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Road Trips – Moab

Road Trips – Moab

The Potash Road, Utah Hwy 279

This 17-mile road is also known as the Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway. This road runs alongside the Colorado River and provides great views of the river, ancient rock imagery, and dinosaur tracks.

This byway begins four miles north of Moab, where Potash Road turns off of US Hwy 191. After about two miles, the road enters the deep gorge of the Colorado River, which is called The Portal, since the river is entering the deep canyon walls. The paved highway ends at the Intrepid Potash Mine where potash, a mineral often used as a fertilizer, is extracted.

Upper Colorado River, Utah Scenic Byway 128

Known as “The River Road,” this spectacular route along the Colorado River gorge begins at the Colorado River Bridge on the north end of Moab. For the first 13 miles it parallels the Colorado River within a narrow section of the gorge, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding red sandstone cliffs.

After 24 miles, the highway passes a vantage point for one of the most magnificent views in the West, the red-rock spires of the Fisher Towers set against the peaks of the La Sal Mountains.

After leaving the valley, the road winds farther up the river gorge until arriving at the site of historic Dewey Bridge, which was destroyed in April 2008 by a brush fire. You can turn around or continue on to connect with I-70.

The La Sal Mountain Loop Road

This is a classic mountain drive to the elevation of 10,147ft. It features spectacular scenery ranging from the lush forests of the La Sal Mountains to expansive views of the red-rock landscape below (open seasonally).

This road begins on US Hwy 191, six miles south of Moab. At Old Airport Road turn left off US Hwy 191 to begin the 62-mile loop. These mountains outside Moab offer cool relief from the desert’s hot summers.

After a swirling descent down the switchbacks, the views overlooking Castle Valley are stellar. Turn left on Utah Scenic Byway 128 to return to Moab. 

San Juan County

Trail of the Ancients

An ancient trail to modern-day discovery, this 100-mile loop through the heart of San Juan County circles through the ancient Puebloan (Anasazi) country. The archaeological, cultural, and historic sites, and Natural Bridges National Monument, that are all packed in this area, are not to be missed.

The loop officially starts in Blanding. Make your first stop at the Edge of the Cedars Museum that houses thousands of exceptional ancient artifacts and a kiva you can climb into.

Utah Hwy 95 will take you into the heart of the Bears Ears National Monument, by the Butler Wash and Mule Canyon dwellings, and then to Natural Bridges National Monument.

Take Utah Hwy 261 to the unforgettable Moki Dugway, Goosenecks State Park, to Valley of the Gods, and on to Utah Hwy 163 to continue to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

From Moab and Monticello to Bluff, the scenery on US Hwy 191 is outstanding.

For a side trip, take Utah Hwy 211 for 12 miles to Newspaper Rock, a large collection of 2,000-year-old petroglyphs.

The Dinosaur Diamond

The Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Highway, a 512-mile-long national scenic byway, travels through several towns in this part of Utah, and is the best way to learn about dinosaurs.

Key attractions include active quarries where you can watch paleontologists uncover fossils embedded in stone, backcountry sites where you can view dinosaur fossils and footprints, and museums which display fossils, replicas, and information about dinosaurs.

The top of the diamond is in Vernal, Utah with points going west to Price and east to Dinosaur National Monument and Fruita in Colorado.

Moab is the southern point of the diamond and has several sites to visit. If we think of this diamond as a kite, then the tail of the kite includes Monticello and south to Blanding where the Dinosaur Museum should not be missed.

The Moki Dugway

The landscape in this area can go from a flat valley to a soaring mesa, and there is often the need to get from one end to another. So, a road of incredible magnitude needed to be built.

In the 1900s, there was a uranium mining boom and the Happy Jack mine on Cedar Mesa was very prosperous. A road was needed to get the uranium ore to a processing mill near Mexican Hat, Utah. In 1958, a mining company built the Moki Dugway.

“Moki” is a local term for the Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the Colorado Plateau hundreds of years ago. “Dugway” is a term used to describe a roadway carved from a hillside.

