Moki Dugway

Moki Dugway  (photo: Oculus Media)

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…

Switchbacks on the Moki Dugway

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.)

Switchbacks on the Moki Dugway

Cyclist Descending the Moki Dugway

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.

Moki Dugway

Moki Dugway

Tarantula on the Moki Dugway

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:

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at:

This entry was posted in Dog-friendly, Off the Beaten Path, Scenic Drives, Social Distancing-friendly, Things to do for FREE!, Travel, Utah and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Moki Dugway

  1. Sandy says:

    I really love this road. It is dangerous though. But exciting. Great photos. My dad worked as a miner when he was young in this area. He said he saw quite a few tarantulas but they won’t hurt you. They sure look scary! =)

    • Allison says:

      I’ve always loved the Moki Dugway too- whenever we have visitors we try to take them up the road. I bet your dad has some great stories about the area- I always love to hear stories from the ‘old-timers’ and long time locals!

  2. westerner54 says:

    It’s a great road. Last time we went up it I was amazed when a giant Winnebago passed us heading down. The man driving looked absolutely terrified! Wouldn’t have liked to be a passenger in that thing.

    • Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment! I love the Moki Dugway, but I’ve heard a few scary stories from that road too. Before we lived here and knew better, my husband and a friend took the Moki Dugway to shuttle a vehicle for our raft trip on the San Juan River. They were pulling a 10 ft trailer and it came off the hitch right in the middle of the Moki Dugway.(the chain was still connected) They didn’t know that it had come off, but the car behind them suddenly backed WAY off, which made them wonder what was going on. When they pulled over at the over-look area, they finally realized what had happened. Luckily the trailer was empty and the chain was able to hold it or it could have turned into a really bad situation!

  3. Robin Williams says:

    I like pictures and article. As Utah is one of most happening place to spend your summer vacation. This place is really very beautiful and adventures too. Budget summer vacation can be easily planned and case of having money crisis then better to go for payday loan cash advance.
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful post

    • Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment! You’re right- this is a great area to spend your vacation if you’re on a budget. Monticello is less than an hour south of Moab and lodging is MUCH cheaper. Affordable lodging can be found throughout San Juan County; Monticello, Blanding, Bluff, Mexican Hat… And if you’re a camper, there’s TONS of free camping all throughout the county as well!

  4. heronwheels says:

    I love this road, whether on motorcycle or in my Jeep, I always make a point to drive it! It’s so amazing standing at the first overlook and looking out over Valley of the Gods and the vast desert below Cedar Mesa. Beautiful photos, though I’ll have to keep an eye out for one of those 8-legged creatures when I’m out there in a few weeks…YIKES!

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  6. ed lane says:

    Back in early 90’s I was Boating at Lake Powell and decided to take a short cut down the Moke Dugway although I knew nothing of it’s reputation. Once on the way down there was no way to turn around. I had my (then) girlfriend and three kids (ages 8, 11, 12) and was towing a 21′ ski boat. On several of the switch backs I made everyone get out while I negotiated the turns for fear we were going over the side. There was a guy in a Jeep going up the hill who stopped and said that he had never seen anyone come down or up that road with a big trailer. I told him I did not think I would be repeating the adventure.

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  9. Sandy says:

    Great description of Moki Dugway. It especially made me laugh about the wives telling the stories. After reading your blog – I asked Dori – do you remember this road? Showing her your blog pictures. She said – yes, that’s when we got into a fight. I probably should have warned her. 😂I just love this area and the view! OMG!💞

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  12. Gail Bem says:

    We were one of the unsuspecting couples who decided to take that “shorter” route to get down into Monument Valley. One would think all the signs would give pause for consideration. But we only realized just what we’d gotten into when it was already too late to turn back. I hav never forgotten the terror (this Rhode Islander is not good without the visual security of guardrails) of that ride.
    We never took another road with a broken red line on the road atlas. We talk about it often with people travelling out that way.. I have always said there is nothing scarier. NOW you tell me it’s also got tarantulas roaming around. Jeez!!!!! I guess everything IS relative!!!!!!

    • Allison says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience on the Moki Dugway. If nothing else, I think we can both agree that it’s a memorable road! 😉 While I’m okay on the Moki Dugway, there is a road just north of Durnago, CO between Silverton and Ouray (The Million Dollar Highway) that’s absolutely terrifying to me… It’s a paved road, and it’s extremely narrow with no guardrail in many places, and the outer line of the road is literally an inch or two from the drop off in a couple places. Here’s a link to a video on it if you’re interested…


  13. Gail Bem says:

    Allison! Just watching the video upped my heart rate! THAT highway was also on the itinerary of that same trip. After the Moki, we quickly scrapped the Million Dollar, and I’ve sometimes wondered if we were being too prudent. You have convinced me it was a sound decision!
    There was one more highway in Utah, I think Rt 12?, between Bryce Canyon and Zion NP where I then understood the term razorback. That is definitely the other I would not do again.

  14. We pedaled down it a couple of times and we always recomend this road to other touring cyclists. It’s one of the highlights in Southern Utah.

    • Allison says:

      That’s awesome- thanks for sharing! I agree- it’s definitely a must-see if you’re passing through the area. (As long as you’re okay with heights/drop-offs!)


  15. Ted Herman says:

    I rode a bicycle on the Dugway a few years ago. Great ride. Great trip.

  16. Carol White says:

    OMG we are just watching a tv program in England about worlds most dangerous roads when Moki Dugway came on, me and my husband were amazed as he drove up it a few years back whilst touring around the states. I had agreed to drive back but chickened out. But what a view.

    • Allison says:

      Thank you for sharing! The Moki Dugway is such a crazy road- I’m always interested in hearing our visitors’ reactions to their first experience on that road- people definitely have strong reactions to it! You’re right- the view from the top is amazing- definitely worth the scary ride up!


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  18. John Nielson says:

    When i was small boy my brother hauled ore from the happy hack mine down to Mexican Hat mill. One time he took me. I remember we had to stop and back up a few times on some ifbyhe switchbacks. If you get almost to the top you can look down and see a wrecked truck, my brother went off the road there and truck was stopped by large rock. He was able to walk out.

    • Allison says:

      Thank you so much for sharing that story! I’ve always wondered what the story was on the wrecked truck over the edge! Also glad to hear that he was okay!

  19. James Bladen says:

    Send more about Utah

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  22. Ed says:

    Found by accident, driving through the monuments of the gods once we came out and hit the hardtop again I looked to the right and it looked like the road disappeared into the side of the mountain. I had to try it. My girlfriend was scared, we also passed a truck pulling a large trailer of a coming down. He was traveling about 1 mile an hour and it looks like a few of those turns his tires was on the edge of the cliff. Once getting to the top of the mountain. It was late day during the summer and we traveled long way to get back home or to the hotel that evening. Past no one for about an hour and a half traveling on the road. What a beautiful trip.

    • Allison says:

      Ed- Thank you for sharing your experience! The Moki Dugway is definitely an experience in itself, and often we hear that, although some people didn’t know anything about it before finding themselves on the road, it becomes many people’s favorite part of their time in Southeastern Utah!

  23. Curtis Moore says:

    Do you know how to go down on the side of the south rim to the flat spot on the side of muley point looking south we were looking down and caught a couple have six on that flat spot

    • Allison says:

      Curtis- If you’re asking about the road below Muley Point, the road is called John’s Canyon Rd, and you can access it from Hwy 261 between Goosenecks State Park and the bottom of the Moki Dugway.

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