The La Sal Mountains are Utah’s second highest mountain range. They rise impressively above the red rock canyon country of southeastern Utah. The range contains 6 peaks that rise above 12,000 feet, the tallest being Mount Peale at 12,721 feet. Covered with thick aspen and fir forests and dotted with mountain lakes, the La Sals are a cool oasis within the often difficult environment of the surrounding desert.
Numerous trails in the La Sals provide good hiking, biking and horseback riding routes from late spring to mid-autumn. In winter, the same trails are put to use by cross-country skiers and snowmobilers. The beauty of the La Sals can also be enjoyed by simply driving the La Sal Mountain Scenic Route.
The La Sal Mountains are located on the eastern border of Utah, about 15 miles east of Moab. They occupy a relatively small area, running just 15 miles north to south and 6 miles across. They are most easily accessed from the west on the La Sal Mountain Loop Road that begins south of Moab.
The La Sal Mountain Loop tour features a wide variety of canyon country scenery. The 60-mile long route begins by following the Colorado River, then it approaches the La Sal Mountains via Castle Valley. The route through the Manti-La Sal National Forest offers great views of the 12,000 foot plus peaks and the red rock canyons far below. Completion of the loop brings the motorist back to Moab via U. S. Highway 191.
Drive north from Moab on U.S. Highway 191 and turn right onto Scenic Byway 128 just before the bridge. Arches National Park is located along the north side of the river.
Negro Bill Canyon’s small stream meets the Colorado 3 miles up-river from the bridge. This canyon is well known for its hiking opportunities. Big Bend Recreation Site, located about 6 miles east of the U.S. 191/UT 128 junction, offers access to the river, a nice beach, camping, disabled access facilities and a picnic area. Swimming in the river is not recommended.
At the Castle Valley road, you can either turn right and follow the main loop tour or take a side trip along Utah Highway 128 to Fisher Towers (5.6 miles) and the historic Dewey suspension bridge (15 miles).
Driving up Castle Valley, the Priest and Nuns and Castle Rock are situated on your left about 4 miles from Scenic Byway 128. If these formations look familiar, it’s because they have been “in the movies.” The La Sal Mountain Loop Road turnoff is 11 miles from Scenic Byway 128. Turn right.
As you enter the National Forest, notice how the vegetation changes as you gain elevation. Pinyon and juniper trees give way to oak, then to larger pines and aspen. The highest timbered areas are covered with spruce and fir.
Be sure to stop at the overlooks along the road. A 5-mile long graded dirt side road leads to the Forest Service campground at Warner Lake. The campground has drinking water, toilets, picnic tables, and fire grills. (Camping and picnic fees charged.)
After the Warner Lake turnoff, the Loop Road descends into Mill Creek Canyon and then climbs again before starting its descent to Moab. The tour route rejoins US.Highway 191 south of Moab.