Highway 12 is the only All-American Road in Utah. Designated in 2002, the scenic byway connects Capitol Reef National Park with Bryce Canyon National Park, passing through public lands like Dixie National Forest and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, passing by state parks like Escalante Petrified Forest, Anasazi State Park Museum, and Kodachrome Basin, and including cool spots like Devil’s Garden Outstanding Natural Area, Red Canyon, and Grosvenor Arch.
The Utah section of this Scenic Byway 12 is 124 miles long. We drove it over spring break on our road trip from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park, and stopped at as many spots as our schedule would allow. The road weaved and stretched out before us, almost a part of the landscape, revealing new surprised around every turn. Along the way, we were treated to majestic vista points, interesting activities, and breathtaking panoramic views of the multi-colored desert landscape. The reds, oranges, peaches, pinks, and creams, dotted with green shrubbery were simply stunning.
Living in northern California, we’re spoiled with access to some of the most gorgeous scenery in the entire country, but Utah had our jaws-dropping. The terrain is very different than what we’re used to in California and I am so happy we had the chance to see it!
From 4,000 foot deep canyons to 9,000 foot tall grand plateaus, Scenic Byway 12 gives you a taste of Utah. Maybe that is why it was:
- Rated one of the ten most scenic highways in the nation by Car and Driver Magazine
- Named by Forbes as one of America’s best snowy drives
- Named by Backpacker magazine as a favorite Wild Roads
We spent an entire day driving Scenic Byway 12 and exploring the overlooks, views, and things to do in and around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. From the reddish-orange hoodoos of Red Canyon and the snow capped overlooks atop Boulder Mountain, to the 360 degree views atop the “Hogsback” between Escalante and Boulder and the pine and aspen forests, it was one scenic drive I know our family will never forget!
Know Before You Go
- Highway 12 passes through Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and over Boulder Mountain in the Dixie National Forest before ending at Capitol Reef National Park.
- The stretch of the highway over Boulder Mountain can become impassable after storms. During spring break, we encountered snow and VERY cold temperatures!
- There are no fees to drive Highway 12 but there are fees for some attractions.
- The northern boundary of the national monument is near Cannonville, where you’ll find a Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center.
- Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 is a designated All-American Road, an honor only one-third of America’s scenic byways receive. The designation is given to roads that are tourist destinations unto themselves, offering access to unique features you can’t find elsewhere.