Dirt Road Driving with John and Pam – Canyonlands NP

Comments 14 Standard

After our exciting 4-wheeling slickrock adventure, we were fortunate to enjoy even more travels on some rough dirt roads around Moab with John and Pam (Oh the Places They Go).  Our Honda CRV can’t handle some of those roads, and John and Pam, who we have hiked with several times, offered us a ride in their Jeep so we could experience some great areas of Canyonlands National Park that few people get to see.

Canyonlands NP

The dirt road route we followed is in red – Photo credit: BLM

Long Canyon-Shafer Road

The plan was to drive on Potash Road, then turn right on Long Canyon Road and ascend through Pucker Pass.  Their Jeep was the star in this section, as all passengers got out to see it climb through a rough area.


The ladies pose near the first challenge


Pucker Pass

Waiting for Steve to run up the hill to be the spotter (well, actually to take a photo)


I think John was whistling a tune as he navigated big dips in the road – he made it look easy

Once at the top we took a look around:

Long Canyon road

The view of Long Canyon with its fins, and the La Sal mountains in the background

When hanging out with John and Pam, a hike is always included in the plan – and that was fine with us!  Our trek followed along the canyon rim within Dead Horse Point State Park. The park is situated 2.000′ above the Colorado River, with breathtaking views of canyons, mesas, buttes and the river all around.

Dead Horse Point State Park

A fantastic view on a perfect day

The hike along the east and west rims was easy, and we stopped often to enjoy the vistas from every angle:

Dead Horse Point State Park

Pam points to the switchback road we’ll be following down from the mesa

Shafer Road

Another look at Shafter Road

Dead Horse Point State Park

Not a bad spot for our lunch break

Below was a study in geology.  Millions of years ago deposition, erosion, weathering and volcanic activity created this spectacular topography.  Mesas, canyons and buttes were sculpted, and the Colorado River carved its path deep into the ancient rock layers on its way to the sea.

Canyonlands National Park

Spectacular panorama of the Colorado River meandering through Canyonlands

Canyonlands NP

These boys are living on the edge

After the hike, we began our descent on Shafer Road, a series of long and stunning switchbacks:

Shafer Road

Going down a very steep Shafer Road

After a few miles we passed beneath Dead Horse Point State Park, and above the Colorado River.  This road has been used in countless commercials and movies, and it’s easy to see why:


Shafer Road

The arrow points to where we had enjoyed lunch at Dead Horse Point overlook

Goosenecks of the Colorado River

Goosenecks of the Colorado River – we were probably 500′ above the river here

During this drive we couldn’t ascertain exactly where the famous last scene of Thelma and Louise was filmed, but we knew it was nearby.  John and Pam subsequently confirmed the location and drove back with Dave and Sue on another day.  Click here for that story.

As I was busy taking pictures of the surrounding sculptured pinnacles, buttes and tall canyon walls, a small flower begged to be acknowledged.  While taking this picture I heard the Jeep’s horn honk, and I knew it wasn’t John but rather my dear hubby signaling me to get on with it.

Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose


Canyonlands NP

Darth Vader – or a floppy-eared dog – kept a close watch on all travelers

The dirt road passed the evaporation ponds of the Potash plant, an indication that we were nearing paved roads after our scenic desert crossing:


It was a long and enjoyable ride on our guided dirt road tour.  Although they have driven here before, John and Pam were willing to share this beautiful scenery with us that we would otherwise have missed.

Canyonlands National Park

Thank you John and Pam!


Next up:  Our turn to be tour guides!