Unlike the similar Shafer Trail in Canyonlands that was a trail first used to move cattle from the mesa down to the valley floor and then turned into a road, the Moki Dugway was built to be a road and is literally carved from the face of the cliff, making this road more unique.

The Ancestral Pueblans didn’t use this particular route, instead they had smaller trails for traveling up and down the mesa.

Utah Hwy 261 is a paved road that connects US Hwy 163 and Utah Hwy 95 (to Natural Bridges). The Moki Dugway is a 3-mile dirt stretch of Utah Hwy 261. The stretch, with 1,200ft elevation gain, and an 11% grade along the side of the cliffs, has dramatic switchbacks and even more dramatic views.

To the west, Monument Valley looms on the horizon, and the San Juan River shows off the stripes of different colored rocks known as “Navajo Tapestry.”

At the base of the Moki Dugway lies Valley of the Gods. And at the top of the Moki Dugway is the dirt road to Muley Point, where you feel you are at the end of the Earth with incredible views of Monument Valley and the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.

The Moki Dugway is safe and passable for passenger vehicles. It is well constructed, and well maintained. Due to this road having a steep grade, this is not a road to drive quickly on. There are no guard rails and only a few places to pull over to take in the view.

With all that surrounds it, and the adventure of simply driving it, this route is certainly one to take while you are out exploring the area.

Muley Point

Part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and at the southern end of Cedar Mesa, Muley Point is its own unique experience.

You will feel like you are at the edge of the world when you get to Muley Point, looking down 2,400ft at the Goosenecks of the San Juan, Goosenecks State Park, Navajo Mountain, and Monument Valley.

The views never stop, the sunsets are incredible, and at night, the stars come out to shine!

Muley is a reference to a Muley cow, which is shy of horns. Muley Point is shy of vegetation.

Access Muley Point at the top of the Moki Dugway. This nine-mile road is very sandy and not advised to take in bad weather (check the forecast), pulling a trailer, or in a large RV.

There are no established trails. You can hike around and explore.

There are no facilities, so you will need to have a WAG bag for human waste.

Contact Wild Expeditions for a scenic tour of Muley Point. 435-280-2557,

The Valley of the Gods

The Valley of the Gods is a scenic sandstone valley near Mexican Hat and west of Bluff. It has similar rock formations to Monument Valley with tall, reddish-brown mesas, buttes, and towers. It can be toured via a 17-mile gravel road that winds around the formations. The road is rather bumpy in parts but is passable by non-4WD vehicles in dry weather.

The western end joins Utah Hwy 261 shortly before its 1,200ft ascent up Cedar Mesa at Moki Dugway, while the eastern end starts along US Hwy 163 and heads north. The valley is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is part of Bears Ears National Monument. There are no entrance fees and no services.

To better understand this area and what you might see, a visit to the Bears Ears Education Center in Bluff is your best bet. They can help you with ideas for places to visit and how to do so with respect and care.

Monument Valley Tribal park

This majestic and inspiring landscape is one of the most photographed places on earth. The most famous are called “The Mittens,” as the two towers resemble a pair of mittens.

Beautifully carved mesas, spires, and buttes surrounded by native trees and shrubs span 91,000 acres. The 17-mile scenic road starts at the Monument Valley Visitor Center and shows off a good portion of the park including the famous “Three Sisters.” Traveling off of the main 17-mile road requires a permit.

The best way to experience this land, the local culture, and history is to take a guided tour. A variety of tours are offered through several tour companies.
Mounument Valley is only 54 miles from Bluff making Bluff a great basecamp for this and many other adventures.

Entrance to the park is $20/car.

For more information, visit

Go With The Pros

To truly enjoy this area, join a guided tour by Ancient Wayves River and Hiking Adventures.

They are the only Indigenous-owned company in the Bears Ears area and offer a unique style of culture and educational tours. 505-239-8505,

Kane Gulch Ranger Station

This ranger station is a great stop if you are in this area, located on Utah Hwy 261 about four miles from Utah Hwy 95. There is an amazing rock imagery exhibit that shows the archaeology and ancient cultures. Their interpretive displays include photographs and drawings of numerous prehistoric sites, primarily rock imagery, and of archeologists at work.

