Just got back from Utah for a joint birthday party at my folks’ house for my sister and me.  It was her 50th and my 42nd – woohoo!  It was a blast seeing everybody, even though it seems like just the other day we were all celebrating Christmas together!   I took the “scenic” drive between Albuquerque and their house, which is an hour longer than the “fast” way, but far – FAR more scenic.

The scenic part really doesn’t kick in until you get out of NM, though, so there’s still a few hours of “the uglies” while you drive from ABQ to Cortez Colorado. The worst part being between Cuba, NM and Cortez, CO.  From Cortez you head to Monticello, UT, then instead of heading to Moab and I-70 (the “fast way”), you head South to Blanding, UT and then West to Hanksville, UT – Simply AMAZING scenery here, then from Hanksville, through Capitol Reef Natl. Park to Loa UT (again incredible views on this stretch of road), then on to Richfield, UT, which is near to where my folks reside.  On the way home I changed the route just a bit, at Blanding, UT I went South to Montezuma, UT and then East to Four Corners and then on to Shiprock, NM and back home to ABQ.

Someday I’d like to make the following loop in both directions: Loop .  I’ve done the Page, AZ to Richfield leg going North, but never the other way, and I’ve done the Richfield to Mexican Hat in both directions.  Tough to say which direction offers better views, I think I tend to favor the North-Western travel better, but either way offers awesome views – Dunno that you’d be able to make the full loop in a day, plus a couple of those roads are dirt and wouldn’t be passable in inclement weather, but they take you over some awesome country, including right over “slot canyons” and amazing views of Monument Valley.  Plus generous helpings of other uniquely Utah vistas. I drive a 2WD T100 pickup, I wouldn’t take a car over a couple of those roads, esp. the dirt road that runs through the Escalante Wilderness Area (half of the A-B leg of the trip).  The 261 between Mexican Hat and Hanksville is also dirt, but it’s much better maintained than that other road – and has an amazing view over monument valley after you get to the top of a very steep (scary) mesa. I’ve driven most of those roadways several times and I still catch myself saying “Wow” aloud to myself as I drive along. If you’ve got “Google Earth,” some folks have uploaded some awesome pics along this route.

Three towns that would make good “base-camps” for those areas for extended forays into the region would be Page, AZ, Richfield, UT, and Blanding Ut. Most of the other towns along there are too small to offer any kind of accommodations or restaurants or other amenities. Anyways, just a thought.  One of these days I’ll actually make the loop instead of just traversing one side or the other…