Touring the Byway
182 Miles | 6 Days / 5 Nights | Gateway City: Moab, Utah
We recommend arriving in Moab and traveling to Monticello to start your journey along the Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway. Experience life as it used to be lived at the Monticello Frontier Museum, ponder the largest collection of petroglyphs in the country at the Newspaper Rock Historical Monument, and from a perch high above the Abajo Mountains, discover sweeping views the Needles District of nearby Canyonlands National Park before staying in a converted flour mill for the evening.
On Day Two, you’ll travel to Blanding, a city with seemingly endless opportunities to view the world through the eyes of past eras. Learn about the Ancestral Puebloans at the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum, understand the cultures that came together in the area at the Nations of the Four Corners Cultural Center, see what life was like for the region’s dinosaurs at The Dinosaur Museum, and explore Anasazi cliff dwellings at the Butler Wash Ruins. Get ready for some serious scenery on Day Three as the Byway takes you to Natural Bridges National Monument, the panoramic views from Muley Point Overlook and Goosenecks State Park, and the towering monoliths of Valley of the Gods. Relax in an outdoor hot tub before tucking in for the night in the tiny village of Mexican Hat.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Over 10,000 years ago, nomadic Paleoindians roamed the Cajon Mesa in present-day southwest Colorado and southeast Utah to gather food and hunt game. By roughly 900 CE, these hunter-gatherers began to plant and harvest crops year-round instead of following the herds and seasons, settling what is now known as Hovenweep, a Paiute/Ute word meaning “deserted valley.” Portions of many towers, dwellings, kivas, and other structures built by these ancestral Puebloans can be seen throughout six protected villages spread over a 20 mile/32km expanse at this National Monument, allowing visitors to stand in awe at their skill and resourcefulness. The only way to see the structures is on foot via an extensive trail network that offers hikes of varying degrees of difficulty. We suggest beginning your journey at the Hovenweep Visitor Center where rangers can help determine which trail best suits your interests and abilities. Exhibits, a bookstore, restrooms, and a paved scenic overlook providing views of Little Ruin Canyon and several Square Tower Group structures are also available at the Visitor Center.
Three awe-inspiring natural bridges comprise this National Monument and International Dark Sky Park – Sipapu Bridge, Kachina Bridge, and Owachomo Bridge. Created by thousands of years of wind and water erosion, the largest bridge spans 268 feet/82 meters and soars 220 feet/61 meters over a canyon dotted with wildflowers. Also within the park is Horse Collar Ruin, one of the best-preserved ancestral Puebloan sites in the area and the perfect opportunity to wonder what life was like for the people who used to live here. The paved, one-way Bridge View Drive is a 9 mile/14.5km driving tour that takes you to the trailheads and overlooks of each bridge. The Natural Bridges Visitor Center offers exhibits, video presentations, a bookstore, water bottle filling station, and an impressive solar power field that powers all Park electricity.
Discover isolated buttes, towering pinnacles, tilting mushroom rocks, colorful monoliths, and wide open vistas that last as far as the eye can see in this enchanting and scenic sandstone valley. A 17 mile/27km dirt and gravel road loops through the area and provides fantastic access to some of the best sights in southeast Utah.
In a remote area on the Utah/Arizona border lies one of the most majestic points on earth, where sandstone masterpieces soar hundreds of feet into the sky and puffy white clouds cast mesmerizing shadows against a striated desert floor. This is Monument Valley, a region of the Colorado Plateau within the Navajo Nation Reservation and home to rocky monoliths with names like The Mittens, Three Sisters, Totem Pole, and Ye Bi Chei. This park has also served as the backdrop of many famous cinematic moments, most notably in the Western movies by director John Ford. A 17 mile/27km looped driving route will provide excellent views of the parks’ greatest sites, or you might choose to join a guided Jeep tour or horseback ride for access to valley landmarks such as Ear of the Wind, Mystery Valley, and Hunts Mesa. The Visitor Center offers tour meeting points, a gift shop, restroom facilities, and stunning panoramic views of Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. For a meal break, head to Stagecoach Restaurant located in the historic Goulding’s Lodge, where you can feast on authentic southwestern and Navajo flavors, including some of the best Navajo Tacos in the Four Corners Region!
Along the eastern slope of Comb Ridge lies a small rock canyon that was once home to a small Ancestral Puebloan community. This cliff dwelling was likely built in the 1200’s and a prime example of Mesa Verde-style construction. A 0.5 mile/0.8km trail leads to interpretive signs and a fenced observation point, though binoculars may be helpful to truly see the remarkable details of the ruins. The path to the overlook is well maintained but there are no facilities on site, and we suggest carrying drinking water during your walk through this desert environment.