewards of the land

Exploring the Desert Southwest is our passion, and canyoneering is a huge part of that. When we're not out guiding, we're out in the desert discovering new ways to access seemingly impossible terrain. We're constantly learning new things about our surroundings, allowing nature to be our teacher. Keeping all of our trips private allows us to travel in small groups, ensuring that we are minimizing our impact and adhering to Leave No Trace principles. We are fortunate to have a huge backyard with endless amounts of public land. We strive to care for this environment, educating our guests about low impact travel in canyon country. This often means ``ghosting`` a canyon - leaving nothing behind, including anchors, so that future groups have a similar experience of discovery and exploring pristine canyons.

We are accommodating

All of our canyoneering and packrafting trips are private. This is the best way to get the most out of your guided adventure. We want your trip out with us to feel like a day out with your friends and we understand that different people have different abilities and goals. Let us customize a trip that meets the goals and desires of your group. We'll go at your pace, in your style, with your people!

We are teachers

Sure, it's our job to get you and your group through a technical canyon safely, but our job doesn't stop there. We want your trip with us to be a learning experience for you, leaving you with a deeper understanding of and connection to the landscape that you're visiting. We love talking about the flora, fauna and natural history of our area - a value added component that is often lacking with other companies. We'll also ``teach you the ropes`` (literally!), giving as much detail as you'd like, so that you can gain trust in your guide and and understanding of the systems you'll be using to safely descend the canyon.

We are Desert Highlights

We love canyoneering because we believe it can be done by any age at any ability level. In fact, we often say that a sense of adventure is more important than age and/or ability. If you want to run through the trade routes smushed into a large group with strangers, look elsewhere! However, if you have a ``curiosity for the unknown`` and value personalized attention, then allow us to give you a canyoneering experience you’re sure not to forget!

Meet Your Guides

Jake Palmer

Jake Palmer

“I’m originally from Salt Lake City and grew up hiking and climbing around the Wasatch mountains. I gained my love for wandering through the red rock about 5 years ago when I moved just outside of Zion National Park, which is where Kai and I fell in love with Canyoneering. I never thought I would be a guide, but the more I brought friends, family and anyone who would follow me into new places, the more I realized how much I love to teach and show people these amazing landscapes.

We moved to Moab this year to explore new canyons and climb as much as we can squeeze our hands, fingers and feet into!”

Desert Highlights is excited to have Jake on board as an AMGA Certified Single-Pitch Instructor and an all around great guide! Guests rave about what a patient and fun guide Jake is!

Kai Palmer

Kai Palmer

“Born and raised in Salt Lake City, I was fortunate to have the Wasatch mountain range right in my backyard. My parents taught me to love the outdoors early. They got me on skis at age 2! Our family vacations were always down south to Lake Powell or Lake Mead to boat camp. I fell in love with canyoneering in college when a family friend took me out to run a few canyons in the North Wash. I was hooked!

After graduating college I took a big road trip around the U.S. – it was exciting to adventure through the states but I missed the desert! I moved to southern Utah and after briefly pursuing a career in dental hygiene, decided to take a different route and go for what I was truly passionate about. I started guiding just outside of Zion National Park and I loved every second of it! Moving to Moab was an easy decision for me because of all the outdoor adventures this area has to offer!”

Desert Highlights is excited to have another female on our team and in the guiding industry, and we love Kai’s easy-going, passionate and safety-conscious guiding style!

Ed Oak

Ed Oak

Ed has been guiding with Desert Highlights off-and-on for the last 20 years. This free-spirited Gemini started his wilderness explorations with an ascent of Mt. Katahdin in Maine at the age of 8, and by 14 he was leading multi-pitch rock climbs at the spectacular Seneca Rocks in West Virginia. With this kind of youthful introduction to the backcountry, one can see why Ed enjoys helping people of all ages and abilities discover breathtaking, high-angle adventures.

He has a degree in outdoor education from Prescott College in Arizona and has spent over 14 years leading trips for some of America’s leading wilderness schools, including the Pacific Crest Outward Bound School. Of course, his climbing resume also includes an ascent of Yosemite’s formidable El Capitan!

