The Moki Dugway
A graded gravel road that switchbacks up the side of Cedar Mesa leading to one of Southern Utah’s most panoramic views.
UT 261 is a road that links Bluff and Mexican Hat with Highway 95, the route to Hite on Lake Powell. It starts north of Mexican Hat and heads smoothly towards Cedar Mesa. There’s a turn off for Goosenecks State Park along the way (worth a visit).
Even when you’re close to the bottom of the cliffs it seems like the road will dead end. Then, out of the blue, comes an end of paved road sign and a steep gradients warning. The road becomes graded gravel (except for most bends being paved) for the next 3 miles as it winds steeply up 1200 feet to the rim. It’s not that bumpy and can be driven in any vehicle with care. You’ll average 10-15 mph. It’s only as you start climbing do you begin to see the road above, though it helps if there’s a distant moving vehicle to help pick it out. The trip to the top takes 15-20 minutes though you may want to pause occasionally to take in the amazing views.
At the rim of Cedar Mesa there’s a wide pullout and there’s usually a car or two parked up checking the vistas. Plan to spend more than a few minutes here. Immediately below you looking left is the Valley of the Gods (an exhilarating 90 minute dirt road drive amongst the pinnacles and buttes – high clearance recommended). You can also see Monument Valley, Sleeping Ute mountain in Colorado and, way in the distance, Shiprock in New Mexico. Try to be here towards sunset when the golden light plays a show in the valley below. If you’re aiming to hike on Cedar Mesa then it’s worth making this trip.
If you didn’t stop off at Goosenecks along the way then continue north along 261 for a few hundred yards and take the next dirt road on the left towards Muley Point. It’s 5 miles on a good surface to the overlook where you can see the entrenched ‘gooseneck’ meanders of the San Juan River and Monument Valley in the south. You’re higher here than in the state park below and I think the views are better, though maybe having the place to yourself (very likely) helps.