This federally designated National Scenic Byway circles through the ancient Puebloan (Anasazi) country of southeastern Utah, providing opportunity to view archaeological, cultural, and historic sites, as well as Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Edge of the Cedars State Park & Museum, and the Manti La Sal National Forest. An extension of this route continues into Colorado to Mesa Verde and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The byways program recommends five days to explore this area. Shorter and longer trips and loops are also enjoyable. Start at any point along the route. The route traverses the archaeological heartland of America.
Length of Byway or Route480 miles in Colorado and Utah
The Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway enters Utah east of Monticello on US Highway 491 and travels to the junction in Monticello with US Highway 191. Turn south onto US 191 and travel to Blanding, Utah where you find Edge of the Cedars State Park & Musuem, a good stop for an introduction ot the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) pre-history of the area. From Blanding the route follows US 191 south to the junction with Utah Highway 95 and west on U 95 to Utah Highway 261 passing Butler Wash Ruin, Mule Canyon Ruin, and Natural Bridges National Monument along the way. It then turns south at the junction with U 95 and U 261 and proceeds to the top of the Moki Dugway, a 3 mile stretch of gravel road that descends the 1,000 foot cliff from Cedar Mesa to Valley of the Gods. Along the way you will find access to Grand Gulch Primitive Area and hiking trails on the mesa top. Just before dropping off the Moki Dugway is County Road #274 leading to Muley Point and views into Johns Canyon. From the bottom of the Dugway the route continues past the entrance to Valley of the Gods and on the junction with Utah Highway 316 which leads to Goosencks State Park. At Goosenecks you encounter a view of the largest entrenched river meander in North America. U 261 continues to the junction with US 163 and the town of Mexican Hat. At the junction turn right to enter Mexican Hat or turn left to drive to Bluff. Turning right will take you to Mexican Hat and on to Monument Valley, turning left will take you to Bluff and back to Blanding. Along US 191 between Bluff and Blanding is the junction with Utah Highway 262 where you turn east and follow the signs to Hovenweep National Monument OR you can access Hovenweep from Bluff on US Highway 162 and follow the signs.
Highlights and Key Points Along the Route
Butler Wash Ruin, Mule Canyon Ruin, Natural Bridges National Monument, Grand Gulch Primitive Area, Cedar Mesa trails, the Moki Dugway, Muley Point, Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, the San Juan River, Hovenweep National Monument, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
ADA Accessibility Notes
Some sites are ADA accessible.
Pet Friendly Notes
Traveling with pets during the summer months is not recommended due to the high temperatures. One must be careful with pets when visiting areas with high drop offs and cliff faces. In some areas National Park Service, BLM, and State Park regulations apply regarding pets.