Rev your engines and get ready for a road trip that will rival your past vacations. With staycations becoming popular this year, it’s important to safely travel to your destination and enjoyably spend time in awe of the area you are traveling through.
Find excitement by hiking through the area and seeing the popular sites, as well as on the open roads of Bryce Canyon Country. This year, travel to avoid the crowds and see attractions along the major highway routes to see places in both Bryce and Beyond that in-and-of-themselves are bucket-list items worth the drive.
Utah’s Patchwork Parkway — Hwy 143
Starting from the west side of Bryce Canyon Country, Utah’s Patchwork Parkway is Highway 143 — a 55-mile path between Panguitch and Parowan, Utah. Historically, this route was used by Native Americans for migration and hunting and gathering grounds in the winter and summer months. Later, it was used by the early pioneers who walked through deep snow to avoid starvation. The pioneers used quilts to cover the ground and prevent their wagon wheels from sinking in winter’s white blanket. As you drive, you’ll pass through mountains, plateaus, and meadows, as well as pass by canyons and lakes. Leading us to our first stop — Panguitch Lake.
Known for some of the best trout fishing in the state, Panguitch Lake is a year-round destination along Scenic Byway 143. Named after a Paiute word for “big fish,” you can take a boat on the lake to catch fish or swim and float the day away. Horseback ride through the surrounding forests or hike and ATV encompassing trails for an in-depth view of the area as you explore Mammoth Cave, Cascade Falls and other scenic mountainscapes. Use Panguitch as a basecamp for adventure with many lodging options and opportunities for local, unique dining experiences.
Utah’s Heritage Highway 89
At Panguitch, Highway 143 connects to Utah’s Heritage Highway 89. Full of culture and history, a portion of this 500-mile scenic byway runs through communities in Bryce Canyon Country that were home to many groups of people. Because of one group, the pioneers, this area was named the Headwaters section in the National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area. Additionally, the highway leads you to the gateways of multiple national parks, monuments, state parks and recreational areas along the way. As you get closer to the junction of HWY-89 and HWY-12, you’ll start to see the famous, iconic red-rock views out your car window. This is Red Canyon.
Part of Dixie National Forest, Red Canyon is identical to Bryce Canyon National Park, although not as large. Many visitors will come to the junction purely for the photo opportunity the red canyon arch offers and the unique opportunity to drive through when traveling to other attractions in the area. In the summer, Red Canyon is a wonderful destination for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, while in the winter it is ideal for activities including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding.
National Scenic Byway 12 — An All-American Road
Approach the Red Canyon arch, you’ve hit the junction of HWY 89 and HWY 12. Scenic Byway 12 extends 124 miles across the United States and has been designated a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road by the Federal Highway Administration. All-American roads have one-of-a-kind features so exceptional that they qualify as a destination “unto themselves.” Traveling through the heart of Bryce Canyon Country, this road is the ideal spot to see everything Bryce and Beyond on your Southern Utah road trip.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is a stunning sight along Scenic Byway 12. Drive through or stop and fall in love with the fiery colors and rock formations that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. Look out over the amphitheater and see spectacular hoodoo-filled landscapes forming tower-like spires and castle-like turrets. The majesty of this scene made by wind and water is one that outdoor enthusiasts admire because of the hiking and adventure found within and around its canyon walls.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Another stop along the All-American Road is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There are a multitude of things to do to experience the historic remnants and rock formations that are showcased here. For example, fossils have been uncovered in the area leading back to dinosaur eras, as well as remnants from various Native American communities. Slot Canyons are scattered throughout the region, providing travelers with a unique opportunity to scramble, climb, rappel and hike through these narrow canyon paths. During certain times of day, light reflects and casts shadows for distinctive and memorable photo moments.
Anasazi State Park Museum
As Scenic Byway 12 leads north toward Capitol Reef National Park, you’ll drive through Boulder, Utah where you can learn about Native American history at the Anasazi State Park Museum to view a partially excavated prehistoric village. Home to what once was the largest Puebloan communities of 200 people west of the Colorado River, Archeologists believe The Anasazi State Park site was occupied from A.D. 1050 to A.D. 1200. Artifacts of pottery, arrowheads and more can be viewed. Outside the museum, stay for a picnic lunch before traveling further. Create family memories this summer on a road trip through Bryce Canyon Country in Southern Utah. The Scenic Byways and natural wonders will create multiple stops on your journey to stretch your legs and explore bucket-list-worthy areas that will only make you want to come back and scout out other stunning destinations.