The Moki Dugway is a gravel road in southeast Utah. From the top, one can look out at Monument Valley near the Utah-Arizona stateline and down into the Valley of the Gods. Built in the 1950s to transport uranium, Moki Dugway winds its way down a cliff face with no guardrails lay between you and the 1100 foot drop to the valley floor. Its name is derived from the Spanish word Moqui, a general term used by the Spanish explorers to describe the cliff dwelling indigenous people they only found remnants of. Dugway is a term to describe a road cut into a cliff face.
Monument Valley from Moki Dugway
Moki Dugway was a part of our journey from Denver to the San Francisco Bay Area through the physiographic area known as the Colorado Plateau. The Colorado Plateau is roughly 130,000 sq. mi. spread over parts of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. It’s impossible to describe in words the breathtaking beauty of the Colorado Plateau, so I’ll just add a few pictures in hopes that they replace a few thousand words and do a far better job too.
We hand pick roads to travel that allow us to “commune” with the scenery; it’s hard and dangerous to pull over for a photo on major interstates, so we stick to the smaller roads, what Least Heat Moon called “Blue Highways” named for the color of smaller roads on paper maps (?).
If Google or Seri suggested a route it was automatically eliminate by me as a possible route. Personal rant…I think it’s a mistake to rely on these programs to do our thinking/planning for us. The routes may be the shortest or fastest but may not the best for seeing the country or finding interesting side-trips. Sure, there are times to use these programs, but like any tool, used with discretion.
One of the routes NOT suggested by Google is The Burr trail. Once a dirt path in southeast Utah used for moving cows from winter to summer ranges, it is (now) a mostly paved road up a cliff face and through some incredible washes. Around 1866, John Burr needed a trail to move cattle from summer to winter ranges. His efforts resulted in a trail , later made into a dirt road, up a cliff face.
Not for the faint of heart the road is usually passable by passenger car, except in wet weather, when flooding makes the lower parts of the road impassible even for four wheel drive.
We drove to and stayed in the town of Blanding to get an early start for a hike the next day. The trail-head to Kane Gulch was just a few miles south of there. We wanted to see Anasazi Indian ruins and the 10mi RT hike into Kane Gulch promised a high concentration of some spectacular untouched cliff dwellings. As it turned out we saw one other person on the entire hike, an artist sketching scenes along the trail, so we had the entire ruins to ourselves.
Small hand printed signs asked us not to enter the Anasazi rooms but otherwise we were free to explore as we wished. The Anasazi built many of their shelters on canyon walls, some nearer ground level,
others very high on the cliff face. About 800 years ago they walked away leaving a riddle of where they went and why. I personally think they all fell of the cliffs during late night bathroom runs but the experts have advanced other reasons.
The trail was mostly well marked with rock cairns but about a dozen times we missed the trail and had to backtrack, but it was a great trip. There are dozens of Anasazi homes in the cliff , although we only had time to explore a few.
From Blanding we made our way to the Ferry that shipped us across Lake Powell and on into Nevada.
Once on US highway 50 across Nevada the scenery stops becoming spectacular and we were able to make some time.
Given a bit of adventurous spirit and a car with reasonable ground clearance a person could spend a long time exploring this area.
Any comments are appreciated.