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Highway 12 Road Trip: A Journey through Time Scenic Byway Banner

Highway 12 Road Trip: A Journey through Time Scenic Byway

124 miles of sandstone cliffs and ancient settlements.

  • 16
  • 09:48
  • $41
  • 374 mi.

Created by Roadtrippers - March 19th 2016

Highway 12 is a stunning Southwest journey between Capital Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon. This stretch of road has been designated as an "All American Road" and it's been enchanting travelers with its colorful, rocky landscape since the early 1900s. Home to two National Parks, three state parks, a National Monument, a National Recreation Area, and a National Forest, this truly is a scenic drive of a lifetime.

Beginning at Grand Staircase-Escalante, prepare for a truly incredible experience: you can see multicolored sandstone cliffs, ancient Native American settlements, abandoned Western movie sets, and stunning scenery. The Escalante Canyons are the more popular and less remote unit, but if you're feeling adventurous, head to the Grand Staircase. It's worth it to experience what it's like when it's just you and the rocks.

1
43mi 02h 22m
Paria Canyon Guest Ranch
4.0

11175 Paria Valley Rd, Kanab, UT 84741, Kanab, UT, US

Paria Canyon Guest Ranch

1

Check into the Paria Canyon Guest Ranch as your home base. This hostel has accommodations for tent and RV campers, but it's also got a bunkhouse and its own private canyons. You won't find a better place to immerse yourself in this special part of the country: the ranch offers cowboy dinners, horseback rides, a dance hall and tons more.

2
15mi 00h 31m
Pahreah Ghost Town
3.2

Paria, UT, US

Pahreah Ghost Town

2

Hidden in the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness is Pahreah Ghost Town, founded by a group of Mormon pioneers. It's not hard to see why it was abandoned: getting there isn't exactly easy with a car, and it would have been even tougher with horses and wagons! Plus, it was known to flood a lot, but the people who once lived here sure enjoyed some gorgeous surroundings.

3
80mi 01h 48m
Zion National Park
4.8

State Rte. 9, Springdale, UT, US

Zion National Park

3

Just when you think Utah can't get any gorgeous, you finally reach Zion National Park, and you'll probably have your mind blown by the beauty of this wild state over and over again. Whether you're climbing to the top of the famed Angels Landing, or you're taking your adventure down below and hiking through the slot canyon known as The Subway, this is one of America's most striking parks.

4
18mi 00h 30m
Thunderbird Restaurant
4.0

US-89, Mount Carmel, UT, US

Thunderbird Restaurant

4

When you're hungry pull over at Thunderbird Restaurant in Mount Carmel. This place has been keeping adventurers in the area well-fed for years. You won't find anything too crazy here: classics like chicken fried steak, pasta, beer, and table wine make up the menu, but the service and "ho-made" pies are what keep people coming back. Try the apple pie with hot buttered rum sauce!

5
76mi 01h 36m
Bryce Canyon National Park
4.8

Bryce Canyon National Park Fan Page (Not NPS), Bryce Canyon, UT, US

Bryce Canyon National Park

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5

Then it's back to brightly colored sandstone hoodoos, a virtual forest of rock pillars, sweet-smelling Ponderosa pines, and tons of scenic lookouts and hikes at Bryce Canyon National Park. The best places to watch the sunrise are Bryce Point and Sunrise Point. The best view at sunset is at Fairyland Point or Paria View.

6
14mi 00h 21m
Scenic Byway 12
4.4

Ut 12, Tropic, UT, US

Scenic Byway 12

6

Hiking through this part of the country is the ultimate way to immerse yourself in it, but you can cover more ground from your car, and if you're on the famed Scenic Byway 12, you won't have to sacrifice the incredible views. Veer off the trail for the Hole-in-Rock Scenic Byway or the epic switchbacks of the Burr Trail for bonus points!

