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
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Click on the number for a link to detailed information below.
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Travel Itineraries - Trip Planners
(6) Kodachrome Basin State Park
The name, Kodachrome Basin, was suggested by the National Geographic Society, for the highly colorful
sandstone formations in the area. The park features many chimneys and numerous examples of an unusual
formation known as a sand pipe (right). This area was thought to be thermally active in the past (like
Yellowstone National Park), with hot springs and geysers. As the area became dormant, the geysers
filled with sediment and became solidified. The sand pipes are "petrified" geysers covered by sandstone.
The park offers a number of trails through the formations. Besides hiking, horseback riding and mountain
biking are permitted. There is a very nice, small campground which is quiet and off the beaten path.
Spectacular Grovsvenor Arch is ten miles from here. Visit time: a few hours. Good place to stop for the night.
Visit time: a couple of hours. Nice place for an overnight stop.
(7) Scenic Highway Utah-12
One of the west's, and America's, most scenic routes, Highway-12 showcases sandstone sculpted into a wide
variety of amazing canyons and formations. The route starts at US-89, a few miles west of
Bryce Canyon National Park, then runs east, finishing at UT-24, a few miles west of
Capitol Reef National Park. From US-89, the highway passes through Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and
Kodachrome Basin, with whimsical formations like hoodoos, chimneys, spires, etc. East to Escalante, the
route passes through ranch country with beautiful scenic backdrops. From Escalante to Boulder,
the highway passes the drainage of the Escalante River with the fantastic "sandstone ocean", as seen
from the Head of the Rocks vista point (above, right). It then climbs the Hogback, a ridge with sheer
dropoffs on either side, offering amazing views. 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 Camping & Cabins.
Utah-12 is also the starting point for the Burr Trail and the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Each offers
adventure beyond the pavement with outstanding scenery. Visit time: the route can be driven in less
than a day but there are many attractions along the way worth stopping for.
(8) Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
The park is located just west of the town of Escalante several miles off the main road in a quiet
agricultural area. The pretty campground which has flush toilets and showers, is adjacent to the
Wide Hollow Reservoir. Swimming and fishing (for trout) are permitted. Camp sites are reservable.
The area is noted for petrified wood and dinosaur fossils, some of which are on display in the small
visitor center. The one-mile long Petrified Forest trail on the ridge behind the campground goes through
a field of petrified wood. The rougher Sleeping Rainbows trail (.75 mile, off the main trail) accesses
larger specimens of petrified logs.
Visit time: an hour or two to walk the trails, but a good place to stop overnight or use as a base
while visiting the area. The lake is especially attractive during the heat of the summer.
The nearby town of Escalante offers services for the area, with a market and a few motels and
restaurants. Hiking permits and information can be obtained at the Interagency Visitor Center.
(9) Smoky Mountain Road
The Smoky Mountain Road is the most remote and challenging of the main dirt roads through
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It runs 78 miles from Big Water on US-89 to Utah-12 just
west of Escalante. The route requires a high clearance vehicle, four wheel drive to explore the side
roads. It is more difficult to navigate due to unmarked intersections. The reward is access to very
beautiful places in a very lightly visited area.
The road is noted for the Kelly Grade which offers a huge panorama, and you pass an unusual area of
balanced boulders. There are access roads to rarely visited vista points on the north side of
Lake Powell. Several movies were filmed in the area, including "Planet of the Apes". Smoke and
occasional burned areas can sometimes be seen from a century-old underground coal fire (hence the name,
Smoky Mountain). Visit time: expect to spend a couple days in the area. Don't try the road unless you
are very self-sufficient. Always carry plenty of water in your vehicle. Avoid the area during wet weather.
(10) Hole-in-the-Rock Road
This 62 mile dirt road leaves Utah-12 east of Escalante and ends at the historic Hole-in-the-Rock,
high above Lake Powell. The road generally follows the route of the 1879 pioneer expedition which
carved the trail at Hole-in-the-Rock, allowing a wagon train and over 1,000 head of cattle to descend
the 2,000 foot cliff to the Colorado River, now Lake Powell. The lake partially covers the trail but
present-day visitors can still hike down to the lake and back.
The road also features Devil's Garden (right), an Outstanding Natural Area with easy hiking (16.6 miles
south of Utah-12); Dance Hall Rock, a sandstone amphitheater where the pioneers recreated (mile 41.9); and
access to the most popular hiking trails in the Canyons of the Escalante River, including Hurricane Gulch
and Coyote Wash. Note that the last six miles of the road requires high clearance, and the road is
impassable when wet.
Our experience: Very easy driving to the Hurricane Wash parking lot, not a problem for passenger
cars during dry weather. Everything is fairly well-signed. Visit time: most of the day to drive the road
and back, while making a few stops, though it would be rather tedious. Expect to take several days if you
plan to go hiking. For the most part, it's not really a day hike area. If you don't have much time,
visit Devil's Garden, or perhaps the short slot canyons in the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch.
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Travel Itineraries - Trip Planners
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