Spanning a route of more than 120 miles, Utah's Byway 12 Scenic Byway travels through some of the most diverse and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. Included in this natural showcase is the newly created 1.7 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Scenic Byway 12 is one of two paved highways in the monument.
Rated among the top ten Scenic Byways in America by Car and Driver magazine,
Scenic Byway 12 is a unique route well worth traveling. It winds through slickrock canyons, red rock cliffs, pine and aspen forests, alpine mountains, national parks, state parks, a national monument, and quaint rural towns.
Scenic Byway 12 travels from west to east through Garfield County, the home of three national parks, three state parks, a national recreation area, and the nation's newest national monument. Byway 12 Scenic Byway begins at U.S. Highway 89, seven miles south of the city of Panguitch and eight miles north of the town of Hatch. From the junction, the byway quickly bisects the beautiful red rock formations of Dixie National Forest's Red Canyon. A Forest Service campground, visitor center and hiking trails are in the canyon. The route continues eastward, crossing the top of the Paunsaugunt Plateau through the northern section of Bryce Canyon National Park. The main section of the Park, with campgrounds, Visitor Center, overlooks and hiking trails, is just a short drive from Byway 12.
Continuing to the east, the Scenic Byway passes through a combination of private and public lands including the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Spectacular views along Byway 12 include Powell Point and rock formations like the Blues. Stone and mud food storage structures called granaries can also be seen along the route.
Travelers pass through the rural communities of Tropic, Cannonville, Henrieville and Escalante. Kodachrome Basin State Park and Grosvenor Arch in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are short drives from Byway 12. Escalante State Park is well worth visiting. Visitor centers and businesses located along Byway 12 have additional information about the area.
From Escalante, the road turns north winding through vast expanses of slickrock country including the Escalante Canyons and other popular desert canyon hiking areas on the way to Boulder, Utah. Along the way, travelers are rewarded with views of the Escalante River, Calf Creek Canyon, the Hogsback - where Byway 12 crosses a narrow ridge with steep cliffs on either side and magnificent views of the surrounding slickrock canyon country - and Boulder Mountain. Many of these areas are located inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Other areas inside the monument can be accessed via Scenic Backways that branch from Byway 12.
The Hole-in-the-Rock Road and the Burr Trail are two of these backways that provide opportunities for hiking, camping or sight-seeing. Another optional side trip from Scenic Byway 12 is the spectacular Hell's Backbone in the Dixie National Forest.
At Boulder, visitors can get a firsthand look at life in a prehistoric Native American village at Anasazi Indian Village State Park. North from Boulder, Byway 12 crosses the eastern flank of Boulder Mountain with spectacular views of Capitol Reef National Park, Boulder Top, the Henry Mountains, Circle Cliffs, and Navajo Mountain on the far side of Lake Powell. On a clear day (and there are lots of them), travelers can see more than 100 miles into Colorado and Arizona.
Hiking trails, campgrounds and side roads along the way provide numerous opportunities to further explore the area. Byway 12 ends at its northernmost point where it joins Highway 24. Travelers can take the short drive east along Highway 24 to Capitol Reef National Park, thus adding to the Byway 12 experience.
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Features Along Scenic Byway 12
1. Red Canyon
2. Tropic Reservoir / East Fork of the Sevier River
3. Bryce Canyon National Park
4. Pine Lake / Powell Point
5. Kodachrome Basin State Park
6. Griffin Top
7. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
8. Smokey Mountain Road*
9. Posey Lake
10. Hell's Backbone / Box Death Hollow Wilderness Area
11. Hole-in-the-Rock / Devil's Rock Garden*
12. Calf Creek Recreation Area / Escalante Canyons*
13. Burr Trail*
14. Anasazi Indian Village State Park
15. Boulder Mountain
16. Capitol Reef National Park
*Part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
As you travel Byway 12 Scenic Byway, take time to explore the designated scenic backways. A backway is a paved or dirt road that reaches less traveled but breathtaking areas. Check with the nearest visitor center or any local business for road and weather conditions. Be sure to have plenty of gasoline, food and water as there are usually no facilities along these beautiful corridors.
