Summer in the Abajo Mountains
The Abajo Mountains offer many summer recreational opportunities, and provide a welcome relief from the desert heat. The range is located in the Manti-La Sal National Forest with the highest point being Abajo Peak at 11,360ft (yes, you can hike to the top!).
Hart’s Draw Road gives access to a spectacular overlook and several small fishing lakes. The Abajo Loop Scenic Byway follows the same route as Hart’s Draw Road but then turns south ending in Blanding. The drive is beautiful going from desert floor and red rock canyons to steep mountains over 10,000ft high, with overlooks and panoramic views.
There are miles of scenic trails great for exploring whether on horse, 4×4, hiking, or mountain biking.
The Abajo mountain bike trails (great for hiking as well) are higher in elevation than the trails in Moab and are wonderful for those seeking some quiet, epic riding without the crowds. Mixed with both single track and double track, the trails ride through aspen, scrub oak, and open meadows.
There are four forest service campgrounds in the Abajo Mountain: Buckboard, Dalton Springs, Devils Canyon, and Nizhoni. The campgrounds are usually quiet and a bit higher in elevation so are cooler in the summer months. $10/night. All are reservable at recreation.gov.
The Monticello Visitor Center is a great source of information, current weather and road conditions, and maps to help you plan your adventure. 435-587-2271, monticelloutah.org.
Abajo Foothills Trail System
This non-motorized trail system in Monticello is perfect for a mountain bike ride, hike, walk, or winter snowshoe trek. The 16 sections, totaling approximately 15 miles of trails, are primarily beginner with some intermediate sections. One riding option has you crossing US Hwy 191, so be careful. The trails all connect allowing you to create a ride or hike as long or short as you like.
The Lariat Trail is a nice loop around Lloyd’s Lake. There’s a parking lot with restrooms for an easy outing.
Make sure to pick up a map at the Monticello Visitor Center.
The abajos in the winter
Winter in the Abajos offers skiers a wealth of recreational opportunities such as Nordic skiing, backcountry skiing, snowshowing, winter hut rentals, fat biking, and snowmobling. The Monticello Winter Trails offer about seven miles of trails groomed for both skate and classic skiing.
A lesser known fact about the Abajos is that it was once home to a ski area serviced by a lift. The lift is now gone, but the runs are still there serving as a few good backcountry ski routes.
Note: Avalanches are a big risk in the backcountry. Always go prepared and check the current conditions at utahavalanchecenter.org/forecast/abajos.