One website describes Moki Dugway as a scenic backway. This is an apt description of a road that terrifies many travelers. It’s part of Route 261 in southeastern Utah, the last unexplored place in the continental U. S.
A Dugway is a road carved into a hillside. Moki was an explorer’s term for pueblo-dwelling natives. Route 261 is 34 miles of mostly good highway taking travelers to the Bears Ears, a relatively new National Monument established during the Obama presidential years. The part of 261 known as Moki Dugway is perfectly safe for most passenger cars being driven by those who are not fearful of gravel and altitudes. The 3 miles of Moki Dugway that is considered difficult and is often described as the most dangerous road in the United States by some was built by a company known as Texas Zinc Minerals in the 1950s. It was a route for trucks hauling uranium and the like down from Cedar Mesa to the town of Mexican Hat, Utah.
There are no facilities like gas stations along Route 261. The section that is known as Moki Dugway is not suitable for motor homes or trailers. Despite being gravel in part and with some turns that are unpredictable, this difficult part of 261 lasts for only 3 miles with an 11% grade, and Ruth and I saw evidence in the form of road construction vehicles that this road is being improved. We had no trouble driving up this beautiful mesa, but at one turnout we ran into a couple from Texas with 3 dogs that was not having a good day. They tried to haul a trailer up this road and got stuck. For now, Moki Dugway is not suitable for vehicles of more than 28 feet and weighing more than 10,000 pounds. From the top, visitors can see part of the Trail of the Ancients far below and lots of breathtaking scenery. We both recommend driving Moki Dugway before it’s like any other road. Continue on to Natural Bridges National Monument that is like a mini-version of Arches National Park.