If you’re visiting Canyonlands or Dead Horse Point, and think there’s only one way off the plateau, and back to Moab, you’re right — at least, if you’re driving a low-clearance, 2-wheel-drive vehicle. If you’re lucky enough to be driving a 4-wheel-drive, you have another fun option: Long Canyon Road.
I had tried to find Long Canyon Road the previous night, while driving out Potash Road. It turns out, the lower end of the road isn’t marked, and neither is the upper end. It must be an effort to keep the road a secret from people who couldn’t handle it.
Long Canyon Road splits off from Route 313 near a pile of gravel used for road maintenance. The intersection is 2.8 miles from the Dead Horse Point park boundary, or 1.6 miles from the “T” intersection where Route 313 splits off from the road into Canyonlands. Once you’ve found the right road, Long Canyon Road travels straight towards the La Sal Mountains for about three miles, before…
… you reach the canyon. It’s hard to believe the road finds a way down there — and it does it with very few switchbacks. Of course, that means it’s going to be steep in places.
Long Canyon Road squeezes its way through the upper end of the canyon. The road is comfortably wide enough for one vehicle, but I’m glad I didn’t meet any traffic coming uphill, on my way down.
After passing over a couple of sandy dips in the road (which, more than any other place, make this a 4-wheel-drive only road)…
… it looks like you come to a dead-end. Oh no! A huge boulder has blocked the path. No, wait a minute… there is a hole there. From a distance, it looks much too small for a vehicle, but as you get closer, you realize you can probably slip through. By the time you’re underneath it, you realize there’s plenty of room (for a Rav4, but maybe not an Escalade).
As the road continues to drop, you travel along a shelf, with a moderate drop at the edge of the road. It’s not exactly nerve-racking, but I still don’t know what I would have done if I had crossed paths with another vehicle.
The views get better and better, the further you go. Along the way, I decided that down was definitely better than up, thanks to the great view.
Eventually, Long Canyon Road flattened out, and found its way out of the canyon. The road ends at Potash Road, in the parking lot for Jug Handle Arch.