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The Road Less Traveled From Moab to Telluride

When you think of the ultimate road trip, this drive is what you dream of.  It goes from the arid desert to lush forest as you tick off the miles.  It’s a different way to drive into Telluride, Colorado.  It’s a drive from Moab to Telluride.  It’s 132 miles and takes about 2 and a half hours.  But there are so many incredible views I’d add an extra hour to the drive so you can enjoy the scenery as you go from the red rock and arid land of Moab toward the La Sal Mountain Range, on the Uncampahgre Plateau and into the San Juan Mountains.

As I headed south out of Moab with the temperature around 100° on Highway 191, I saw rocks on the left with “Hole N” the Rock” painted in huge letters.  I’ll admit I stopped.  I didn’t stay long, but I had to check out what this tourist attraction is all about.  It’s a historic 5,000 square foot home with 14 rooms inside the rock, along with a gift shop, general store, trading post and petting zoo.


After a few more miles, I turned left on Highway 46, also called La Sal Junction or La Sal Cutoff and drove through the tiny cow town of La Sal as I headed east heading for the Utah-Colorado line.  As I was stopped in a construction zone waiting for my turn to go, I chatted up the guy hold the stop/slow sign.  He told me it was a hug project to add guard rails and re-pave Highway 46 following the re-opening of Canyonlands Field Airport in Moab.  I followed the road to where 46 changes to 90 at the Utah-Colorado state line.

Shortly after the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado sign,” the road twisted and turned with incredible canyon scenery as it descends into Paradox Valley.  As I was winding my way down the curvy road, a brief rain shower hit.  I rolled down the windows to enjoy the smell of sage after the light rain.  From the forest and scrubland the landscape changed to red sandstone mesas and a massive valley.  Paradox Valley apparently got its names because of the paradoxical flow of the Dolores River, which cuts perpendicularly across the middle of the valley instead flowing down the length of it.

Besides the scenery, the main attraction in Bedrock is the general store, which has been “serving outlaws since 1881.”  It served as store and post office for the local ranching community in the 1800s and then miners in the 1900s.  I got a couple of good chuckles.  First from the sides on the side of the building including one for their Myspace site.  The other laugh was from the bus stop because it reminded me of something straight out of the Flinstone’s Bedrock.  The view across the street was just as intriguing, intoxicating actually, watching the cloud shadows dance along the colorful sandstone mesas in the distance.

I made a right turn onto Highway 141, the Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway, and headed for Naturita.  The tiny town of about 600 sits in the Uncompahgre Valley.  From Naturita to Norwood I enjoyed sweeping views of the ranches on the fertile soil of the high plains in Southwest Colorado.

As you drive Highway 145 from Norwood to turnoff into the box canyon that is home to Telluride, you have the Uncompahgre National Forest on your left and the San Juan National Forest on your right.   “Uncompahgre” is a Ute Indian word used to describe the water in the area such as “dirty water” or “rocks that make water red.”  The landscape quickly changes from wide open ranch land with sage, pinyons, and juniper to a forest filled with aspen groves, ponderosa pines, and mixed conifers.  You make one final turn and head into the box canyon where you follow the San Miguel River with jagged canyon walls and mountain peaks piercing the sky.  Be on the lookout for wildlife.  Bighorn sheep can be seen in the cliffs near Placerville.  Deer are often seen along and crossing Highway 145.  On this trip, traffic stopped in both directions as we watched two does and two fawns cross the highway.  I was one of those cheering from my car as one of the fawns finally jumped the guard rail and scurried into the trees to catch up to mom.  Elk can often been seen on the valley floor as the narrow canyon opens up to a vast valley floor that is home to Telluride.

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