La Sal Loop Road – From Spanish Valley:
In the heart of the majestic Canyonlands and bordering delicate Arches National Park, all one needs to do is look east to the highest peaks in San Juan County for unparalleled and spectacular views of God’s Country! The La Sal mountain range stands proudly above the beautiful red slick rock that rises from the high desert and borders the initial segment of our climb. With multiple peaks of the La Sal Mountains (second highest mountain range in Utah) framing the sky, Mt. Peal rises up as the grandest at just shy of 13,000’. The paved road we ascend tops out at 7,900’, although there are several dirt trails around the range that will get you up to the timber line of about 10,500’.
Starting from just shy of 4,800ft in Spanish Valley (@ E Mt Peale Dr), this HC categorized climb will send you to slightly below 8,000ft in just over 12 miles, gaining about 250’ per mile, on average. Grades of 10-15% are frequent and present themselves in the midst of a few switchbacks on the way up - It’s not called “The Big Nasty” for nothing! If you have the time, be sure to stop on the great horseshoe bend (mile 7) for an stunning view of the valley below (Photo). The summit is at the intersection of La Sal Loop and Geysers Roads (Geysers Road is a dirt road which takes us up over 10,000’ to the East side of the La Sal Mountain Range).
La Sal Loop Road Out and Back from Spanish Valley
As with the Out-and-Back on the Castle Valley side, the Spanish Valley Out-and-Back is a must-do. After summiting from Spanish Valley continue down 1.5 miles to the Mill Creek Hydro Crag area (photos and map at the bottom of this page) at around mile 16. Here, we are in a fascinating and beautiful glen that is a paradise to rock climbers. Bring plenty of water and provisions because there are none along this route (caution - it is not advisable to do this route without SAG support during the summer).
An exceptional organized event that includes the La Sal Loop Road (Castle Valley) climb is the Moab Gran Fondo, which is held in the first Saturday in May each year (Moab Gran Fondo), usually attracting in the range of 500 or so riders. This 65 mile course starts in Moab features the Castle Valley Route summarized above, but instead of an out-and-back, this route is the full “loop.” (the route is roughly outline here - Map). The official website summarizes the ride as follows:
“The La Sal Mountain Loop Road features an amazing variety of canyon country scenery. The 65-mile long route follows the Colorado River for a while, then it heads to the La Sal Mountains through beautiful Castle Valley. The route through La Sals provides incredible views of the 12,000+ foot peaks and the red rock valleys far below. Finishing the loop takes one back to Moab via Spanish Valley Drive.”