top of page

Moab Scenic Drives, Island In The Sky, Canyonlands National Park, UT 313

Dead Horse Point State Park in Winter

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 UT313 is the fourth 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.

Monitor and Merrimack Buttes Ut Hwy 313

The drive out to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park on Utah Route 313 is likely the most popular scenic drive in Moab Utah. Most people don't realize how large Canyonlands National Park is and that it is divided into three districts. The districts are Island in the Sky (most visited), Needles (my favorite), and Maze (too far from Moab). On your drive, once you climb out of Sevenmile Canyon there is a parking area on the right where it is possible to view Monitor and Merrimack Buttes. From the viewpoint, you are a mile or two away, but if you have a Jeep or UTV you can drive right up to them as shown in this above photo. Access is via Sevenmile Rim Jeep Trail.

Snake in the Mouth Pictograph

Just before UT313 splits away from the Sevenmile Canyon and starts climbing, look for a small pull-off on the right shoulder. In the past it was gravel, but it seems like it was paved the last time I passed by. Located directly across from the split in the canyon, take a short trail to the rock cliff on the right. Directly in front of you, you should be able to locate the Intestine Man. The Intestine Man is one of my favorite pictographs in the Moab area and only takes about ten to fifteen minutes to observe. If you look closely, you can see that his intestines are actually a snake. Across the road and high in an alcove is another interesting piece of rock art named Snake in the Mouth. To visit this one requires a little more planning. You can read more at Snake in the Mouth Hike.

Colorado River from Dead Horse Point

The next point of interest is Dead Horse Point State Park. Spoiler alert, the view from Dead Horse Point is better than the viewpoints in Canyonlands National Park. If you only have time for one, I would go with the state park. I think the view is best in the winter as the snow creates a good contrast with the red rock. It is important to know that if you visit in the winter, it can be very cold due to the wind blowing over the lip of the canyon.

Mesa Arch Canyonlands National Park

When you finally make it to Canyonlands National Park, you will want to take the 0.6-mile round-trip hike to Mesa Arch. This is likely the most famous arch in the Island in the Sky area. The best time to view this arch is early morning so you can catch the sunrise. Mesa Arch perfectly frames the La Sal Mountains and Washer Woman Arch.

Shafer Switchbacks auto tour

It is important to note, there is no food available in the National Park, so bring a picnic lunch or a lot of snacks. There are too many individual things to see in the park for them to all be listed here. Be sure to inspect the brochure you receive at the entry gate and pick out what you would like to see. If you have a capable vehicle, any modern SUV or truck should be ok, consider returning to Moab via the Shafer Switchbacks, this would make for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.


bottom of page