Utah's Scenic Highway 12
Utah's Highway-12 showcases colorful sandstone sculpted into a wide variety of amazing canyons and formations. The 124-mile route starts at US-89, a few miles west of Bryce Canyon National Park, then runs east, finishing at Utah-24, a few miles west of Capitol Reef National Park. Along the way the highway passes through a diversity of scenic areas: Red Canyon Recreation Area, Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. These places feature whimsical formations like hoodoos, chimneys, spires, as well as petrified wood. (Photo, left: Boynton Canyon)
Between the remote towns of Escalante and Boulder, the scenery becomes surreal. The highway passes the drainage of the Escalante River with its fantastic "sandstone ocean", as seen from the Head of the Rocks vista point (Photo, below). The road then crosses the Escalante River on a one-lane bridge. Beyond the river, Calf Creek Recreation Area features a hike to one of the most beautiful waterfalls found in any desert, Lower Calf Creek Falls. (Photo, right)
Highway-12 then climbs the Hogback, a ridge with sheer dropoffs on either side, offering amazing views, before reaching the town of Boulder. North of Boulder, the route climbs and crosses the Aquarius Plateau, high-elevation, wooded mountain country offering a respite from the summer heat, and good camping in the Dixie National Forest.
Highway-12 also passes along the edge of the huge Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Secondary routes leaving the main highway offer remote adventure. These include the famous Burr Trail and the historic Hole-in-the-Rock Road which offers access to the remote and compelling narrow canyons of the lower Escalante River. More excitement can be found on the aptly named Hell's Backbone Road. The monument is an outstanding opportunity for the adventurous.
Map of Utah's Scenic Highway 12
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Best in the West Guide - Spectacular Scenic Routes