Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway
Potash Road or the Lower Colorado Scenic Byway is a quiet and less traveled state motor route that runs along the Colorado River just north of Moab, and ends at the border of Canyonlands National Park. If you take this 17-mile journey you will be treated to soaring sandstone cliffs, rock climbing, cycling trails, petroglyphs, dinosaur tracks, arches, and views of the Colorado River. The Potash route is also a very popular ride for road cyclists.
Find Utah State Route 279 four miles north of Moab, off of Highway 191. The first leg of the journey will take you past the Moab uranium tailings pile that is currently being relocated. Soon after this, you’ll enter a narrow gorge of the Colorado River where sandstone cliffs tower above the water. After a couple of miles, you will come to a section called “Wall Street.” This canyon country area of eastern Utah is popular with rock climbers and requires little to no approach. You can just pull your car over and begin scaling the technical climbing routes right off the road. If driving through, use caution as this congested stretch of road sees a lot of visitor use.
Beyond the climbing wall, about five miles from the 191 junction, there are several petroglyph panels on your right. Parking at marked pullouts is provided, so you can get out of your car and see them up close. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has posted interpretive signs that offer more information about the rock art as well.
The Poison Spider trail is the next major attraction along the byway. This trail is a popular 9-mile hike, mountain bike ride or 4x4 trail that winds its way around and on top of the Poison Spider mesa. Just beyond the parking for Poison Spider is a signed dinosaur tracks viewing station. There are tubes set up to help view the tracks, one of them is lined up so you can see a series of fossilized three-toed dinosaur tracks. Another focuses in on a rock art panel. You will need binoculars to see these petroglyphs.
Further down Potash Road at about 10 miles from 191 you will find parking at the trailhead for Bowtie and Corona Arches. The three-mile round trip moderate hike is well worth the effort and is perfect for children and adults with some level of fitness and endurance. The two arches are situated near each other, but you can tell them apart because Bowtie Arch has a narrow opening above stripped sandstone, and Corona Arch has a 100-foot-tall and 140-foot-wide opening.
The final sight worth noting along the Potash Road is Jug Handle Arch. At 13.5 miles from 191 park at the turn-off, that also serves as the entrance to Longs Canyon. A short walk back will lead you to the arch’s base and a few petroglyphs.
A journey along the Moab Potash Road is a great escape from the bustle of the surrounding national parks, and is a convenient way to find your own slice of desert solitude. It’s easy to eat up half a day stopping and enjoying all the places this route has to offer, so just make sure you plan enough time to fully enjoy one of Utah’s less traveled scenic byways.
Local’s tip: Time your return trip to Moab during sunset, and watch the Colorado River and surrounding environs light up at the golden hour for an added bonus.
GPS Coordinates: 38.564533, -109.631441