The Salt Mountains
The La Sal Mountain loop is a 62 mile loop that begins and ends in Moab, Utah. The La Sal Mountains are east of Moab, and are the mountains that can be seen from Arches National Park and are visible looking through Delicate Arch when viewed from the west (as is usually done). The main peaks of the La Sal Mountains span a distance of about 10 miles and reach a maximum elevation of 12,721 feet (Mount Peale). The mountains got their name from the Spanish times, when early travelers thought the mountains must be covered with salt since they couldn’t believe snow could exist on the mountains when it was so hot in the lowlands.
But snow is often seen on top of the La Sal Mountains except in the mid to late summer, and the short drive from Moab will be refreshingly cool from the heat of the desert landscape. It takes about 2 hours to make the loop – longer if you do any hiking there. There is also fishing and camping available along the route at Warner Lake, which can be reached by a 5 mile long graded dirt road. There are toilets, picnic tables and fire grills there as well.
The La Sal loop road is paved but is an oil and rock pavement, not asphalt or concrete. The road meanders a good bit and is a little narrow at times – care should be taken if you are in a long RV or are pulling a trailer.
As you work your way up into the mountains, the vegetation will change dramatically. Gnarly Pinyon and juniper trees will give way to broadleaf trees and then larger pines and aspen. The route is particularly beautiful in late September and early October during the time Autumn leaves are changing.
This is a popular route for bikers. If you are driving, please keep a wary eye out and maintain safe speeds. If you are going to bike it, please note that the road ascends 5367 feet.
Our visit recorded here was in late May – we didn’t drive the entire loop, but caught it south of Moab in Spanish Valley off of Hwy 191 heading north from Blanding, Utah. This was a counter-clockwise route, and made for a nice view of Castle Valley as we descending down toward the Colorado.
After leaving the mountains, the road dips into Castle Valley and dead ends on Hwy 128, which runs along the Colorado River. There are plenty of options for more adventure along this route heading back toward Moab. My favorite is Fisher Towers, but Negro Bill Canyon is another nice hike. A lot of the monuments to the east will look familiar to you if you are a fan of old westerns – this valley has been used for a bunch of them.
Colorado River Rafting
As you are driving by the Colorado River, you will see what the water is like if you are considering taking a boat trip on the Colorado. Most rafting trips from Moab are basically float trips, and there is little in the way of white water. The tours typically do not do a very good job of specifying what kind of river trip you’ll be on, so be aware. It does make it accessible to all ages, but to get exciting white water on the Colorado River, you will need to do a multi-day trip into Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park or in the Grand Canyon from Page, Arizona. These trips cost a good bit as you will be over-nighting on the river bank for as much as two weeks.
To read about our visit to Fisher Towers, go here.