All of these experiences and more have given Ed the personal and practical skills that will enrich and ensure the safety of your canyon explorations with Desert Highlights.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is the founder of Desert Highlights, opening the doors of Moab’s first canyoneering company in 1997. He is the pioneer of many of the classic Moab canyoneering routes that are still enjoyed today, and he is a true desert wanderer at heart. His knowledge of the Colorado Plateau is unmatched and we’ve been so fortunate to pick his brain over the years. His passion and excitement for exploring the Utah landscape is contagious, and we hope to carry the Desert Highlights torch and keep the flame bright by showing you our backyard with the same enthusiasm that Matt always has.

Melissa Crimp

Melissa Crimp

Melissa spent her formative years between Southern Maryland and Gulf Shores, AL, breaking free from the south in 2007 when she made the life changing move west to Denver, CO. It was here that she was introduced to rock climbing and eventually canyoneering during her first visit to Moab in 2008. Although most of her days were spent adventuring outdoors, she found time to attend UC Denver and receive a bachelors degree in Environmental Science. She gave the 9 to 5 lifestyle a chance and quickly learned that sitting behind a computer was not the life for her. She has traveled and worked throughout the US and Central America, finally landing in Moab in 2013.

She has spent time canyoneering in the slots of Zion, the Grand Canyon and the Moab area and climbing all over Colorado and Southern Utah. On her days off, she can be found exploring remote areas of Southern Utah, whether it be in a deep, narrow canyon or on top of a tall, skinny desert tower – her favorite way to experience desert rock climbing. She feels at home in the desert and truly enjoys sharing this special place with visitors. As a guide, she finds great reward in coaxing the fearful over the edge of a cliff – on rope, of course!

Herb Crimp

Herb Crimp

Herb grew up in Virginia hiking and climbing in the Appalachians. He got his first taste of southern Utah during a thirty day Wilderness Leadership course through his alma mater, Radford University. He received his bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism.

After graduating, Herb worked as an environmental education teacher in Alabama. The lure of the West is strong, however, and in 2005 he returned to live in northern Utah and work as a counselor for a wilderness therapy program. The challenges of work had him seeking solace on his days off in the breathtaking backcountry of southern Utah. In 2007, Herb began guiding for Desert Highlights. Herb has also been a climbing and backcountry snowboard instructor for NOLS since 2011. His enthusiasm for traveling through remote canyons is contagious. In 2015, Herb purchased Desert Highlights from Matt to become the sole owner.

Herb is certified as a Swiftwater Rescue Technician and a Wilderness First Responder. He has trained with NOLS as a climbing Instructor. Herb has also completed a Level 1 Avalanche course through NOLS.

Kiera Mason

Kiera Mason

“Growing up, I spent many summers working on farms and exploring the outdoors through hiking, camping, and backpacking. While pursuing an accounting degree, I discovered the rock climbing world through a PE class, and realized that a desk job was never going to satisfy my constant desire to be outside. After graduating, I opted to manage a small market farm for a season. My world was further expanded when I decided to enter a bachelor’s degree program in International Rescue & Relief. While spending many school breaks in Moab, I was exposed to the guiding world, and soon found myself leading trips in the incredible landscape surrounding the Colorado river. Although a North Idahoan at heart, Moab quickly became my desert home. I love sharing the amazing topography of this region and helping others safely adventure into new places!”

Kiera’s love for the desert, experience on rope, calm demeanor and positive energy makes her a great addition to the Desert Highlights team!

Mark & Sue Wiggins

Shuttle Drivers & Behind-the-Scenes Support

While you may not see them on your guided trip with Desert Highlights, Mark and Sue are an integral part of our day-to-day operations. If you’ve ever done a trip with us where the vehicle magically ended up at the end of the canyon so that you’d have a ride back to town, you can thank them for making it happen! Shuttle drivers, dog-sitters, moral support during the busy season, loving parents (to Melissa) and in-laws (to Herb) and all around wonderful people – Desert Highlights is grateful to have the Wiggins’ as part of the team.

On his days off, you might see Mark wandering around the desert with his dog Leeroy. He loves canyoneering when he gets the chance – usually during the off-season when crowds are low and guides are available.

