After reading the title I know most of you are thinking; “what’s a Moki Dugway”? My answer would be; “think Thelma and Louise”. At the end of the movie, being chased by the police, Thelma and Louise reach a dead end when they drive up to the end of a mesa. The only way out is to drive off the cliff into oblivion. The ending could have been filmed at Moki Dugway.
(The decent begins)
Hearing the Stories
I first heard about Moki Dugway from friends who had driven it 2 years ago. When we left the “House on Fire” pueblo ruins our next destination was Valley of The Gods. Our route would take us on the intimidating drive down Moki Dugway. Moki Dugway is part of highway 261. Highway 261 is a 2 lane highway through the high desert in the southeast corner of Utah.
(Rt. 165 stretches to the horizon)
It’s a road where you can travel at 75mph and feel like you’re not going fast. About the only signs you’ll see is “Free Range Cattle-Use Caution”. This means cattle roam free here and will wander across the road at any time. Proof of this was the dead calf we passed on our route down this remote highway. As we neared Moki Dugway we started to see signs of what we were coming to. Road signs started appearing with cautions:
(The valley below)
No Vehicle Over 27 Ft.
Dirt Road for the next 2.5 miles
No vehicle over 27 feet
Use Caution-No Shoulder or Guardrail
When they built highway 261 they must have arrived at the mesa, and with no route around it, they simply cut a road into the face of the mesa. Moki Dugway starts at over 6000 feet and drops 1100 feet over 3 miles of dirt road with numerous switchbacks, no guardrail, narrow to the point where, in some places, only one vehicle can fit through at a time and absolutely stunning scenery. I mentioned in my last blog (“House on Fire”) that I had reversed the route for the day to start out at House on Fire.
(where we're going)
Top to Bottom
This put us in the position of driving Moki Dugway from the top down. If you’re going to drive it this is the route you want because, as you descend, the scenery spreads out before you. I was glad I wasn’t driving so I could take it all in. It would be easy to get distracted and drive off the road-leading to a plunge of hundreds of feet in some places. We stopped numerous times on the way down because the views were stunning and we wanted to shoot.
(Looking into the Valley of the Gods)
Where The Hell Does the Road Go?
When we reached the bottom, looking back up, there was little indication that a road existed there. Other than the brief sighting of a vehicle on one of the precarious sections there was no indication where the road went. I can imagine driving up from the south and seeing the road head into the mesa, the thought must be; “where the hell does the road go”?
(Above the high desert)
If you ever find yourself in this area try and include Moki Dugway in your itinerary. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. The drive is an adventure in itself but the stunning views over the vast high desert and Valley of the Gods are the real reward.
Butch Lombardi-East Bay Images Photography