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Road to Moab

eastern Utah

One of my favorite drives and hikes is just down the freeway from the hospital where I was born. Of course, it wasn’t until I grew up, moved away and then came back before I started to truly appreciate the area. The Colorado River Scenic Byway links I-70 to Moab. There’s another road to Moab, too – US 191 – but it’s frequently congested and hectic, particularly during tourist season. Taking exit 204 near Cisco, UT 128 heads south of the freeway through a stark, flat landscape that gives no inkling of what’s to come. After about 10 miles, the Colorado River appears on the left and then the terrain changes dramatically. The river has been working its artistry for millions of years, sculpting the soft sandstone into a majestic canyon. The wind, rain and snow have been busy too, transforming the landscape into a spectacular collection of enormous pinnacles, fins, buttes and natural bridges. Another 24 miles and you reach the turnoff for Fisher Towers, a definite must-see if even just to drive the well-maintained 2-mile dirt road for a closer view. From the parking lot, the hiking trail winds around the base of the cliffs and fins before eventually leading to 900-foot-tall “Titan.” It’s a little more than four miles roundtrip and if hiking in the heat, bring a lot of water as the trail is almost entirely in the sun. But that also means the towers are beautifully lit with natural light. It’s a moderate trail hugging steep walls and winding up, over and around rock formations. Truly magnificent! Once back on the highway, the road continues another 21 miles along the Colorado River before intersecting US 191. Go left to Moab or right to Arches and Canyonlands national parks. There’s more to see and hike from Fisher Towers to US 191 but that’s for another story: check out Road on Fire, the reverse ride up the Colorado River Scenic Byway.

Route & Map       

The Colorado River Scenic Byway runs from I-70 to Moab. There are numerous pullouts and hiking trails along the way, including the can’t-miss Fisher Towers.

Length & Time

The route is 47 miles and an hour to drive. But definitely allow time for picture stops and short detours. The Fisher Towers trail is a relatively easy hike that takes 3-4 hours, roundtrip.

Best Time to Visit

Spring and fall are best. Summer brings very hot temps and the threat of afternoon flash floods. Winter can be snowy meaning icy roads and trails. But honestly, the area dazzles year-round and heat and cold mean fewer visitors.

Major Town

Moab is an awesome town that seems to grow bigger every season. With numerous lodging options and some great restaurants, it’s developed into the complete tourist destination.

Keep in Mind

Unlike pricey Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point, it's free to hike the trails along the Colorado River Scenic Byway. However, there are camping fees and restrictions involving river use so read the posted regulations carefully.

Links

Moab’s official visitor website is a good starting point for planning. Another resource is the Bureau of Land Management’s page on the Fisher Towers National Recreation Trail offering maps, camping fees and other info.

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