New road may end ‘best kept secret’ tag for Moonshine Arch near Vernal

(Photo courtesy of Dinoland Travel Bureau) Moonshine Arch near Vernal is called one of eastern Utah's best-kept secrets. But the Utah Transportation Commission has approved a road project that may help improve access and popularity.

Tourism officials call the picturesque Moonshine Arch near Vernal one of eastern Utah’s “best kept secrets.” The Utah Transportation Commission on Friday approved a project that may change that.

It gave an OK to spend $1.5 million to relocate an access road to the trailhead to the arch, about 8 miles north of Vernal off of U.S. 191. It will also provide better signage.

“Uintah County is improving the Moonshine Arch trailhead and installing wayfinding signs, which will increase the number of visitors using the access road,” Utah Department of Transportation documents said.

UDOT says that a current unpaved road to the arch intersects U.S. 191 at a dangerous spot on a curve at a high angle with limited views. The new junction will be at a site with clear views from all directions, have room for a left-turn lane, will add signs and will widen the shoulder to allow safer right turns.

The access to the current road “under the best of situations isn’t very good,” said transportation commission member Kevin Van Tassell, a former state senator from Vernal. “This arch has more and more visitation. Getting away from that curve will be a big plus for safety."

Social media posts by visitors have often complained that finding the arch is confusing, but UDOT says the road and signage improvements should help solve that.

Moonshine Arch is 85 feet long and 40 feet above the ground. The sandstone arch is revealed to hikers as they make a last turn on a trail. Tourism officials advertise that the arch’s window makes a perfect frame for photos of Steinaker Reservoir in the distance.

Also behind the arch are sandstone caverns, which visitors may explore or use as shady rest stop.