Long Canyon is a fun way to the Island in the Sky mesa from Moab. A moderate offroad route just by virtue of the very top end, Long Canyon offers brilliant views of the La Sal Mountains framed by a canyon setting found nowhere else in the world than the Utah canyonlands.
Long Canyon is just another example of the gems you can find, simply by looking at a map and taking the road less traveled.
Access to Long Canyon Rd. from Moab is simple; north out of town on the main drag, just turn west (left) on Utah Route 279, signed as Potash. Route 279 follows the north bank of the Colorado River, as it winds through the canyon during the first segment. Long Canyon will be a right turn from UT-279, just after the Jug Handle Arch. There is parking to hike to the arch at the beginning of Long Canyon Rd., signed.
The town of Gateway, CO is unique because it’s nestled less than 10 miles from the Colorado-Utah border. It is the location of the eastern termini of two backcountry 4×4 routes to Moab, UT. It is about 50 miles southwest of Grand Junction. Gateway is on Colorado State Highway 141 (SH-141), roughly where it meets the Dolores River, on the northwest side of the Uncompaghre Plateau.
Gateway is a classic small town, with small town vibes. Although the town contains a couple tourist attractions, it hardly feels like a tourist trap. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to encounter a lot of traffic at all along SH-141. There is a general store (pictured above), with gas pumps, restrooms, drinks and snacks. During the summer time, there is also a food truck that operates in the parking lot of the general store. Most will make a pit-stop at the general store before continuing their journey.
Needles Overlook is a little out of the way for mainstream Moab-goers, but it provides fantastic views of the Canyonlands area. There are three overlooks along the area just southwest of the town of Moab, known as the Canyon Overlooks. Needles overlook is the furthest south and the only one in which access is paved. The northern-most is the Anticline Overlook, which is a well-maintained gravel road its entire access route. The middle overlook access requires 4wd and is called the Canyonlands Overlook.
Arches National Park. This is one of those obligatory posts, because, well for the amount of time I’ve spent in Moab, you’ve kinda gotta go here at least once during one of your visits. Make no mistake, this place is always packed with tourists. It’s next to impossible to get a picture of an arch, let alone a person standing in one, without at least several other people next to you trying to do the same thing. In fact, it’s such a tourist trap that it’s a tourist trap in the fourth week of November. There are dozens of tourists here, all the time. And nothing that each and every one of them is photographing hasn’t been photographed at least 100 times earlier that same week. Anyway, here is my trip report for Arches National Park.
It’s hard to describe what kind of experience the White Rim was. If you’ve ever been to Moab, or any part of the Desert Southwest, you might think you understand: red rocks, towering sandstone monoliths rising above you, canyons… But you don’t quite know the desert southwest until you’ve spent time on the White Rim (and I mean meaningful time, not just passing through to Potash Canyon or popping in to see Musselman Arch).
The start of White Rim trail, traveling clockwise, has you not far from the Island in the Sky visitor center. Across the road from the visitor center is an overlook, that gives you the first glimpse of the White Rim trail, meandering its way into the distance. On a clear day, the La Sal mountains make for an impressive backdrop, paired with the thousand-foot drop off from the top of the Island in the Sky mesa to the White Rim sandstone layer, the geologic layer that the road runs on its entire route until the very western end. The White Rim Road is a 71.2 mile road that was built in the 1950s by the Atomic Energy Commission, as a uranium prospecting road. It follows roughly along the base of the Island in the Sky mesa.
The White Rim Road, despite being fully within Canyonlands National Park, is lightly trafficked. No more than 50 vehicle permits are issued daily (which, most of the time, are all issued by 8am), and there are a limited amount of campsites which are often booked as early as four months in advance. Backcountry camping and wood-based fires are prohibited on the White Rim, so you must use a designated campsite. There is very little to burn on the White Rim, so most of the time having a camp fire isn’t even an option.