Driving from Mesa Verde to Moab

This post may contain a few affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase through them I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

So you’ve been to Mesa Verde, Colorado, and want to make the drive up to Moab, where Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are located(or vise versa and are driving down to Mesa Verde from Moab). What’s to see on this 2 hour drive? Any good places to stop at?

Cortez, Coloardo

Well you first start out in a little town of Cortez, just outside Mesa Verde National Park. Cortez has lots of places to stay overnight for better rates if you’re touring the park for several days (inside the park there’s only Far View Lodge and camping to choose from), and there are plenty of places to eat and shop around at right in town.

Places to eat in Cortez, CO

Lots of good places to eat, and check out this cool art on the wall!

The whole area around Cortez and Mesa Verde is full of tons of archaeological sites, as I mentioned in the side trips section of my post Four Corners to Mesa Verde. I won’t go over them all again here, but one place to note of since you’ll be driving past it is Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The Anasazi Heritage Center, north of Cortez on highway 184 is the visitor’s center for the monument, so it’s a good idea to stop here to get more info if you plan to check it out.


Cortez, CO

Leaving the town of Cortez, heading Northwest towards Utah.


Continuing on Route 491 You’ll be driving through a lot of southwest style farmlands(pinto beans being a major crop here). Keep an eye out for some farm animals like this pack of Bison we saw, just relaxing in the field. Looks like cowboy country!



I love seeing wild–er even farm animals when driving from place to place! Check out these bison!


Interesting Fact: Route 491 used to be known as US Route 666. The number was accurate as it was the 6th US highway off of the famous Route 66. The route infamously became known as the “Devil’s Highway”, and a lot of superstition and legends followed, along with signs being stolen left and right. Due to all these issues it was eventually renamed in all the 4 corner states it went through.





Monticello, Utah

The next small town you’ll be passing by is where Route 491 comes to an end, in Monticello, Utah. If that sounds familiar to you as the name of the famous estate of Thomas Jefferson, you’d be correct as the Mormon pioneers named it after exactly that.
Monticello used to be a boom town of uranium and vanadium mining back in the 1950’s, which lasted for around 10 years till they were permanently closed and later cleaned up.

Just west of the town are the Abajo Mountains, or Blue Mountains as they are known locally.


Monticello, Abajo Mountains

The town of Monticello coming up and the Abajo Mountains towering over.


Canyonlands, Needles District

Continuing north from Monticello, you’ll come across the turn off for a section of Canyonlands National Park known as the Needles District. I unfortunately didn’t get to visit this section yet, but from what I’ve heard it’s very beautiful and definitely worth it if you have extra time. You’d best to plan a whole day, or at least half of one to see it though as it’s a 40 minute drive off the highway just to get to the visitor’s center!


Canyonlands Needles District would be off to the left of the road as you’re driving North.


Wilson’s Arch and other Rock Formations

So if you’re heading towards Moab, you’re probably going to be visiting Arches National Park, and a little taste of that is just off the side of the highway on your right called Wilson’s Arch. This isn’t the only unique rock formation however. All along the route there are big rock shapes of all kinds in this beautiful landscape!


Wilson's arch

This is Wilson’s Arch. Just off the side of the road.


Rock Formations in Utah

There were so many neat looking rock formations like this all over!


This one looks like an alligator from the side!


Is that a little hole in the rock? I think so!


That little hole in the rock from the picture above is at the base of this monster!



Modern Cave Dwellings

Just before you get to the town of Moab, you’ll see a big huge red rock with white lettering emblazoned across the front, “Hole N”The Rock”. You can’t miss it. Of course, if you’re like me and was like “what is that?!” and drove on by you might, but if you’ve got a bit of time, stop there for a bit. It’s worth checking out. Basically it’s a 5,000 sq. foot house built into that huge rock! Totally out of the Flintstones! Apparently that’s not too uncommon in these parts however, as there are modern cave dwellings around here that people actually do build their houses and live in!
Hole N”The Rock is one that you can actually go inside of and visit however. They also have a gift shop, café, and petting zoo.


Hole N The Rock

Hole N”The Rock Cave Dwelling up ahead. You can go inside and look around at what it would be like to live in a real cave dwelling!


Hole N The Rock, Moab, Utah

The La Sal Mountains are a beautiful backdrop to Moab


Moab, Utah

Do you like extreme sports? ATV’s, dirt bikes, mountain bikes…any kind of bikes? Then you’ll love Moab. You can’t drive down the road without seeing at least 10 ATV’s getting hauled in Jeeps to the nearest track. There’s also white water rafting, rock climbing, base jumping, and a number of other sports. It used to be known as the “Uranium Capitol of the World”, due to to all the mining that has since closed. Now I think it’s safe to say it’s one of, if not the “Adventure Capitol of the World”.

Of course one of the biggest attractions to Moab, and why I came here in the first place, were the two big National Parks: Arches and Canyonlands. If you have enough time, Dead Horse Point State Park, right next to Canyonlands is also a must see!


Moab Utah

Moab, Utah. A small town that fills with tourists and adventure seekers. It’s got plenty of places to eat and stay-but book early, certain times of the year it fills up quick!


Share this article!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.