Just another spectacular southwestern drive

Castle Valley: The Castle, The Priest and Nuns; they have been "in the movies."

Castle Valley: The Castle, The Priest and Nuns; they have been “in the movies.”

Our river guide said Utah 128 was voted the second most scenic drive in the nation.  I don’t know who “votes” on these things.  We have had many fabulous drives.  Nonetheless, we remembered Utah 128 from the first time we took it in 1997.  So we drove it two more times in 2016.

In 1997, the Colorado River was high and rushing toward us, but the canyon walls grew higher as we drove up-river creating the illusion the water was flowing up-hill.  We didn’t know the route number, so we just called it Castle Valley.

Along Utah 128

Along Utah 128

The guide’s comments inspired us to drive up river again from outside Moab north to I-70.   The actual route to Castle Valley turns off Utah 128.  Going north, turn right on La Sal Loop Road and go another four miles to the town of Castle Valley, just a housing development with around 350 people. Continue on the road to loop back to Moab.

On our last day in Moab, we decided to drive La Sal Loop Road back to U.S. 191  before heading on to spend the night in Monticello.

In 1776, Spanish explorers named La Sal Mountain.  Some say in the blistering August heat in Moab, they decided the white peak had to be covered in salt, la sal in Spanish.  These mountains rise to nearly 13,000 feet, the second highest range in Utah.  They saw snow.

La Sal Mountains

La Sal Mountains

The entire loop from Moab and back is about sixty miles, but the road only brings one out about ten miles south of Moab.  It wasn’t the quickest way to Monticello.

Castle Valley from La Sal

Castle Valley from La Sal

There are many hair-pin turns and, at least early in April, there were many potholes.  It is not suitable for large RVs.  But it affords spectacular views as one drives through the Manti-La Sal National Forest.


The Forest Service maintains a campground with toilets, picnic tables and fire grills.  There are hiking and mountain-bike trails.  There is a pull-out with a restroom.

Some frustrated ranger had hand-written a notice in the restroom about the cost of removing trash from the pit toilet.  I do not recall the details, but it was enormous.  He/she compared it to the number of picnic tables they could buy or the miles of trail they could maintain.  It finished with the admonition “Is this how you want to spend your tax dollars?”

Click on photos to enlarge.


About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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4 Responses to Just another spectacular southwestern drive

  1. Brett says:

    Pretty spectacular scenery!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. JohnRH says:

    We drove from Gateway CO to Moab 8 or 10 years ago, coming through Castle Valley to 128 into Moab. Decent road. It’s quiet back there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JohnRH says:

      Sometime in the previous century in days of my yute when the ski lifts closed in April we’d drive through Moab (small, boring, nothing going on there), drive 40 miles south, and drive 37 miles off 191 on 211 to Squaw Flats Campground for some hiking on the flat rock.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. N N says:

    Really interesting!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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