View from the top
We left Natural Bridges National Monument and headed south toward Monument Valley. We opted to drive on state highway 261. It includes a stretch known as the Moki Dugway...a series of steep switchbacks on unpaved road. Some of the descriptions I had read about this road made it sound a bit hair-raising. I was glad the weather was good, so at least we didn't have to worry about poor road conditions. We talked to several people (at our motel front desk and at the visitor's center for Natural Bridges) who assured us the road was fine and that it was a good drive, so off we went.
The sign before you begin the descent.
From the top of Cedar Mesa, we began the 1100 foot descent. Oh the places you can go in a minivan! The road is not recommended for vehicles over 28 feet in length or weighing over 10,000 lbs. In other words, large trucks, buses, RVs, and people pulling trailers should avoid this road.
We could see the line of the road stretching south far below us.
As I looked out the window at the narrow ribbon of road stretching south, I could see tiny vehicles like ants in the distance. Were we really going down there? 1100 feet in only 3 miles. I was glad I wasn't driving! Despite the fact that there aren't a lot of safety features, like guardrails, along this road, I only felt a little nervous on this adventure. We took it slow, and enjoyed the amazing views on the way down.
Switchbacks of the Moki Dugway
I think it is the craziest road I have ever been on. The most nerve-wracking times were when we encountered another vehicle and had to pass each other on the road. The views were beautiful, though. It was hazy that day, which is becoming all too common in this part of Utah. Still, it was a great drive. Be sure to use your lower gears on the way down!
Leaving the Moki Dugway behind!
Once we were at the bottom, we took a minute to look behind us at where we had been. Only minutes before we were on the top of that high mesa. This is definitely a beautiful part of Utah, and a great drive to take if you get the chance. The Moki Dugway is on the Utah section of the "Trail of the Ancients" drive. As you travel on highway 261, you will see places to turn off to the Goosenecks State Park and the Valley of the Gods. Because we were fitting so many things into our day, we did not stop at those two places.
A short time later we passed this "Mexican Hat" geologic formation, and then we were in the town of Mexican Hat. We stopped for gas, and then headed out to Monument Valley. I was very glad we took the drive through the Moki Dugway! If you are traveling between Blanding, Utah and Mexican Hat, it is the scenic way to go!