When I was on my big trip back in 2011 (you know… the one that ended in a crash) I made a special point to ride the Moki Dugway in southern Utah. Officially, it’s part of UT Route 261 between Mexican Hat and Blanding.
The Moki Dugway was built back in ’58 by Texas Zinc, a mining company, to bring uranium from their mine in Fry Canyon to their processing center in Mexican Hat. The road is mostly unpaved switchbacks, descending 1,100 feet in 3 miles with 10% grades. Most of the curves themselves are paved, but the stretches between are well-graded gravel and dirt. Which means, of course, that the switchbacks are covered in loose dirt and stones.
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Officially, the UT Department of Transportation does not recommend the Dugway to RVs, buses, vehicles towing trailers, or anything over 10,000 lbs, but I saw pretty much all that crap when I was there. Especially big pickups towing even bigger campers. And these vehicles take up ALL the road on the switchbacks, so be on the lookout if you see one coming.
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That said, a standard vehicle will manage just fine, and I highly recommend the trip if you are out this way.
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At the north (top) end of 261, you are a stone’s throw from Natrual Bridges National Monument, which had one of the best campgrounds I found on my trip. They even had a Park Ranger bring out a big ol’ telescope and we all stayed up well past midnight while he lectured about the stars and let us look at Venus, Jupiter, and the M51 Supernova. It. Was. Awesome.
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On the south (bottom) end of the Dugway is the entrance to the Valley of the Gods. If you make it to the Dugway, you must drive through this valley. That is an order.
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A 19 mile dirt road winds through the valley and offers up some of the most spectacular rock formations I have ever seen. I’ll save those for another post and just give you a teaser here, but suffice it to say that they were spectacular enough that I am going out of my way on my summer trip this year to head back to the Dugway and cruise through the Valley of the Gods again. I’m going to try a new campground down near Mexican Hat this time, though, as I’ll be heading south to Phoenix from there.