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Auto Touring Moab, Utah Route 1 UT279 Potash Road

Updated: May 17

UT 279 Corona Arch

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 UT279 is the first 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.

Cycling Potash Road Moab Utah

For your first Moab drive, I would suggest a drive down Potash Road (UT 279).  This beautiful drive hugs the Colorado River as it squeezes between the river and towering cliffs. It almost seems impossible that a road could be constructed here, as there is very little room between the Colorado River and Navajo Sandstone Cliffs.  Since this road is pancake flat, it is popular with cyclist.

Wall Street Moab utah

Along the way, you’ll pass Wall Street, a popular climbing area where you can watch climbers scaling vertical sandstone walls. On a good day, there could be a hundred or more climbers on the walls. Climbing is very dependent on the temperature, so you may want to ask around with some stores in town such as Gear Trader to find out when you are likely to see people on the walls.

Bear Panel Potash Road moab

Within a mile are two roadside signs pointing to some of the finest petroglyphs in the Moab area. One of the most interesting panels is the Bear Panel. Basketmaker depictions of bears are rare in the Moab area. Basketmaker refers to the culture that made the art panel, in this case 1500 BC to 900 AD. Some of the rock art panels are high on the cliff walls and are best seen with binoculars.

Petroglyph Potash Road Moab

Potash Road Dinosaur Tracks

If all of the rock art, rock climbers, and the simple beauty of this canyon are not enough, there is also a dinosaur track site next to the road. Two rock slabs with footprints of meat-eating dinosaurs are visible from the pull-out on Hwy 279 or the parking lot of the Poison Spider trailhead. One slab is at the base of the cliffs, and a second slab is halfway down the slope, just above the cliff that drops down to the road. The lower slab contains the tracks of at least 10 different meat-eating dinosaurs, ranging in size from 17 inches to 5 feet at the hips. All of the animals appear to have been walking at speeds of 3 miles per hour.

Jug Handle Arch Moab Utah

The last point of interest is to continue downstream to the aptly named Jug Handle Arch, over 46 feet high and only 3 feet wide. If you can catch the sun at the correct angle, this is a very scenic arch. At this point, you are 13 miles out on UT279. I recommend turning around here but it is possible to continue to the end of the pavement at the Moab Potash plant. At this point the character of the canyon is more like the Grand Canyon vs the tight canyon you just exited with huge expansive views across and down the Colorado River Canyon.

Get out and stretch your legs!

Simply doing this drive is a great way to start a Moab vacation but there is much more to see along this route. If you are interested in stretching your legs, I would recommend the following.

Corona Arch Hike

Corona Arch - The highlight of this trip for stretching your legs would be a hike (3 miles round trip) to Corona Arch.  Corona Arch, sometimes known as Little Rainbow Arch is one of the largest Arches in Moab, even larger than most in Arches National Park. In addition to Corona Arch, there are two other large arches along the trail, Pinto Arch and Bowtie Arch. If you have a sharp eye, you can spot other small arches on this popular hike. Though not as crowded as the arches in Arches National Park, you will see others along the trail.

shafer switchback moab utah

Shafer Switchbacks - if you have a high clearance vehicle you can opt to continue past the Moab Potash Plant and climb the Shafer Switchbacks and loop back to Moab via UT Hwy 313. If practical, this would make for an unforgettable trip. If you have a high clearance vehicle it is possible to follow this road all the way back into Canyonland National Park and ascend Shafer Switchbacks.  I would recommend a rented Jeep for this but it would be possible in a stock SUV.  Adding this to the trip will make it an all-day adventure and I would advise you to bring lunch.

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