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Monticello

A high-elevation town on the edge of Utah’s Canyon Country

The southeastern Utah town of Monticello lies on the sheltered eastern slope of the Abajo Mountains, overlooking a maze of sandstone canyons and plateaus. The Abajos, topped by 11,360-foot Abajo Peak, are Monticello’s summer paradise, with mild temperatures, cooling rains, and recreation sites scattered through Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Monticello is also a place where Utah’s past brushes against the present, with ruins and rock art from the Ancient Ones scattered in nearby Bears Ears National Monument and Hovenweep National Monument. The town is also a starting point for the 480-mile Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway, a huge highway loop lined with scenic views and important archeological sites.

Local Highlights


Harts Draw Road

Harts Draw Road, Monticello’s best scenic drive, twists across the northern flank of the Abajo Mountains from the Welcome Center to state route 211. After 10 miles, the 43-mile road passes the Harts Draw-Canyonlands Overlook with spacious vistas of Shay Mountain, the La Sal Mountains, and the corrugated Needles District in Canyonlands National Park. Visit in the fall for the best views of golden groves of aspen that ignite the hillsides.

Abajo Loop Scenic Backway

The 37-mile-long Abajo Loop, beginning north of Monticello, squiggles through the Abajo Mountains and then bends south in North Canyon. After passing Horsehead Peak, the narrow dirt road descends to Blanding. The scenic drive, open in summer and fall, is passable to most vehicles, but high clearance is recommended. Expect hiking trails, starry campsites and views to distant horizons.

Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock, a State Historical Monument, whispers 2,000 years of silent stone stories carved into a dark sandstone panel in Indian Creek, a unit of Bears Ears National Monument. These petroglyphs, one of Utah’s largest and best-preserved rock art sites, were created by Native Americans from the ancient Archaic and Fremont cultures to the historic Utes.

Frontier Museum

The town of Monticello dates back to 1887, when ranchers and farmers first settled the area. Explore the town’s pioneer past by stepping into the free Frontier Museum next to the Southeast Utah Welcome Center on South Main Street. The museum, housed in an old barn, details how settlers dug irrigation ditches for fields of wheat, oats, and potatoes, and ran cattle on the sloping Great Sage Plain east of town.

 


  • Needles Overlook

    Needles Overlook

    Photo: Sandra Salvas

  • The Abajo Mountains from Monticello

    The Abajo Mountains from Monticello

    Photo: Sandra Salvas

  • Jackelope Trading Post

    Jackelope Trading Post

    Photo: Rosie Serago

  • Jackelope Trading Post

    Jackelope Trading Post

    Photo: Rosie Serago

  • Pioneer Park

    Pioneer Park

    Photo: Rosie Serago

  • Indian Creek Scenic Byway

    Indian Creek Scenic Byway

    Photo: Matt Gagnon

  • Newspaper Rock

    Newspaper Rock

    Photo: Sonya Doctorian

Outdoor Adventures


Camping

Is there anything better than spending a summer night under star-studded skies in the Abajo Mountains? Campgrounds at Manti-La Sal National Forest west of Monticello provide a cool escape from the desert heat and urban grind. The best campgrounds are Nizhoni, Devil’s Canyon, Dalton Springs, and Buckboard, which include tent, trailer and RV sites.

Fishing

If you keep your rod and tackle box in your car trunk, stop by Lloyd’s Lake — Monticello’s best local fishing hole. While anglers cast lines for rainbow trout, walkers follow a trail around the lake and enjoy mountain views. Other great local lakes for fishermen are Monticello Lake and Foy Lake in the Abajos, as well as Dry Wash and Recapture reservoirs near Blanding.

Hiking

Miles of trails lace the Abajo Mountains, making it an ideal destination for hikers. Set up base camp in Monticello or a forest campground and discover trails that lead to wildflower-strewn meadows, valleys lined with golden aspens and mountaintops with forever views. Recommended hikes in the Manti-La Sal National Forest include Shay Mountain, Aspen Flat, Robertson Pasture and Skyline trails.

Rock Climbing

If you’re a rock climber, Indian Creek Canyon is the place to go. The Creek is simply the best crack climbing area in the world, attracting experts as well as beginners. Thousands of routes with colorful names like Moon Goddess Revenge and Supercrack of the Desert ascend the canyon’s vertical sandstone cliffs. If you want to learn the ropes, hire a guide from a reputable service like Moab Desert Adventures and Moab Cliffs and Canyons.

 

What's Nearby?

Written by Stewart Green for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.

Planning

Monticello