When I worked at the Southeast Utah Welcome Center in Monticello, I would often have couples come in and say, ‘We just drove up from Monument Valley, WHAT was that road we just drove on?!’
Driving on the Moki Dugway isn’t the most direct way to get from the southern part of our county to the northern part, but when people would ask me that question, it was a pretty safe bet that the Moki Dugway was the road that they were asking about! The wife was usually the one who would tell me the story of their adventure on the Moki Dugway and it usually involved her still being a little upset with her husband for not knowing what the road was going to be like ahead of time, and then she’d explain that she’s afraid of heights and had to cover her eyes until they were safely at the bottom. 🙂
I’m not afraid of heights, so it never would have even occurred to me to warn people who were heading south about this road, but after hearing that scenario over and over, I ALWAYS warn people about it now!
A few months ago the Moki Dugway was featured on the show, ‘Hell Roads’ on the Discovery Channel. I hadn’t gotten the chance to see it when it was on TV, but I just found the clip on youtube and watched it for the first time. They make the road seem really scary- if I wasn’t from this area and I just saw what was on ‘Hell Roads’, I would probably make a point NOT to drive on the Moki Dugway! But it’s really not that bad, I just wouldn’t recommend driving it in the snow. Here’s the clip from ‘Hell Roads’- you can decide for yourself…
The Moki Dugway is a 3 mile stretch of unpaved switchbacks on Hwy. 261 that climbs approximately 1,200 feet from the valley floor just past Valley of the Gods, up to Cedar Mesa. Most passenger vehicles will have absolutely no problem on this road (As long as you don’t have a fear of heights!) It’s unpaved, but well maintained and graded, and is wide enough for two lane traffic. (*It’s about an 11% grade, so if you are in a motor home or pulling a trailer, you might want to think about taking a different route.)
There’s a parking area near the top where you can stop and take in some beautiful views of Valley of the Gods, Monument Valley, the Sleeping Ute in Colorado, & Shiprock in New Mexico.
I just had to share this last picture… I took it in late September the first year I lived here. I had heard that there were tarantulas in the area, but this tarantula that I saw in the middle of the road on the Moki Dugway was the first (and so far ONLY!) tarantula I’ve seen in San Juan County. It’s not a great picture, but I couldn’t bring myself to get any closer! I thought about putting a dollar bill next to it for size reference, but again, I didn’t want to get that close… I just needed a picture for proof that I’d seen one!
If you are planning to drive from the northern part of the county to the south, (or south to north) a very scenic, and only slightly longer route on Hwy 95 & Hwy 261 makes a great side-trip. Hwy 95 takes you past a lot of popular hiking areas (Including House on Fire Ruin in the South Fork of Mule Canyon & Butler Wash Ruin) and meets up with Hwy 261 just a few miles east of Natural Bridges National Monument.
Continuing down Hwy 261, you will pass through the heart of Cedar Mesa and right past the Grand Gulch– a very popular area for hiking & backpacking. Just a couple miles after descending the Moki Dugway, you will pass one of the entrances for Valley of the Gods. And Just a few miles past that, the turn for Goosenecks State Park. Whether you’re just passing through, or planning to backpack or camp for a few days, there’s no shortage of things to see & do in the area!
Distance from the Moki Dugway to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:
- Mexican Hat: 11 miles/18 km
- Bluff: 28 miles/45 km
- Monument Valley: 34 miles/55 km
- Blanding: 54 miles/ 87 km
- Monticello: 75 miles/121 km
- La Sal: 115 miles/ 185 km
For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386
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