There is a great gift shop where they sell water. They also have restrooms.

Bears Ears National Monument

This is a beautiful loop you can drive that circles part of the Bears Ears Monument. Mule Canyon and the North Fork of Mule Canyon are prevalent. The canyons cut into a terrace which is part of Grand Gulch Plateau, or Cedar Mesa. There are many known Ancestral Puebloan dwelling sites, most of which are cliff dwellings. This drive offers you the opportunity to stop and see three different types of dwellings: Butler Wash Overlook, Cave Towers, and Mule Canyon Kiva.

After visiting these sites and continuing west, you will come to the intersection of Utah Hwys 95 and 261. If you continue on Hwy 261, you will come to Natural Bridges National Monument.

Turn south on Hwy 261 and the Kane Gulch Ranger Station will be on your left. The Moki Dugway and the turn to Muley Point are 20 miles away. Once down the Moki Dugway, you have the option to travel through Valley of the Gods, or continue on to Utah Hwy 163 towards Bluff and back to Blanding or your final destination.

Harts Draw Road

Harts Draw is a paved road that travels across the northwestern part of the Abajo Mountains.

From Monticello turn west onto 200 South (at the visitor center). Stay left onto Abajo Road and follow signs for Forest Road 101. The road climbs through aspen and spruce and is very pretty, especially in the fall.

Once the road starts to descend, the views of the La Sal Mountains and the entire Canyonlands and Moab region are simply incredible.

There are options to stop and see Monticello and Foy Lakes and then the road descends to Utah Hwy 211. Turn left for Newspaper Rock and The Needles district, or right to get back to US Hwy 191.

Needles Overlook

Needles Overlook sits on a peninsula of rock 1,600ft above the southern part of Canyonlands National Park (this point is actually part of Canyon Rims Recreation Area, managed by the BLM). This point offers close to a 360-degree view of the area and is great for a sunset stop.

Since this point is so remote, you won’t experience the crowds of Island in the Sky or Dead Horse Point, and the views are just as good! There is a path that will take you around the point where the view continues to get better.

Take US Hwy 191 to the Needles Overlook Road/Utah Hwy 133. The Overlook is another 23 miles and well worth the trip. The only amenities are picnic tables, informational signs, and pit toilets.

Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument is part of Bears Ears National Monument and located on Utah Scenic Byway Hwy 211.

This rock panel is one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs in the country. These petroglyphs date to more than 2,000 years ago. Markings are from the Fremont, Ute, and Puebloan Native American tribes.

There are over 650 rock imagery designs including animals, human figures, and various symbols, some thought to be religious in nature.
Located 15 miles west of US Hwy 191 on Utah Hwy 211.

La Sals & Abajos

Less than an hour’s drive east from downtown Moab, the La Sal Mountain Range sits on the Utah/Colorado border and rises nearly 8,000ft above the Colorado Plateau.

The range was named Sierra La Sal, or “Salt Mountains,” by a Spanish missionary and explorer who thought the snow-capped peaks were actually capped with salt rather than snow.

The La Sals are the second highest mountain range in Utah, and are part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest. From a distance, the mountains appear to be one long range; they are actually three clusters of peaks separated by mountain passes. The highest peak, Mount Peale, is 12,721ft.

A stark contrast to the surrounding desert, the mountains offer countless opportunities for hiking, fishing, and camping among alpine groves of aspen and pine. Snow is usually visible on the higher summits into spring.

Hit the Trail

The Manti-La Sal National Forest Recreation Area provides scenic drives, camping, backcountry skiing, hunting, and snowmobiling. Numerous trails offer good hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding from late spring to mid-autumn.

The Forest Service has developed a new, non-motorized trail system that added 24 trails to 60 miles of existing trails and closed 3.5 miles of Deep Creek Trail for restoration. The improvements allow for large numbers of users while reducing the impact on forest resources.

The popular Whole Enchilada mountain bike ride starts high up in the La Sals on the Burro Pass trail.

For more information on any of the trails call the Moab Ranger District, 435-259-7155.

La Sal Mountain Loop Road

One of the most-loved roads through the forest and also a Scenic Byway, the Loop Road leaves US Hwy 191 six miles southeast of Moab and climbs the west side of the La Sals. The views are pretty spectacular as this road works its way to the summit where you can look down on Moab and Spanish Valley.

The road then descends through Castle Valley meeting Utah Scenic Byway 128, which takes you back to Moab. The loop is 62 miles, topping out above 10,000ft. The road is steep with narrow switchbacks and winds through thick aspen, fir forests, and scrub oak. The trip requires approximately three hours to drive. No large RVs or trailers.

Summer in the La Sals

The La Sals bring cooler temps and offer a refreshing respite from the desert heat. Narrow forest roads lead to high mountain passes and down into canyons, like Dark Canyon with its unique crystalline rock structures. Explore Mill Creek where Oowah Lake sits as a small jewel amid spruce trees. The diversity of the forest provides a wonderful place to see the changing fall colors.

In Case of Emergency

If you have an emergency in the national forest, call 911 and they will dispatch the nearest help. Cell service is not always available. You may need to travel to a higher point to get service.

Always check for fire bans (local visitor centers will know) in the mountains, which can change frequently depending on weather and drought conditions.
To check for fire bans or report a fire, call the Moab Fire Dispatch Center, 435-259-1850.

Need more info?

Moab Ranger District:
Manti-La Sal National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
(Monticello area): 435-587-2041. 

Out Means Out!

In June of 2021, the Pack Creek Fire was started by an abandoned campfire. Fueled by the worst drought in 90 years, extremely dry fuels, and steep rugged terrain, the fire burned century old trees, several structures, and 8,962 acres.

90% of all forest fires are human-caused. 90%! Avoidable fires hurt local communities in so many ways.

Know the conditions before having a campfire. Know what you are doing, and make sure the fire is out - really out! Dump water on it, mix it around with a shovel, and do it all again.

Winter in the La Sals

Winter turns the La Sals into a playground that offers sledding, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, yurt camping, and a limited amount of snowmobiling. The Lower Utah Nordic Alliance and U.S. Forest Service groom seven miles of trails for classic and skate cross country skiing on the Gold Basin Trail.

The Abajo Mountains

Only 70 miles south of Moab, and out the backdoor of Monticello, the Abajo Mountains, also known as the Blue Mountains, offer many summer recreational opportunities. The range is located in the Manti-La Sal National Forest with the highest point being Abajo Peak at 11,360ft.

Harts Draw Road (paved) gives access to a spectacular overlook and several small fishing lakes. The Abajo Loop Scenic Byway (not paved, best to check conditions) follows the same route as Harts Draw Road but then turns south, ending in Blanding. You can check this road’s conditions at the visitor center in Monticello.

The drive is beautiful, but best for high-clearance vehicles. There are miles of trails great for exploring whether on horse, 4x4, hiking, or mountain biking.
There are several established campgrounds on both the Monticello and Blanding sides.

There are miles of scenic trails, which are great for exploring, whether on horse, 4x4, hiking, or mountain biking.

The Abajo mountain bike trails (great for hiking as well) offer both single track and double track through aspen, scrub oak, and open meadows.
Winter in the Abajos offers skiers a wealth of recreational opportunities such as Nordic skiing, backcountry skiing, snowshowing, winter hut rentals, fat biking, and snowmobling.


There are four forest service campgrounds in the Abajo Mountains. Dalton Springs and  Buckboard are both off Harts Draw Road. Devils Canyon is just off US Hwy 191, 13 miles south of Monticello. Nizhoni is 12 miles north of Blanding on Forest Road 079 off Indian Creek Road.

The campgrounds are usually quiet and a bit higher in elevation so are cooler in the summer months. $20/night.

All are reservable at except Dalton Springs.

The Abajo Mountains (winter)

The Abajos offer multi-trail use for snowmobilers, cross country skiers, snowshoers, backcountry skiers, and fat-tired bikers. Winter hut rentals are also available in the Buckboard Campground, 1.2 miles in on a groomed trail. Along the route there are various options for winter recreation.


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