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Driving Utah’s most dangerous roads: What you need to know

Aug 11, 2021, 6:20 AM | Updated: Aug 13, 2021, 2:47 pm
Driving Utah's roads...
FILE - In this May 2013, file photo, mountain bikers near the end of their 75-mile trip as they make the steep climb on the Mineral Bottom Road after riding the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)
(Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Driving Utah’s scary, lonely and deadly roads can possibly make you shriek, OMG! Some of the roads are famous, others are scary, and sometimes they are deadly. 

Driving Utah’s most white knuckle ride

One of Utah’s most dangerous driving roads, the 3-mile-long Moki Dugway Scenic Backway is a stretch of Highway 261, which connects Utah Highway 95 with US Highway 163 in San Juan County. This is where the blacktop turns into a dirt road that drastically switches back and forth down the side of a cliff at an 11% grade, ascending 1,200 feet from the valley floor to Cedar Mesa. Plan on at least 30 minutes from bottom to top.

Carved from the cliff face, Moki Dugway was constructed in 1958 to haul iron ore from Cedar Mesa to Mexican Hat. The speed limit is 5 mph; there are no guardrails; take it slow. The serpentine road offers breath-stealing views of The Valley of the Gods and the San Juan River Canyon.

Take a virtual drive of Moki Dugway here.


Don’t look down

Connecting Canyonlands National Park with Moab, the Shafer Trail Road/Shafer Canyon Road is an 18-mile dirt track into eastern Utah, featuring American Indian petroglyphs and natural stone arches. Originally built to transport ore, you should not attempt to travel this road in severe conditions.

Be careful, no guardrails on this road.

A famous point of the trail is the Thelma & Louise Point, where they filmed the famous scene where the two main characters jumped their car off the edge and down into the canyon. 

Directions: From Moab, head north on Highway 191. Turn left on Potash Road\ Highway 279. Continue south on this road for about 16.5 miles until the pavement ends. and the trailhead begins, according to dangerousroads.


Rural yet deadly

The two-lane stretch of Utah Highway 6 between Spanish Fork and Green River has been called one of the most dangerous highways in America for its narrow curves and long, open stretches of blacktop. The highway is the main connector for Interstates 15 and 70.

This is why this road is so dangerous:

  • High speeds
  • Narrow lanes
  • Busy truck route
  • Head-on crash risk
  • Lack of highway divider

In 2005, a truck carrying 38,000 pounds of explosives rolled and detonated on a deadly curve on Highway 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon, blasting a 70-foot-wide crater in the road and costing $600,000 to repair.


Driving Utah’s roads can be desolate and lonely

Running across the central part of the state, Interstate 70 is called one of the most desolate stretches of highway on the US Interstate system. From Green River to Salina, more than 100 miles, there is not a single gas pump, soda machine or restroom.

I-70 runs east-west from I-15 in Millard County, near historic Cove Fort, to Colorado. The 230-mile drive is a scenic tour across southeastern Utah and reaches a high point of 7,886 feet.

I-70 in Utah is one of the few stretches of roadway that doesn’t pass through any major cities. 

This highway can be a danger to those unfamiliar with driving on desolate roadways, according to dangerousroads.


Scenic drive can turn deadly

US Highway 89 runs about 1,250 miles from Flagstaff, Ariz., to the Canadian border by way of Yellowstone National Park.

From Kanab, US 89 proceeds north passing by Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park. In Utah alone, US 89 has seen 112 fatal crashes during the last decade, according to Geotab.

A stretch running through Logan Canyon is especially deadly.  The Logan River can add to the lethality of the roadway. A man was killed in April when is his truck ended up upside-down in the river.


Learn about the five safe driving behaviors and what you can do to be a better driver at zerofatalities.com.

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Driving Utah’s most dangerous roads: What you need to know