Many visitors assume that Moab’s best scenery is located only in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. While these national treasures do contain unique geology and scenic vistas, you can take in equally dramatic landscapes and magnificent wonders in other areas surrounding Moab. Here are some roads-less-traveled suggestions to augment your Moab vacation.
Lower Colorado River – Potash/Colorado River Scenic Byway, SR-279
This road offers incredible views as it descends into the Colorado River gorge passing both ancient rock art sites and modern rock climbers at the Wall Street climbing area. Stop and take a short hike to Corona Arch, also known as Little Rainbow Bridge. View dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs from the Poison Spider trailhead parking lot, or enjoy a picnic lunch at the Gold Bar campground on the accommodating banks of the Colorado River.
Dead Horse Point State Park – Scenic Byway, SR-313
Jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below, rival Grand Canyon overlooks on this scenic byway. Unquestionably breathtaking, Dead Horse Point State Park has an excellent visitor’s center, some of Moab’s newest single track mountain bike trails and picturesque hiking trails. Entrance fee is $10 per vehicle.
Upper Colorado River – Utah Scenic Byway, SR-128
Paralleling the Colorado River, this spectacular road borders Arches National Park and winds upstream past soaring canyon walls and stunning rock towers while rafters, kayakers and paddle boarders drift downstream. Hike Negro Bill Canyon to Morning Glory Natural Bridge, one of the longest natural rock spans in the country. Savor a bite at Red Cliffs Lodge, or a tasting at the adjacent Castle Creek Winery. Journey on to Fisher Towers, Utah’s tallest free standing towers, and stroll around the base of King Fisher, Sundial, Titan or many other red rock pinnacles.
La Sal Mountain Loop Road
Six miles south on Moab’s Main St./Hwy. 191 a sign signals Ken’s Lake and the La Sal Mountain Loop Road. After turning left, travel straight to the “T” intersection, turn right, and begin the exceptional experience of traveling from red rock canyons to mountain meadows. Stop at Ken’s Lake for a refreshing swim or visit “Faux Falls,” a beautiful waterfall that cascades down red rock cliffs, delivering La Sal Mountain water to the lake. The Loop Road continues, attaining 7-8,000 feet in elevation surrounded by peaks nearing 13,000 feet. Pack a lunch and picnic at tranquil Oowah or Warner lakes. Continue on the Loop Road down to Castle Valley, and complete the 60-mile loop by returning to Moab via Hwy. 128.
Outside the national parks, Moab offers visitors equally remarkable experiences. We love our nearby national public lands. Arches and Canyonlands offer unique landscapes, and you should plan time to visit them. During our busy visitor season, April through October, these parks –especially Arches– can get crowded. When you visit, plan to go either early or late, between 8-11:00 a.m. or 4-7:00 p.m. when the roads are less crowded and it’s easier to park at the popular attractions.
Post by Don Oblak