7
8mi 00h 09m
Kodachrome Basin State Park
3.1

, Cannonville, UT, US

Kodachrome Basin State Park

7

Route 12's other end will take you near another park: Kodachrome Basin State Park. The colors and shapes of the huge rock formations here are different than at Bryce Canyon or Zion, and some think it's because this spot used to be almost Yellowstone-esque, with hot springs and geysers that eventually formed the stones we see today.

8
29mi 00h 33m
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
4.0

710 North Reservoir Road, Escalante, UT, US

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

8

Then it's on to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Agate logs, fallen trees fossilized into gemstones, and dinosaur bones can be found in this beautiful and fascinating state park.

9
16mi 00h 20m
Kiva Koffeehouse
4.5

Mile Marker 7386, Escalante, UT, US

Kiva Koffeehouse

9

The espresso and baked goods at Kiva Koffeehouse in Escalante are great, but the view from the shop is the main attraction. Seriously, there isn't a better place for breakfast, lunch, or a quick snack break in Southern Utah!

10
15mi 00h 25m
Sweetwater Kitchen
4.3

3621 Hells Backbone Rd, Boulder, UT, US

Sweetwater Kitchen

10

Or if you're interested in a more hearty meal, head to Sweetwater Kitchen in Boulder. It's attached to the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, and it's truly out of this world. The local take on fine dining classics, like the green chile bacon buffalo burger, the juniper and sage duck breast, the buffalo-poblano lasagna, and more, are executed to perfection. And the breakfast is amazing: Sweet potato duck confit hash and milk biscuits and sausage gravy are just the beginning!

11
8mi 00h 18m
Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch
4.4

20 N Hwy, Boulder, UT, US

Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch

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great deal for this hotel

11

Since you'll probably want to have dinner and breakfast at Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch's Sweetwater Kitchen, you might as well book a room here for the night. Luckily, they go above and beyond in the accommodation department, too. You can "glamp" in the cowboy tent or the Native American tipi, or keep it simple with a cabin or a room in the lodge.

12
0mi 00h 01m
Anasazi State Park Museum
3.5

460 Utah 12, Boulder, UT, US

Anasazi State Park Museum

12

The ancient history of this region is also fascinating to explore. At Anasazi State Park Museum, you can see the remains of an Anasazi village from 1050-1200 AD, explore a recreation of a dwelling, and see artifacts excavated from the site.

13
36mi 00h 41m
Slacker’s Burger Joint
4.0

165 East Main Street , Torrey, UT, US

Slacker’s Burger Joint

13

When you're hungry after a long day of exploring, you can't go wrong with a burger and fries from Slacker's Burger Joint in Torrey. This place also has veggie burgers, shakes and malts, sammies, and more, which all really hit the spot.

14
3mi 00h 04m
Capitol Reef Resort
4.0

2600 East Highway 24, Torrey, UT, US

Capitol Reef Resort

FastBook
$$

Click to find a
great deal for this hotel

14

Why stay in a cabin or room when you can stay in a Conestoga wagon, like the pioneers who originally settled the area? Of course, those pioneers didn't have king-sized beds, private bathrooms, and heated outdoor pools when they first got here... but those are just a few of the rad amenities offered by Capitol Reef Resort.

7mi 00h 09m
Capitol Reef National Park
4.3

16 Scenic Dr, Torrey, UT, US

Capitol Reef National Park

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Speaking of Capitol Reef, Capitol Reef National Park is loaded with all kinds of offbeat and awesome things to do! Hike Cathedral Valley, visit the Elijah Cutler Behunin cabin (famed outlaw Butch Cassidy frequented Mr. Behunin's house back in the day, and called Robber's Roost, only 70 miles away, home), or just cruise around and take it all in.

Expect to drive around 40 miles an hour while on Scenic Byway 12. Cell service is also pretty spotty, and you're going to be traveling through very remote and rugged terrain, so plan accordingly. If you go off the highway, be aware that the backcountry roads can be quite rough, and off-roading is really only suggested for four-wheel drive vehicles. Also, check the weather before hitting the road because when it rains driving can be quite precarious. Monsoon season is late summer, and during this time there are thunderstorms that can produce significant downpours.

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