Exploring Southern Utah’s Gorgeous Backroads


Deborah and I love to take Willy, our towed Jeep, behind BAM (our big-a$$ Motorhome), on Risk Blossoming day-trip adventures. For us, the whole point of traveling like a nomad is to see and experience as much as possible. Our first 2019 summer day trip, in southern Utah, brought so much more than we ever expected.

Explore. Discover. Grow.

How can you pass exploring roads with names like Bluff to Monument Valley Road, Valley of the Gods Road, The Trail of the Ancients, and The Moki Dugway? In a 150-mile loop across southern Utah, we did them all and included stops at the San Juan River Goosenecks and Natural Bridges National Monument.

Valley of the Gods

We started in Blanding, Utah by driving south on Highway 163, a scenic byway. We passed the entrance to the Valley of the Gods Road once, and after turning around, almost missed it a second time. It exits off a blind curve on Highway 163 with no turning lanes. There is just a small break in the guardrail with a burnt-orange gravel road dropping straight down what looks like an entrance to a distant ranch.

Valley of the Gods Road, southern Utah

Valley of the Gods Road

The Valley of the Gods, County Road 242, travels 17 miles through the three canyons at the end of this southern Utah valley. Each time you drive up a small hill to pass into the next valley, you are visually presented a totally new landscape.

balanced rock southern Utah

A balanced rock in Valley of the Gods

Trail of the Ancients

At the east end of Valley of the Gods Road, we came to State Highway 261—known as the Trail of the Ancients —and our first view of the Moki Dugway.

gap at Moki Dugway southern Utah

Note the “gap” in Highway 261 at the Moki Dugway

I had looked at the map and knew we would take Highway 261 north to Natural Bridges. But I was surprised when the pavement ended and a narrow dirt road ascended.

Deborah said, “Look, the road goes right up the side of that mountain cliff.”

warning sign southern Utah

The warning sign at the Moki Dugway

I looked at the warning sign, then I looked to see the road apparently disappear into the side of the cliff. Occasionally, if you looked way up the side of the cliff, you could spot a vehicle moving precariously slowly. I then looked at the map. I had neglected to see this little “gap” in Highway 261.

Goosenecks of the San Juan

Instead of going up the Moki Dugway at this time, we turned south for approximately 18 miles to first visit and view the Goosenecks formed by the San Juan River.

There were no guardrails along the rim. Therefore, my photo has flat ground in the foreground rather than leaning out to capture the complete gooseneck of the river. I have since learned to use a selfie stick to get the camera closer to the edge without going there myself!

San Juan River southern Utah

Goosenecks of the San Juan River

Back to the Moki Dugway

Next, we headed back north toward Natural Bridges. Along the way would come our ascent of the Moki Dugway. The views were majestic, although I did not see as much as Deborah, who was constantly advising me to watch the road.

It was mostly single lane and there are no guardrails. There is just one photo turnout near the top. Google it—everybody takes the same photo. We also learned that this is the most dangerous road in Utah!

Moki Dugway switchbacks southern Utah

The Moki Dugway switchbacks from the top

Natural Bridges National Monument, Southern Utah

Our final stop of the day was Natural Bridges National Monument. At an elevation of 6,500 feet, it is a completely different environment than Arches National Park.

Owachomo Bridge southern Utah

Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument

It started snowing at the top of the Dugway and continued all the way to the visitors center at Natural Bridges.

spring snow southern Utah

A spring snow on spring flowers

All the roadside grasses were already green, and the spring flowers were out in colors of yellow and purple. It was a contrasting interaction of late winter and spring in full bloom.

Deborah’s Perspective on Southern Utah

I have come to enjoy our day trips and look forward to them with a true sense of discovery and exploration. If we have cellular service during these adventures, Tim is constantly calling for me to Google points of interest or other information that enhances our ability to learn and grow.

Our days are filled with questions, laughter, and making notes of things that we can share on our blog. It provides for a seemingly endless conversation.

From my perspective, the opportunity to explore and discover together not only nourishes our individual souls, but it creates a bond and a wonderful connection that keeps a 40-year-plus relationship vibrant and exciting.

Explore. Discover. Grow.

exploring in southern Utah

Exploring in a spring snow at Arches National Monument

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