- The Manti-La Sal National Forest punctuates the scenic wonders of southeastern Utah. The three separate mountain blocks provide islands of green rising above the desert.
Copyright: Brad Weiss-USDA Forest Service
Manti-La Sal National Forest
Just west of Monticello in southeastern Utah, the Abajo Mountains, locally known as the Blue Mountains, rise 11,360 feet above sea level. Pleateaus such as Elk Ridge and associated sandstone canyons such as Dark Canyon lie to the west of the Abajos. This part of the Forest is rich in human history and scenic beauty.
Straddling the Utah-Colorado border near Moab, the La Sal Mountains rise 12,721 feet above sea level. This part of the Forest provides islands of climatic relief to the desert of the Colorado River Plateau. Narrow Forest roads lead travelers to the high mountain passes, and into narrow canyons where the crystalline rock structure of the peaks is exposed for all to see or into Mill Creek where Oowah Lake sits as a small jewel amid spruce trees.
The Wasatch Plateau, locally called the Manti Top or Manti Mountains, rises to 11,000 feet above sea level in central Utah. This part of the Forest is bounded on the east by shear escarpment rising 1,000 to 2,000 feet above Castle Valley, and on the west by steep slopes into the Sanpete Valley. The broad rolling ridges of the plateau have forest cover varying from deep green conifers to delicate light stemmed aspen separated by wild meadows where flowers bloom from snow melt until fall.
The Manti-La Sal National Forest also the includes the Sanpitch Mountains or the Gunnison Plateau, between the Wasatch Front on the west and the upper Sanpete Valley to the east. Both the western and eastern sides of Sanpitch Mountains form steep cliffs flanking a central plateau. Maple Canyon on the along the eastern front is a narrow canyon of vertical, white conglomerate. Trails and campground facilities make this an interesting location for geology, rock climbing, and sightseeing.
On the northern division of the forest, the Huntington Canyon Scenic Byway and Eccles Canyon Scenic Byway are scenic drives. The Utah Adventure Highway across the Manti-La Sal National Forest is also known as Skyline Drive. In the southern division of the forest, travel the La Sal Scenic backway beginning from US Highway 191 six miles south of Moab. Elk Ridge road is a scenic backway beginning about 25 miles west of Blanding at the junction of U-95 and U-275, which accesses Natural Bridges National Monument. The Abajo Loop runs north from Blanding around Abajo Peak in the Manti-La Sal National Forest and east to Monticello.
The Forest contains two National Recreation Trails: The Left Fork of Huntington Canyon Trail and the Fish Creek Trail. The 6-mile Left Fork trail is open to foot and horse travel only and provides access to some quality fly fishing opportunities. The 10-mile Fish Creek Trail is open to foot, horse and bicycle travel. Trails in Dark Canyon Wilderness are open to foot and horse travel only.
The Dark Canyon Wilderness Area of the Monticello Ranger District and the adjacent Dark Canyon Primitive Area administered by the Bureau of Land Management are a unique and colorful canyon system in Southeastern Utah.
Recreation - Camping is available in more than 25 developed campgrounds as well as in more remote locations. Hundreds of miles of trails are found in the Manti-La Sal National Forest - from open grassy slopes to deep spruce/fir groves.
Beautiful mountain lakes, reservoirs, and mountain streams offer trout fishing. Huntington Creek is noted as one of the premiere fly fishing streams in the state. Joe's Valley on the Ferron/Price Ranger District, is a 1200 acre reservoir which offers fishing for splake as well as motor boating opportunities.
Winter in the mountains provides snow for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
Climate - Because of Utah's mid-continent location, it experiences wide temperature variations between seasons. Climates in Utah also vary greatly with elevation.
During winter and spring, much of the precipitation comes in the form of snow, with a deep snowpack accumulating in many of the high elevations. By late spring, temperatures warm up in the canyon country and low elevations, while the mountain snowpack begins to melt. The high mountain roads and trails are not normally free of snow until mid to late June. Summer brings warm temperatures to most areas, with hot temperatures in the canyon country. Afternoon thunderstorms become common by June and can be expected into September. With these storms, flash flooding is a possible hazard in gullies and narrow canyons.
The Manti-La Sal lies in central and southeastern Utah. It contains over a million acres in three mountain blocks near the towns of Price, Moab and Monticello. The southern sections are located near Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and Natural Bridges National Monument.