Road Trip Guide: Tackling the Devil's Highway
Drivers who take the wheel on Highway 666 have been known to encounter some pretty strange stuff, including inexplicable phenomena and ghost-like creatures. It’s no wonder this nearly 200-mile stretch of road earned the dubious nicknames, Highway to Hell and Devil’s Highway (not to mention the very bleak numerical designation).
In 2003, state highway and transportation departments from New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah joined to propose a new name for the ominous state route, citing “the stigma of being the mark of the beast” as a reason travelers were refusing to drive along the road, fearing “that the devil controls events along United States route 666.”
The application was quickly accepted, and U.S. Route 666 became U.S. Route 491 that same year.
Even as locals and highway authorities attempt to conceal the road’s notorious reputation, some things haven’t changed. This so-called haunted highway still passes across an incredibly underrated desert landscape that makes it a thrilling, fun road trip — during daylight hours, at least.
Where to find Highway 666
Running from north to south and starting in the city of Monticello, Utah, Highway 666 (or, as it’s now known, U.S. Route 491) continues through Colorado to Gallup, New Mexico.
A sinister reputation
Even after the highway shed its demonic name, paranormal rumors persist. Tourists have reported ghost encounters —faceless hitchhikers, mystical skinwalkers –– and evil specters. A black sedan is rumored to force drivers off the road just after sundown, while a malicious pack of Hellhounds is said to attack drivers.
This, along with an unusually high number of accidents and fatalities, is part of what prompted officials to rename the highway. Of course, many believe that new signage hasn’t successfully warded off the things that go bump in the night. Many drivers are still convinced that this road might be cursed, and so they take alternate routes, leaving U.S. Route 491 particularly deserted.
Where to stop
There’s plenty to do and see during a road trip on this multi-state highway. Toward the beginning of your trip, you’ll pass Utah’s Abajo Mountains, more commonly known as the Blue Mountains. These snow-capped peaks reach over 11,000 feet in elevation and overlook the Colorado River Gorge and Colorado’s Montezuma Valley.
When you arrive in Colorado, set your sights on Mesa Verde National Park, which is home to Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Of particular note is Cliff Palace, which was built over 700 years ago and is the largest cliff dwelling in the entire park.
While Mesa Verde National Park is open year-round, certain areas may be closed off depending on the season, so be sure to research in advance which sites are available during your trip.
Stop in Cortez, Colorado to explore Hovenweep National Park, which is home to a handful of prehistoric villages built between 1200 and 1300 A.D. Spend the night out here, in the sweeping desert, for some of the most spectacular, unpolluted night skies.
Good to know
Keep in mind that you are driving in desert-like conditions throughout most of the trip, so be sure to pack cautionary items like extra food and water. And keep a keen eye on your gas tank as well. You can easily drive for 100 miles without passing a single gas station, so plan accordingly.