Skip to main content

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 18; Utah State Route 261 the Moki Dugway

After leaving my hotel on US Route 191 in Blanding I took a westward turn on Utah State Route 95 towards UT 261 which is more commonly known as the Moki Dugway.


This blog serves as the 18th entry in the 2016 Fall Mountain Trip Series; Part 17 can be found here:

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 17; Utah State Route 275 and Natural Bridges National Monument

If you read Part 17 you may recall that I stated much of UT 95 lies within open range.  In an ironic twist immediately west of the US 191 junction I encountered a herd of deer just prior to the open range portion of UT 95.  I wasn't able to dodge as the last deer as it ran out onto UT 95 with about 40-50 left to spare.  The resulting impact heavily dented the hood of my car which at the time was a 2014 Chevy Sonic.  This picture from below is the resulting damage the week after I returned to California from my trip.


Luckily the impact of the deer smashing into the hood of the Sonic was largely cosmetic.  Although it did push the left front headlight in and the radiator back slightly.  After running the Sonic for about 20 minutes and not detecting any leaks from the radiator I decided the best course of action was to proceed as planned to the Moki Dugway.  The rest of my day was largely going to be spent driving through the Navajo Nation anyways and I wasn't missing the opportunity to drive the Moki Dugway.

After reaching the junction with UT 261/Moki Dugway I turned south and was immediately greeted with the first of many 10% Grade/Gravel Road signs on UT 261.  From the north terminus at Mile Marker 32.691 the route of UT 261 the highway runs 23 miles atop Cedar Mesa as a paved highway running southward to the gravel section which is the actual Moki Dugway.



UT 261 as a whole is an approximately 32.7 mile State Highway entirely located in San Juan County which traverses from UT 95 south to US Route 163.  UT 261 is mostly known for the 3 mile gravel section known as the Moki Dugway which was constructed in 1958 by the Texas Zinc Mining Company.  The purpose of the Moki Dugway was to haul ore from the Happy Jack Mine located on Cedar Mesa to a processing mill located in Mexican Hat.  UT 261 was approved by the Utah State Legislature in 1957 and the route is presently part of the Trail of the Ancients which can be seen on this map below.

Utah Section of the Trail of the Ancients

Approaching Muley Point Road the route of UT 261 enters the Moki Dugway.  Traffic is warned of the steep grades, gravel surface, and switchbacks over the next 3 miles.  Muley Point Road splits from UT 261 at Mile Maker 9.656




As the pavement ends UT 261 southbound traffic is greeted with a Moki Dugway sign.


At Mile Marker 9.278 there is a view point at the rim of Cedar Mesa above the grade of the Moki Dugway which views the area below.  To the east the Valley of the Gods can be seen in distance.








The gravel surface on the Moki Dugway is excellent for an unpaved roadway.  Despite the 10% grades I didn't find that it was difficult to maintain 2nd gear speeds descending downhill.


The first major hairpin on the Moki Dugway southward provides an excellent view of the grade below.



The first southbound hairpin also a great place for a panoramic.


The majority of the vehicles traveling on the Moki Dugway were trucks.  I passed several San Juan County Sheriff vehicles ascending the Dugway northbound, seeing a dented up Chevy Sonic must have been an odd sight.  As I was descending southbound I found it hard to envision ore trucks negotiating the Moki Dugway on a regular basis.






Half way on the southbound descent on the Moki Dugway there is a much better view of the Valley of the Gods off to the east.  The Valley of the Gods is a series of weathered sandstone bluffs similar in size and shape to nearby Monument Valley.  Valley of the Gods was briefly part of Bears Ears National Monument before it's area was reduced by 85%.


At the bottom of the 1,200 foot descent on the Moki Dugway there is one last hairpin before the asphalt surface returns.  At Mile Marker 6.448 UT 261 junctions Valley of the Gods Road which continues east to the aforementioned formations.




At Mile Maker 0.874 UT 261 has a junction with UT 316 which is the primary access for Goosenecks State Park.  Goosenecks State Park is located to the west on a bend in the San Juan River.  UT 261 terminates at US Route 163.





Part 19 of this blog series can be found here:

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 19; US Route 163 through Monument Valley

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 232

This past month I drove the entirety of California State Route 232 in Ventura County. CA 232 is an approximately 4 miles State Highway aligned on Vineland Avenye which begins near Saticoy at CA 118 and traverses southwest to US Route 101 in Oxnard.  The alignment of CA 232 was first adopted into the State Highway System in 1933 as Legislative Route Number 154 according to CAhighways.org. CAhighways.org on LRN 154 As originally defined LRN 154 was aligned from LRN 9 (future CA 118) southwest to LRN 2/US 101 in El Rio.  This configuration of LRN 154 between CA 118/LRN 9 and US 101/LRN 2 can be seen on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Ventura County. 1935 Ventura County Highway Map According to CAhighways.org the route of LRN 154 was extended west from US 101/LRN 2 to US 101A/LRN 60 in 1951.  Unfortunately State Highway Maps do not show this extension due to it being extremely small. During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering LRN 154 was assigned CA 232.  Of n

One Long Drive - Allegheny County's Orange Belt

When I trace my early interest in traveling and the hobby of roadgeeking, I always go back to where I grew up. Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, PA 48, and the Orange Belt. I grew up on Route 48 in Elizabeth Township on the Orange Belt. One of my family's favorite stories of me growing up is when I was around three years old - so 1980 - I told one of my aunts, "It's not that hard to get to our house - we live on the Orange Belt!"  The Allegheny County Belt System is one of the many things that are uniquely Pittsburgh. A series of existing roadways - minor and major - developed in post-World War II Allegheny County to navigate the region. Never intended to be a "beltway" in the modern sense - a full freeway encircling a city - the Allegheny County system is more like a wayfinding system connecting you throughout the county. It is uniquely Pittsburgh - it's been asked about , written about , and videoed .  On a recent visit home, I decided to drive the entire

Mosquito Road Bridge

The Mosquito Road Bridge is a wooden suspension span crossing the South Fork American River of El Dorado County.  The Mosquito Road Bridge incorporates elements in it's foundation which date back to 1867 making it likely the oldest highway bridge in California still is in service for it's original purpose.  The Mosquito Road Bridge can be found approximately 6.5 miles northeast of downtown Placerville.    Author's Note; Gribblenation's 2,000th published blog This blog serves as the 2,000th published entry on the Gribblenation blog site.  Ironically the the 2,000th blog entry closely aligns with the 20th anniversary of Gribblenation.  Adam and Doug recently discussed the history of Gribblenation on the Gribblenation 20th Anniversary Podcast: https://anchor.fm/gribblenation/episodes/Gribblenation-20th-Anniversary-Podcast-ep2nh8 For my own part I (Tom) have been part of Gribblenation since late 2016, it has been an honor to be part of one of the longest lived highway pages