The Grand-Staircase Utah-12 Travel Guide is a resource for those planning a road trip in the region.
It covers Highway-12, a scenic byway, from US-89 to Boulder, Utah and the fabulous Grand Staircase Escalante
National Monument. Details include descriptions, links to many references, travel itineraries - trip planners,
and suggested visit times.
Driving note: All dirt/gravel roads (dashed lines) indicated on map are usually negotiable
by two wheel drive high clearance vehicles. All are extremely slippery during wet weather, and difficult to
negotiate then even with four wheel drives.
Using the Interactive Map
For easiest use, scroll map to top. Place your mouse pointer on any item number (in purple) on the map. A brief description will appear.
Click on the number for a link to detailed information below.
Lake Powell Travel Guide |
Paria Canyon Guide |
Northern Arizona Travel Guide |
Southern Utah Destinations
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Map Items 1-5 Below
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Travel Itineraries - Trip Planners
(1) Cottonwood Canyon Road - Grosvenor Arch
A graded dirt and gravel road which runs from US-89 to Kodachrome Basin State Park in 46 miles. Route crosses
Paria River, then generally follows Cottonwood Creek beneath the Cockscomb, a land upthrust eroded into a
series of ragged ridges, some very colorful. The popular Cottonwood Creek Narrows are 25 miles north of
US-89 (not marked but watch for parking areas along road). Entry is west of the road, and there is about
a mile or more of interesting hiking (head upstream for narrowest area). Five miles north is the turnoff
to Grosvenor Arch. The spectacular double arch, named for the founder of the National Geographic Society,
is a popular photographic opportunity. The route then veers west to reach Kodachrome Basin and pavement.
Passenger cars can use this road but a high clearance vehicle would be easier. Road should not be used
during wet weather.
Our experience: From US-89, the first section of the road was rathered washboarded, then generally easier
in Cottonwood Canyon. The section west of Grosvenor Arch crossed several steep ridges with tedious driving.
No problem driving the route in a 2WD truck. Much colorful scenery. Note: the turnoff from US-89, about four
miles east of the Paria River is not easy to see. Watch carefully for the sign. Visit time: at least two
hours to drive through. If you stop at Narrows and Grosvenor Arch, it will take much of the day.
(2) Old Pahreah Town and Movie Set
The locale features the remains of a 19th century town and the site of a historic movie set in a scenic
canyon. The set, and general area, has hosted many TV and movie westerns over the years
The Outlaw Josey Wales,
was the last one in 1975.). The town of Pahreah
(means "muddy water") prospered in agriculture until flooding washed away the fields. Access is by dirt
road. The remnants of the movie set were removed a few years ago. However, the Pahreah ruins, the
19th century graveyard, and spectacular scenery remain. Road is impassable when wet.
Our experience: The dirt road is easy for all vehicles to the site of the movie set. The roads crossing
the Paria river to the town site are much rougher, and a high clearance vehicle or 4WD is strongly advised.
Not much remains, but it does give the visitor some feel for what remote 19th century life must have been
like. Visit time: a couple of hours.
(3) Johnson Canyon - Skutumpah Road
The route runs from US-89 about 8 miles east of Kanab, for 46 miles to Kodachrome Basin. From US-89, the
section north through Johnson Canyon is paved (about 15 miles). The route becomes graded dirt and veers
east crossing scenic Skutumpah Terrace. The road becomes rougher in the last 20 miles as it crosses
canyons and streams. Two notable stops are the Bull Valley Gorge (right) and the Willis Creek Narrows.
Bull Valley is noted for a truck which went off the bridge in the 1950s and is still lodged between the
walls high above the ground. This section may be impassable when wet.
Our experience: Easy driving in Johnson Canyon and Skutumpah Terrace. The going got harder approaching
Bull Valley, and a side trip up Willis Creek was very difficult. We used a 2WD truck. Hiked along
Bull Valley Gorge north of the road and got a view of the wreck (too shadowy to photograph). The
gorge may be entered by hiking a short distance to the north. Visit time: a few hours to drive the road,
most of the day to explore the canyons.
(4) Red Canyon Recreation Area
Red Canyon, in the Dixie National Forest, offers scenery quite similar to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park
with far fewer crowds. The vermillion-colored rock formations and stands of ponderosa pines make the
canyon exceptionally scenic. The area offers an excellent network of trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
Several are only a mile long or less, allowing a quick experience of the area. A few trails allow horses
and bikes, two allow ATVs. There is a very nice bicycle path alonside UT-12. The campground is excellent
with great scenery, very large shaded sites, showers, and modern flush toilets.
Visit time: a few hours. Good place for an overnight stop. (Photo, © July 2001 A.E. Crane, National Scenic Byways.)
(5) Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon features spectacular geology, unique in the world, consisting of a series of horseshoe-shaped
amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. The erosional
force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater has shaped the colorful limestone rock into
bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins, and hoodoos. All are tinted in a wide array of
rich colors. The whimsically arranged rocks create a surreal landscape of mazes, with exciting and
unusual hiking trails.
The park offers a network of trails varying from easy to strenuous. Most are fairly short and conducive to day hikes. The park road (quite busy in season) has many excellent vista points. There are two campgrounds and a lodge. Park elevation is at 8,000 feet which bring cold, snowy weather and limited services during the winter. More lodging and services are available outside the park entrance and are listed in our Bryce Canyon Travel Guide.
(5a) Zion National Park
Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is about a three hour drive from Las Vegas. The park is world-famous for its soaring, colorful monoliths such as the Great White Throne and Angel's Landing. Besides its great heights, Zion is also known for its amazing canyons. The park's most visited attraction is the Riverside Walk (Gateway to the Narrows trail). The paved trail follows the beautiful Virgin River about a mile through its lower canyon, where sandstone cliffs about 1/4 mile apart tower thousands of vertical feet above the river.
The park offers a network of trails varying from easy to strenuous. Many short and easy walks are available in Zion Canyon. Generations of serious hikers have been challenged by the Angel's Landing Trail, the Zion Narrows, and the Subway. The park road has many excellent vista points. The road through Zion Canyon is accessible by free shuttle bus service only. The service conveniently extends into adjacent Springdale where most of the lodging is located. There are two campgrounds and a lodge. Weather is hot during the summer.
Zion is reached from Las Vegas by I-15 north and UT-9 east. From US-89 (Kanab, Bryce Canyon), take UT-9 west 25 miles at Mt. Carmel Junction. It is about 80 miles and 90 minutes from Zion to Bryce.
(5b) Paria Canyon Wilderness / Vermilion Cliffs / Coyote Buttes / The Wave
The Paria Canyon Wilderness Area encompasses one of the finest canyons in the American Southwest and one of the most spectacular slot canyons, the Buckskin Gulch. It also includes the scenic Coyote Buttes North and South Districts. These remote day-use areas offer extremely exotic scenery including the famous Wave in Coyote Buttes North.
All hiking and backpacking trips require a permit of which there are a very limited number. The permits are on a reservation system, and you typically need to reserve permits months in advance. Permits for Coyote Buttes North, site of the Wave, are on a lottery system and are extremely difficult to obtain.
The Bureau of Land Management Contact Station is on US-89 about thirty miles north of Page, Arizona.
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Travel Itineraries - Trip Planners
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