Highway 12 Scenic Byway
This page presents our personal notes on our journeys along the Highway 12 Scenic Byway in Utah.
I first drove along Highway 12 back in 1970, fresh from the plains of Nebraska. I spent the summer working on the Aquarius Plateau, and drove up and down the highway numerous times over that summer. I was so impressed with what I saw that it stuck with me from that time forward. Eventually the memory of that colorful landscape drew me back to the west. We now visit locations along Highway 12 on an annual basis.
Over the years the road has become familiar to us, but we've never tired of seeing Powell Point hanging high above, or the pins near Bryce Canyon accenting the reds of the hoodoos. There are the desert landscapes around Escalante, and the spires of Kodochrome Basin. The section between Escalante and Boulder is amazing in its own way, with canyons seeming cutting the light colored sandstones in every direction. One can get figuratively lost in the complex vista, and literally lost among the maze of slot canyons down below.
From the town of Boulder the road climbs to its highest points on Boulder Mountain, where the views to the east are among the best in the Colorado Plateau region. From the view points along the highway you can see Capitol Reef National Park and the Waterpocket Fold, the deep canyons of Canyonlands National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and even parts of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Way off on the horizon you'll see the La Sal Mountains near Moab and Navajo Mountain down near the Four Corners. Nearer are the impressive Henry Mountains, and all of the colored sandstone in between. It's just an amazing panorama.
The highway is now paved for its entire length, but still rises and drops over the landscape. There is one section, known as The Hogback, just north of the Calf Creek Recreation Area, where the road passes over a narrow ridge of sandstone, with steep drop offs on both sides of the winding pavement. It can be disconcerting, especially on your first trip through the area, when you want to look around and take it all in. But the white knuckles are well worth the effort.