The deafening silence of the wide open spaces is like a sigh of relief after spending endless time working in a bustling big city. There is something about the crisp fresh air and panoramic views that invigorates the body and mind with renewed clarity. After a short time, it becomes easy to forget the daily routine back home and interest in the pristine surroundings becomes all consuming. Soon an urge to take part in challenging activities strikes and the fun adventures will create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. This is what a classic western vacation experience is like when touring Utah Scenic Byway 12, which is also known as the All American Road!
The two end points of Utah Scenic Byway 12 are Byce Country and Capitol Reef, which are both prime tourism destinations. In fact, every single point of interest and wilderness area in between the two end points are prime time tourist destinations as well. From the west end going east on Utah Scenic Byway 12, a visitor can experience, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon, Kodachrome Basin, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park and Hell’s Backbone before getting to Boulder. The majestic Capital Reef National Park is only a short drive from there. As can be easily imagined, an entire lifetime of vacations could be spent along Utah Scenic Byway 12 and there would still be room to do much more!
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument covers over 1.8 million acres of pristine wilderness and most of the long drive on SR 12 goes through the northern edge of this park. Several of the unique features of this vast pristine wilderness area can be seen along the road and all it takes is parking the car at a hiking trailhead to experience more. Several Jeep trails along SR 12 also go deep into the Dixie National Forest and Grand Staircase-Escalante from the paved road, so those who tour in a 4×4 will have many more options.
When planning an excursion on SR 12 through the northern sector of Escalante, be sure to allow plenty of extra travel time, because there are plenty of scenic overlooks that present great picture taking opportunities. The views are so amazing, that stopping at every scenic overlook parking area along the way becomes a necessary routine. Taking a break from the steep uphill climbs and downhill runs also allows the vehicle to cool down, so stopping to take in the majestic scenery is a good thing to do when driving through this vast remote wilderness area.
Several small towns are located along Utah Scenic Byway 12 and each of these towns has a gateway to outdoor adventure theme. Outdoor enthusiasts that need supplies for an excursion can definitely find what they need in the old historic Mormon pioneer communities along the way. There are places to rent ATV’s, canoes, rafts, Jeeps and even horses in the gateway communities. Outdoor adventure guides, hunting guides, tackle shops and RV camping supply stores are plentiful in this region too. The gateway towns on SR 12 have old fashioned motels, western cabin lodges, campgrounds and cosy local restaurants, but most important of all these towns are where fuel can be found. The distances between towns can be great in this region, so it is best to top off the tank well before it runs dry when cruising down SR 12.
The small towns on SR 12 also cater to the modern Scenic Byway travelers that seek opportunities to do some shopping along the way. Each small town has art galleries, native trading posts and old west antique shops that offer unique goods that cannot be found back home. The craft brew pubs and local wineries along the way spell rest and relaxation for road weary travelers. Rubbing elbows with the locals in these kinds of establishments is always a good way to find out about lesser known places in Grand Staircase-Escalante where few others go.
The wildlife is always present along Utah Scenic Byway 12, so it pays to keep the eyes peeled and obey the warning signs. Mule Deer and Elk are the most common obstacles on the road and these wild animals always seem to be willing to pose for a picture, as long as visitors do not come too close. Many people think that wild turkeys can only be seen in eastern states, because of the association with the pilgrims and Thanksgiving. Wild turkeys actually are easy to spot on farms that border upon the wilderness areas in Utah, while birds of prey, like hawks, eagles and falcons can be seen in these areas too.
Just past the town of Escalante when going east on SR 12, a visitor will enter the Canyons Region of Grand Staircase-Escalante, which simply put is amazing to see! In this region the ground surface is solid sandstone bedrock that has been carved by erosive forces through eons of time. The result is an extremely harsh barren bedrock landscape that is riddled with pocket canyons and narrow ravines. This multicolor sandstone desert landscape also boasts towering bluffs, tall rock spires and ancient small rivers that feed lush hidden valleys. Hundreds of square miles of petrified ancient sand dunes stretch out to the horizon with absolutely no signs of civilization in sight. In the Canyons Region, there are several scenic overlooks that simply must be checked out when passing through. The Hogback section of SR 12 is in this same region and this is a scary bit of road that will cause most passengers to cover their eyes! The historic Hell’s Backbone is also located in the Canyons Region. This Jeep Trail is an alternative way to get to Boulder and it is a very scary ride too.
After getting through the dangerous Hogback section of Scenic Byway 12, the gateway town of Boulder is within reach. Boulder is another community where outdoorsmen will find everything they need to make a venture happen. The Anasazi State Park is located in Boulder and this is a good place to learn about the native cultures that have always called this region home. From Boulder it is an uphill drive over a heavily forested mountain to Capitol Reef Country and Interstate Highway 70 can be accessed from near there.
Utah Scenic Byway 12 is a long road to tour and many adventures await those who do the trip. For a first timer, taking a casual scenic drive on SR 12 is a good way to become familiar with the region and mental notes can be made about adventurous destinations along the way that peak the interest the most. Scenic Byway 12 is one of those roads that always seems to call visitors back for more, so there really is no such thing as driving this long road just once in most cases. Utah Scenic Byway 12 goes through the heart of America’s most majestic vacationland and this is why the All American Road simply must be placed high on the lifetime travel destination list!
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