La Sal Mountains

La Sal Mountains

Know Before You Go: Shaka Guide's La Sal Mountain Loop


For years these mountains were home to ranchers, miners, and missionaries.

Now, there are still a few ranchers but the La Sal mountains are the home of the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Visitors come from all over to experience:

  • the quiet solitude
  • remote hiking trails
  • excellent trout fishing
  • beautiful scenic vistas, and much more

The La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Backway is a special, family-friendly journey into high alpine mountain forests and down into classic red rock country along the famous Colorado River. 

la sal mountain loop tour map

Start Planning

This tour should take 3 to 5 hours to complete. If all you do is drive, you can be done in as little as 2.5 hours.

But we recommend getting out at each of the tour stops and even getting onto a few of the trails. 

  • This tour begins six miles south of Moab on Highway 191. The tour ends just north of Moab near the Colorado River. 
  • The La Sal Mountain Loop Road ascends nearly 5,500 feet up the mountains into alpine forest and temperatures can drop by as much as 30° Fahrenheit - pack layers!
  • The tour route is suitable for two-wheel-drive vehicles but optional side-trips may require high clearance four-wheel-drive.
  • There’s a variety of hikes on the tour. Some are forested with lots of shade, other hikes are in desert conditions with no shade at all - check out our itinerary for more information. 
  • Once the tour starts, access to water will be limited, so make sure you pack some. 
  • There are a few restaurant options toward the end of the tour.
  • For any film lovers, the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage is located on this tour and includes a collection of movie props and the history of film in the area. 
  • Beware of Dinosaurs! Bull Canyon Overlook features many theropod dinosaur footprints that kids of all ages will enjoy. But be careful, the footprints go all the way to a sudden drop-off and there are no guardrails. 

What to Expect

mountain view in la salShutterstock Image

To Spend 3-5 Hours Exploring

If all you’re doing is driving, the full tour can be done in as little as 2.5 hours.

An average tour on the loop should take you 3-5 hours if you make frequent stops and enjoy a few of the shorter hikes.

Longer or additional hikes will extend the tour even further.

Feel free to participate in as few or as many stops as you like or as your time permits. 

To Be Active

While on the Shaka Guide tour of the La Sal Mountain Loop, you’ll have the opportunity to hike 16 different trails inside the park.

Doing them all in one day isn’t recommended, or even possible, so we’ll suggest four of the shorter hikes and let you decide which ones fit your schedule and abilities.

There will also be plenty of recommended stops for viewpoints and photo opportunities, so be prepared to get out of the car often.

That said, this tour can also be done as a casual driving tour. Stay in your vehicle, enjoy the stories, and let Shake Guide get you there and back again. 

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To Try Local Goodies

An adventure like the La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Backway can work up an appetite!

It’s a good thing there are so many great restaurants in nearby Moab.

Don’t forget to check out the highlights section of the app for some recommendations.

Or you can plan ahead and eat at the Sorrel River Ranch or Red Cliffs Lodge, both of which you’ll pass on the tour. 

To Learn

Shaka Guide’s La Sal Mountain Loop Tour covers the geological and human histories of the area.

You’ll learn all about the uplift of the Colorado Plateau, how the La Sal Mountains were formed, and how they got that name.

You’ll also learn about the original inhabitants, the explorers and prospectors who came through, and the creation of the Manti-La Sal National Forest.


Warner LakeShutterstock Image

Wondering how much money to budget for your tour of the La Sal Mountain Loop? Shaka Guide is here to help!

Outside of either stopping for a bite to eat or bringing snacks or a picnic meal along with you, there isn’t much opportunity to spend money on the tour.

That said, if you plan ahead, there are several campgrounds along the route you can pay to stay at.

There are also river activities like rafting along the Colorado River.

But if all you want to do is take a scenic drive and stop at a few dramatic overlooks, the only budgeting you’ll need to worry about is budgeting your time. 

If you need more information on budgeting for your entire trip to Moab, including travel and lodging, check out this article here. 

Safety Information

valley overlookShutterstock Image

  • Hiking Safety: Bring water & hike in groups, stay away from ledges
  • Driving Safety: Follow posted speed limits, stick to roads rated for your vehicle, and be prepared for switchbacks and tight turns if taking backcountry roads.
  • Since most of the La Sal Mountain Loop is in elevated locations, there is little risk of flash flooding. However, if you are caught in a thunderstorm, there is no safe place outdoors from lighting. Return to your car if possible and stay away from ledges. 
  • Backcountry Safety: if you deviate from the tour onto backcountry roads, you are responsible for your own safety and may have to self-rescue. Water sources are rare and unreliable.

Start Packing!

Here’s our packing list. What you take depends on what you plan to do on the tour.

  • Sneakers
  • Hiking Clothes
  • Warm Jacket And Layers (it gets chilly in the mountains)
  • Water Bottle
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses and/or hat
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Snacks
  • Cash
  • Car charger *Very Important*
  • Phone Mount
  • First Aid Kit

Leave No Trace

hiker with blue jacket walking bringing his trash with him

When you visit National lands, like the Manti-La Sal National Forest, you’ll eventually come across the phrase “leave no trace.” It is important to leave an area exactly as you found it.

We can enjoy the La Sal Mountains because of efforts to preserve its natural beauty so let’s do our part.

At Shaka Guide, we promote ethical and responsible tourism.

Please, pick up your trash, respect plant and animal life, and keep yourself safe, too.

Leave no trace of your visit behind so future generations can continue to enjoy our wonderful National Parks.

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan check out our La Sal Mountain Loop Itinerary.

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