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Moki Dugway and Muley Point: Winding Roads and Wide Landscapes

May 11, 2021 /
Moki Dugway

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

When you see images of winding roads, meandering through mountains, rocks and cliffs, don’t you want to just jump into your car and drive? Well, then you definitely need to put the Moki Dugway on your road trip itinerary as you explore the USA Southwest.

A breathtaking view and a hint of danger make this road one of the most enthralling routes to travel in southern Utah. Moki Dugway can be both an alternative to the more mainstream routes and a way to have a little adventure. But that’s not all! Just a stone’s throw from this sinuous road is Muley Point, an exceptional overlook over an immense valley that stretches all the way to the border with Arizona.

Moki Dugway History

moki dugway utahWe are talking about one of the most incredible roads you can travel in the American Southwest. Built-in 1958, its purpose was to connect the Happy Jack Mine with Mexican Hat, to transport uranium, copper and other minerals. Today this almost 3-mile long dirt road – part of SR-261 – can be an adventurous ride for those who choose to extend their trip by driving all the way up (or down) the mighty Cedar Mesa.

Moki – or Mokee – is an adaptation from the Spanish Moqui, a word used by Spanish settlers in the 1700s to describe the native Anasazi. Dugway, on the other hand, refers to the type of winding road carved out of the ridge of a hill, in this case, Cedar Mesa. And it is precisely its position that makes the Moki so fascinating. The elevation of Cedar Mesa is about 1200 ft, conquered along switchbacks with a gradient that is over 10%, which means that at each bend the view over the valley below widens.

Moki Dugway views

Those who dare venture out on this road will see a panorama, especially on clear days, that allows you to see wonders that are quite far away. You have a perfect view of the Valley of the Gods below, but it will be possible to see the edge of Monument Valley. You can even see Sleeping Ute Mountain in Colorado and Shiprock in New Mexico.

In short, although the altitude of Cedar Mesa is not extreme, you won’t be disappointed by what you can admire from its summit. On some switchbacks, there are flat areas where you can pull over to better enjoy the view and take some pictures, as well as on the top of the plateau.

Under perfect weather conditions (especially in summer), you can drive the Moki Dugway in any car (a 4×4 is not required), but because of the gradient, it is highly inadvisable to drive an RV.

Moki Dugway Advice

You must be careful. During the winter, there can be road closures due to snow, and even if it were open it is still risky to drive on this steep dirt road because it might be icy. Avoid driving it also when it rains. Mud makes the route dangerous and if you do not have a 4×4, it will be completely impassable. Generally speaking, this road always requires some caution when driving.

Muley Point Overlook

Muley PointAs I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Cedar Mesa is in an ideal location to view the valley below and beyond. But as you can imagine, not all of the plateau is easily accessible by car. If you’re already driving on the Moki Dugway, the view is not bad at all, but if you want to see something even more incredible, I suggest you take a few minutes to get to Muley Point.

This viewpoint overlooks the course of the San Juan River a short distance away, the same river with the picturesque bends known as Goosenecks. From the edge of the ravine, at the top of Cedar Mesa, the horizon extends over the valley all the way to the edge of Monument Valley. Together, the two overlooks (Moki Dugway and Muley Point) provides a complete view of the area below.

While along the winding road you can best admire the Valley of the Gods from above, because it climbs up the eastern side of the mesa, Muley Point overlooks the southern face of the plateau and the view from here stretches as far as Arizona.

It’s a 15-minute drive from the top of Moki Dugway to Muley Point and about 40 minutes from the entrance to SR-261 along SR-95. Actually, there are two viewpoints. Following Muley Point Road – a dirt road that branches off from SR-261 just off the start of Moki Dugway – you’ll first arrive at Muley Point East, a beautiful overlook from which you begin to catch a glimpse of the magnificent twisted bends of the San Juan River.

Then, get back in your car and drive a few more minutes and you’ll reach the end of the pointed rock that stretches out from the mesa, which is the real Muley Point. Here the view is even wider and leaves you literally speechless (the photos, unfortunately, don’t really do it justice).

Few other viewpoints in this geographical area, at least among those easily accessible by car, provide such a wide view across three states. And in addition to what you can admire beyond the edge of the ravine, the very edge of the plateau on which you are standing is chilling. Muley Point seems to crumble under your feet (don’t worry, it only appears that way!) because of the gigantic blocks of stone, with such perfect cubic shapes that they look like they were cut by hand, ready to fall into the precipice.