Sue has become a wonderful addition to the Moab community, supporting locals and visitors by volunteering at the St. Francis Episcopal Church’s food bank and soup kitchen and always searching for ways to help those in need. She has a huge heart and a kind spirit, and will occasionally get a hankering for some good ole canyoneerin’!

What Our Guests Say About Us

My wife and nineteen year old daughter and I had an excellent time learning the ropes, so to speak, of canyoneering with our excellent guide Kai. What made this adventure even better was it was just the guide and my family on the excursion. We were able to move at whatever pace we felt comfortable with, and had plenty of time to stop and take pictures or catch our breath, or simply enjoy the view. Kai did a great job of explaining the equipment and what we needed to do to navigate the slopes and of course rappelling down the canyon wall. Honestly, my wife and daughter were a bit nervous about this trip I had planned, but the way it was structured, with smaller obstacles to overcome before progressing to the final rappel worked out perfectly for building their confidence in their abilities along the way. Another thing that made this nice was the drive to the canyon was short so most of our time was spent actually exploring and climbing the canyon, not driving to and from! I would highly recommend this trip if you want to get a taste of canyoneering without a big commitment of time or money on your vacation. Now that my family has done it, we are ready for a full day trip the next time we return to Moab! – Doug, Indianapolis, IN

We had such a great time with Desert Highlights & Jake. He was entertaining, knowledgeable and safe while my daughter and I canyoneered down some steep rocks. We were nervously excited but he was patient and put us at ease. It was just so fun, and absolutely beautiful. The other companies we encountered on our day had a lot of people in the groups so we were super lucky to have this private tour with Jake. This is an experience we talk about a lot! Highly recommend! – Jodi, San Francisco, CA

“Canyoneering with Herb and Melissa was fantastic! It was my first time out and they made it totally stress free and fun. We did two rappels and a hike out – an absolutely unique experience that I couldn’t have done on my own, and one that made my weekend in Moab really special. More importantly, I have a physical disability that limits how I can move and they handled this challenge flawlessly, ensuring I could fully participate in the activity, making me feel safe the whole time, and not letting it be a focus point. More adventures with the Desert Highlights team are definitely on the agenda for my next trip to Moab.” – Carolyn, Denver, CO

“What an adventure! We had a great day out with Melissa at the Pleiades Canyon! First time we went canyoning and we really enjoyed! The itinerary was great and we always felt we were in good hands. And what an adrenaline boost! If you are up for a nice challenge and want to stay away from destinations full of tourists you might wanna consider this.” – Massimo & family, Italy

“We absolutely LOVED our experience with Desert Highlights. Melissa was our guide and she was simply amazing! When we were headed for our trip to Utah a couple months ago, I knew I wanted to do one thing that absolutely terrified me and took me out of my comfort zone. And canyoneering was the ticket! We had originally booked our trip with another company–they canceled us literally the last minute (apparently they have done this to a lot of people) and they recommended Desert Highlights! It was an absolute blessing! We called up and Melissa was completely accommodating–we told her that we only had that day to go canyoneering and that we needed to be done by 5:30p because we had dinner booked at 6p. She made it work! We got to go hiking and see Arches in the morning and go canyoneering in the afternoon. Melissa was so professional, easy going, and friendly. When my boyfriend and I were scared at times, she knew just how to encourage us. She felt like a friend that you could easily talk to. We felt safe and well taken care of. The place we canyoneered at was absolutely breathtaking, a good hike up the mountain and it was breathtakingly beautiful on the way down! There were many layers to the journey and Melissa was great at pointing out various rock structures, points of interest, and animal sightings. We were also the only people on the trail so it felt really desolate but intimate at the same time. We really enjoyed the entire experience and we felt confident by the end of our trip. We would definitely return and go canyoneering with Melissa again!” – Kiane, Philadelphia, PA

“This trip turned out to be the highlight of our 7 day southwest trip!! Herb was super helpful in selecting the right adventure for my family. Melissa and Danny were the best guides we could have wished for, exceeding every expectation. It was an awesome day exploring the Entrajo canyon. Mid way down an 80 foot rappel my 10 year old daughter exclaimed, “This is so cool.” The guides provided the right level of guidance and safety while allowing us to do all of the stunts ourselves. Loved it. Can’t wait to return for a multi-day exploration!” – Daniel, Santa Clara, CA