Last weekend, we headed down to the desert for a little bit of a last hurrah before we hunker down for the winter and ski season.
And we were not the only ones with the idea.
It also happened to be fall break for many schools, so the surrounding area around Moab, Utah was very busy for the middle of October.
But that was not an obstacle for us. We were able to find a campsite, and had an impromptu change of plans so that our activities were not centered around heavily trafficked areas like the neighboring National parks.
Last April, my work had a trip planned out, and Tusher Tunnel was one of the items on the list. And for some reason, it has been in the back of my mind all summer.
Because we were staying away from small tourist towns this summer due to COVID, we never made it down to this area (while last year we must have went around 5 times). But we were finally comfortable heading to camp down there, and while we never made it into town, it was still a great opportunity to visit the sites that I had been thinking about since helping plan the work trip that never happened.
And boy, it was the perfect hike for our weekend.
It could not have been more perfect weather. More perfect views. More perfect terrain.
The road turn off is right off Highway 191 about 16 miles from I-70 heading south towards Moab.
The road we took that goes towards Tusher Tunnel is called Mill Canyon Road, and it instantly turns into a dirt road that slowly turns more and more into a 4 x 4 road. Please note that there is also an additional loop that you can take on Mancos Desert Way that is a little more accessible.
If you would like to get straight to the trailhead, I do advise that you have a high clearance 4 x 4 vehicle or a Razor- like rock crawler. This was form of transportation that we saw most on this trail.
However, Nic’s Crosstrek didn’t quite have the ooomf we needed, so we ended up parking about a mile from the physical trailhead, and walked along the road until we reached the well-marked trail signs.
It was a beautiful hike for a fall day because the road is completely exposed in the middle of the desert until you get to the tunnel, so the sun was shining down on us keeping us at a tolerable temperature.
The Tusher Tunnel trail is at the end of a dead end road that is clearly marked.
The small hike (less than .5 miles) takes you up towards some rock cliffs, and then in towards the actual tunnel. It isn’t long enough where you absolutely need headlights because the light at the end of the tunnel can be faintly seen once you enter.
And to be completely honest, it was fun to walk through a couple seconds of darkness. Because at the end of the tunnel, you are able to see a bright white light which eventually turns into an incredible view of wave-like red rock formations. You can walk along the outside of the tunnel to access more cave and shelters created by the beautiful sandstone.
It was the perfect spot for a long peanut butter sandwich and water break, and in total, we hiked about 3.5 miles in total.
This was just a quick stop destination for many side-by-side passengers, but it was honestly the best hike. The road had the softest sand I’ve ever felt, and we even hiked barefoot for most of the time because the sand stayed cool due to the ATVs constantly kicking up the dirt on the road.
We definitely took our time, and the hike in total lasted about 3 hours. I suggest this destination for ATV’s riders and hikers alike.
Where: Tusher Tunnel, Utah, USA
Distance from Salt Lake: 222 miles (~3 hrs 40 min)
Type of hike: small hike through a sandstone tunnel
Trail length: .5 miles from designated trailhead
Permit required: N/A. BLM land, but please stick to roads in order to preserve environment.
Bathrooms at trail head?: No
Popularity: Moderate, mostly side-by-side riders
Your nacforadventurer, and a hiker grateful to feel soft sand and warm sun in October ,