East Fork of the Sevier Scenic Backway
Double and single lane gravel road / passenger cars / fair weather only. Excellent wildlife viewing opportunities for seeing pronghorn antelope, deer, prairie dogs and elk can be found. Features: East Fork of the Sevier River, Tropic Reservoir, Great Western Trail, Dixie National Forest and King Creek Campground. Distance 17 miles one way (1-1/2 hours).
Cottonwood Canyon Road Scenic Backway*
Graded dry-weather road. Do not travel this route if storms are threatening. A photographer's dream. Features: Kodachrome Basin State Park (camping and picnicking facilities), Grosvenor Arch, Cockscomb, Paria River and views of Bryce Canyon National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Table Cliffs Plateau. Paved to Kodachrome State Park, dirt after. Distance 49 miles (2 hours).
Griffin Top Scenic Backway
Narrow single lane dirt and gravel road (closed in winter) / passenger cars. This 32-mile gravel road crosses the Table Cliffs Plateau on the Dixie National Forest. Features: secluded lakes, excellent wildlife viewing, and vistas from the high plateau. The road is wonderful for snowmobiling in the winter. Distance 32 miles (1 hour).
Smokey Mountain Scenic Backway*
Dirt and gravel / impassable in bad weather / high clearance vehicles. This rugged corridor between Byway 12 and Highway 89 requires a high clearance vehicle. Spectacular views of Fifty Mile Mountain, Powell Point, desert slickrock and Lake Powell can be seen while traveling this backway. Distance 78 miles (5 hours).
Posey Lake Scenic Backway
Single lane dirt and gravel road (closed in winter). Camping, fishing, hiking, hunting and mountain biking opportunities abound on the road through the Dixie National Forest. This backway provides access to Posey Lake and Posey Lake Campground with beautiful scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities. The backway starts in Escalante and ends on Highway 24 at Bicknell. Distance 40 miles (1 hour).
Hole-in-the-Rock Scenic Backway*
Gravel and graded dirt road / passenger cars in good weather; 4-wheel drive recommended. Step back in time and travel the route that Mormon pioneers took on their historic journey to the San Juan country. Access is provided to Devil's Rock Garden, Dance Hall Rock, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Hole-in-the-Rock and several desert hiking trail heads. Last five miles requires a high clearance vehicle. Distance 56 miles one way (6 hours round trip).
Burr Trail Scenic Backway*
Hard surfaced, graded dirt and gravel road / passenger car in good weather; 4-wheel drive recommended. Beautiful scenery can be found around every turn! Features access to Deer Creek Recreation Site, Long Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Lake Powell and Bullfrog Marina. Impassable when wet. Distance 66 miles (4-1/2 hours).
Hell's Backbone Road
Gravel and dirt road (closed in winter) / high clearance vehicles recommended. Although this is not a designated scenic backway, Hell's Backbone is one of the most dramatic roads in the world. The road makes a loop connecting Escalante with Byway 12, three miles west of Boulder. From the Posey Lake Scenic Backway, Hell's Backbone heads east, passes Blue Spruce Campground and circles the Box Death Hollow Wilderness Area. Hell's Backbone Bridge is an engineering feat. Distance 44 miles (1-1/2 hours).
Notom Road Scenic Backway
Dry weather road (open all year) / high clearance vehicles recommended. Notom Road parallels the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef National Park. It skirts the eastern section of Capitol Reef between Hwy 24 and the Burr Trail. Views of the Henry Mountains and Capitol Reef are among the highlights. Impassable when wet. Distance 29 miles (2 hours).
Bull Mountain Road Scenic Backway
Single lane dry weather road / high clearance vehicles required. Vistas of the Colorado Plateau can be seen along the Bull Mountain Road. It climbs from the desert floor to 10,500 feet as it crosses the Henry Mountains. Splendid scenery includes beautiful canyons, red cliffs, forests and mountains. Impassable in winter and when wet. Distance 68 miles (6 to 7 hours).
Some of the Scenic Backways are gateways to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Stop at the Interagency Office in Escalante for information and topographic maps of the area. When driving in the back country, please stay on the roads to avoid damaging the environment.
Indicates the road is inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument