The vast canyon country around Moab may lack hardwood trees but that doesn’t mean color can’t be found! The monochromatic desert landscape takes on a new dimension with the arrival of Fall. Graceful cottonwood trees and gamble oaks, which thrive on waterways, turn varying shades of orange and yellow, and are contrast against the red rock cliffs for stunning views at every turn.
Below are a couple alternative suggestions to the popular La Sal Mountain Loop road, that are a little more ‘off the beaten path.’
Indian Creek Scenic Byway
Head south on Utah Highway 191 to Utah SR 211, which is 14 miles N. of Monticello. Driving west through an expansive plain of grasslands dotted with sage and junipers, you eventually drop quickly into Indian Creek Canyon. Take time to stop at Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, 12 miles from Hwy 191. This rock art panel is considered one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in North America, in which the first carvings were carved 2,000 years ago. The art-work was carved by Native Americans including Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures. It is a fun challenge to try to determine which drawings predate others.
As you drive further west, you will pass the world-renowned climbing area of Indian Creek which attracts high caliber rock climbers from around the world. Your tour culminates in the not to be missed Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. If time allows, stretch your legs on one of the many hikes in the region (info from the Visitor Center) otherwise retrace your route back towards Hwy 191. If you want to add on to your tour, keep your eyes open for Hart’s Draw Road, Utah SR 136, about ten miles west of 191. Allow two hours drive time for the Indian Creek drive alone.
Hart’s Draw Road
This road offers more leaf peeping as it ascends into the Abajo Mountains which dominate the southern sky line. As you wind your way up, you’ll pass cottonwoods, aspens, ponderosas, spruce, gamble oak and pine trees which produce a riot of color. From high in the Abajo’s you will be treated with stunning views of Canyonlands National Park, as well as the vast desert and mountain studded scenery for which Utah is known. You’ll drop down into the quaint town of Monticello at the intersection of Utah Hwy 191 and 200 south street. Stop in the Peace Tree Café (same owners as Moab) for a healthy bite or juice before making your way back north.
Seeking out fall foliage will give you a respite from the adrenaline-seeking adventurers in Moab and with only the effort of driving and viewing!