Get a break from the desert heat with a scenic drive up the La Sal Mountain Loop Drive. This scenic byway takes you up into the heart of the La Sal Mountains, an oasis of alpine cool amongst the desert heat. Along the way, you’ll be treated to gorgeous desert views and there are plenty of stops for fun side trips.
You’ll find the start of the La Sal Loop about 15 minutes south of Moab in the small town of Spanish Valley. Head east on Old Airport Road until you reach the La Sal Loop Road junction.
From here, the road winds its way up into the La Sal Mountains. These unique peaks are often snow-covered well into the summer and provide a reprieve from the oppressive desert heat. The road then heads down into the famous Castle Valley, an area known for gravity-defying rock spires that many rock climbers make a pilgrimage to.
Eventually, the road deposits you back on SR-128 in Porcupine Canyon, just northeast of Moab. To return to Moab, take SR-128 until you reach the US-191 junction and then head south.
This is a half-day to all-day excursion depending on how many stops you choose to make. Along the route, you’ll find plenty of shoulder-side pullouts to utilize in order to soak in all of the views. Bring along a camera for plenty of pictures and take your time on the loop.
Overall, the dirt road is pretty windy and steep at times, but any car can make it to the top in good weather. Be sure to check the forecast, because snow and rain can quickly make this gentle adventure a white knuckle drive.
Pro Tip: Be sure to fill up before you go! There are no services along this route after you leave Moab and Spanish Valley so get plenty of gas, snacks, and water. You’ll also be a world away from the desert high up in the Aspen and pine forests, so pack a jacket and pants for any side excursions.
The drive takes around 2 hours to complete, but you’ll be stopping often to soak in the views and head out on side excursions so plan for a half to a full day of exploring. There are ample opportunities for hiking, fishing, and picnicking.
As you make your way along the La Sal Mountain Loop, you’ll find plenty of pullouts to explore. Take advantage of the views that pique your interest. If you’re looking to get out and stretch your legs, check out the Mill Creek Recreation Area (an area of parallel parking and pit toilets about 15 minutes in marks the spot).
Alternatively, you can take Oowah or Warner Lake turnoffs for a leisurely mountain picnic and fishing opportunities. There are also several La Sal Mountain camping options here too.
Afterward, you’ll start the descent back to the desert floor. The views towards the iconic Castle Valley rock formations will simply take your breathe away.
There are a few places to pull off and enjoy hiking around these monolithic giants once you hit the canyon floor.
Overall, this scenic drive near Moab gives you a whole new perspective. Catch a break from the heat and enjoy a beautiful mountain drive capped by striking desert views.