Please note: During the winter, snow can make the road impassable. Therefore, if you come here in the summer, you can arrive without any problem even with a normal car. Instead, when there is snow, you will need a 4×4, otherwise, it will be completely impossible to reach the viewpoint.

Points of Interest in the Area

muley point overlook mexican hatMoki Dugway and Muley Point make a good combination, being so close and well connected. But there is much more to see in the area. If you’re not on a tight schedule and you are traveling this way, you should also visit Valley of the Gods. This valley which resembles Monument Valley can be visited by car quite quickly and, above all, free of charge. Of course, the grandeur of Monument Valley cannot be equaled, but you will not be disappointed by the imposing rocks of the Valley of the Gods.

From the summit of the Cedar Mesa, you can see the bends of the San Juan River, the tributary of the Colorado River, that matches the latter in terms of the beauty of the bends deeply dug into the rock over the centuries. The best place to enjoy this view is undoubtedly Goosenecks State Park. It will not be easy to capture all the curves of the river in a picture, but they will certainly remain in your memory.

A stop in Bluff should also be considered for two reasons. First of all, you can stop for something to eat at the Twin Rocks Cafe, next to the interesting twin rocks that give it its name. Also, here you can visit the museum dedicated to the San Juan Expedition, the Mormon expedition that constructed Hole in the Rock Road.

How to include Moki Dugway and Muley Point in a Road Trip Itinerary?

Both of the attractions we have talked about in this article can be easily included as part of your road trip. Even in one of those classic itineraries with stops that are typically or almost exclusively popular tourist destinations. Below we will take a look at two alternatives, keeping in mind that the direction of each route implies certain differences between the routes.

Directions from Moab to Monument Valley Traveling on Moki Dugway Downhill

Are you on your way back from a visit to Arches National Park, Canyonlands and the other beautiful places you can access from Moab? If you’re planning to travel south towards Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon or the State of Arizona in general, my advice is the following.

The most classic route goes along SR-191 to Bluff and then continues on SR-163 towards Monument Valley. Following this traditional route, you can easily get on Moki Dugway, taking about 2 hours and 40 minutes from Moab to Monument Valley. It only takes an extra half an hour to drive SR-261 and then add the intriguing winding road to your itinerary.

I suggest that instead of spending the previous night in Moab you should get a few miles closer to Monticello for the night. This way in the morning you can drive south, turn right on SR-95 after Blanding, take SR-261 and reach Muley Point quite early in the day. From here, descend along Moki Dugway and then turn left into the Valley of the Gods, until you get back on SR-163 and head towards Mexican Hat and Monument Valley stopping at Goosenecks State Park on the way.

Directions from Monument Valley to Moab Traveling on Moki Dugway Uphill

Have you passed Monument Valley and are you planning to travel to Moab and the parks surrounding it? In that case, my suggestion is to stay overnight in Mexican Hat. From here, in just 10 minutes, you can reach Goosenecks State Park early in the morning, when it is still not so crowded with tourists.

Then from here, you will drive another 10 minutes towards Bluff to find on the left the access to the Valley of the Gods, which you will pass going in the opposite direction to Goosenecks State Park mentioned in the previous paragraph, thus arriving at the Moki Dugway from below. As you drive on this uphill road, the view will widen more and more as you go from one hairpin bend to the next and the excitement will build up with each turn.

Also in this case, the detour to Muley Point is a must, before heading towards SR-191 to Moab, which may be the next city where you will stay overnight.

Moki Dugway and Muley Point Map

Here is a map containing the Moki Dugway, Muley Point and all the other points of interest mentioned in the article.

Where to Stay before or after Driving the Moki Dugway

Depending on how you are planning your itinerary, you may need to find accommodations near either end of the Moki Dugway or near SR-261 in general. Nearby, heading south, you can look for accommodations in Mexican Hat. Meanwhile heading north, you could opt for a hotel in Monticello. However, as you are likely to drive several miles around here the day of your visit to Moki Dugway, perhaps traveling from Monument Valley to Moab (the starting point to visit the parks of Arches and Canyonlands), I suggest you take a look at our tips below.

Our tips on where to stay in Monument Valley

Our tips on where to stay in Moab

Andrea Cuminatto
Andrea Cuminatto

Journalist and traveler. I love seeing new places, but more than anything, I love to meet those who live there.

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