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Auto Touring Moab, River Road and La Sal Loop Road

Updated: May 17

Castle Rock Moab Utah

With so much to see in Moab and the surrounding area, it can be overwhelming trying to decide how best to organize the time you have available on your vacation. Auto Touring Utah Route UT128 is the second in a series of adventures for those new to exploring Moab. I would suggest doing these drives in the suggested order. However, depending on what your particular goals are or the time of year, you may want to mix and match.

matrimony springs moab ut

River Road / La Sal Loop Road is the most convenient auto tour in Moab, considering your condo is located on Spanish Valley Road, which is the same as La Sal Loop Road. For simplicity, I will start the description as you turn onto UT 128, aka River Road. The first thing you will notice is a large pedestrian/cycling bridge across the Colorado River. 50 yards upstream from the bridge you can find a small pullout on the right side of the road. This is the location for Matrimony Springs. The spring offers a never-ending flow of some of the freshest water you will ever find. There is always a line waiting to fill bottles here. If you happen by this location on a bike, it is a great place to refill your bottles.

Morning Glory Natural Bridge

At 3.1 miles you will pass Grand Staff hiking trail on your right. This hiking trail leads 2 miles to Morning Glory Natural Bridge (4 miles round trip). At 243 feet, this is the sixth largest natural rock span in the United States! Due to the location of the natural bridge in the canyon and the way it is positioned next to the canyon wall, it can be difficult to get a good photo of this huge span. Nevertheless, this is one of the top things to see in Moab and parking is limited. It is best to get an early start if you would like to visit this span. The hike is relatively easy as you walk in a sandy canyon bottom. The canyon itself is very scenic even if you don't make it all the way to the natural bridge.

Big Bend Boulder park moab

For the first 14 miles, UT 128 is visually stunning. Your drive will start with high Navajo Sandstone cliffs, the same rock layer that formed Morning Glory Natural Bridge. Next, you will start to notice that the sheer cliff dropping to the road is gone and has been replaced with a cliff that has a steep section followed below by a slope, this is Windgate Sandstone.

Lots of the boulders all along this stretch of highway are very popular with rock climbers. If you want to see the climbers in action, the best place to do so is Big Bend Bouldering Area, located at 7.8 miles upstream.

If you want to test your bouldering skills, I would suggest doing so at the padded Lion Park Boulder area location at the intersection of US 191 and UT 128.

kayaking the Colorado River, moab utah

It goes without saying that the main focal point of this drive is the Colorado River. Depending on the time of year you are likely to see all sorts of activities taking place along the river. Multiple tour companies in town offer, scenic boat cruises (low thrill), rafting adventures (moderate thrill), and even jet boating (extreme thrill). I once bought a kayak on sale and tried to float the river. I found this to be more of a life-or-death adventure as I didn't know what I was doing, but it made for a good story to tell my friends.

Red Cliffs Lodge Hollywood Museum

At 14.2 miles is located the Red Cliffs Lodge Hollywood Museum. This small museum offers a glimpse of some of the more popular movies and TV shows that were filmed in the Moab area. To this day Moab is very popular with "Hollywood" with hundreds of filming permits issued every year. In addition to the museum, Red Cliffs Lodge has one of the best restaurants in Moab. I often combine trips in this area with meals at the lodge. FYI, reservations are typically required, and the food is expensive.

Fisher Towers Moab

Just past Red Cliffs Lodge, the road climbs over a small hill and the awe-inspiring

Fisher Towers come into view for the first time. Located at 21.8 miles from town, a gravel road will lead to a parking area where you can hike to the towers. The Fisher Towers hike is one of my top five hikes in Moab. A 2.3 mile trail leads to and then past the towers (4.6 miles total). The trail is relatively easy, and the views are non-stop. The farther you hike the better the views, you can make this hike as long or as short as you like. When you look from the parking lot you think the trail travels across uninteresting open desert. However, you will be surprised by the rock formations you pass along the way. Bring some binoculars and look for climbers!

la sal loop road

Now you will need to backtrack to mile 15.5 and turn onto Las Sal Loop Road. You will begin climbing through Castle Valley and past Castleton Rock, the image at the top of this page. The rock formation always reminds me of the Roadrunner and the Wile Coyote and is a famous backdrop in many Hollywood scenes.

This route is very popular with cyclists due to its climb into the mountains. It is possible to start a bike ride in the cool morning and then keep the same cool temperature all day as you climb into the La Sal Mountains, even during the hot summer months. This is also the route for the Moab Grand Fondo bike ride.

warner lake campground

warner Ranger station moab

La Sal Loop Road quickly climbs away from the red rocks of Moab and onto a high plateau. The plateau offers distant views down onto the area you just came from. Directly in front of you are the La Sal Mountain, believe it or not, these are the second tallest mountains in Utah. At about the midpoint of the loop, start to look for a dirt road on your left leading to Warner Lake Campground. The well-maintained gravel road will continue to climb, and I will have to admit, the scenery is blah. But, around the last turn, something magical happens, the road enters an alpine ecosystem. Maybe it is due to the complete 180 in the landscape or maybe something else, but the views from Warner Lake are in my top five of all of Moab. From the lake, backtrack to the loop road, and continue the loop back to your condo.

Moab Vacation Rentals
Moab Vacation Rentals

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