Scenic Byway 12
- DesignationAll-American Road (2002)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric, Scenic
- Length123 miles
Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional 124 mile route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level.
Story of the Byway
Welcome to Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, also known as “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway.” Scenic Byway 12 connects U.S. 89 near Panguitch on the west with S.R. 24 near Torrey on the northeast. It is not the quickest route between these two points, but it far and away the best. Hitting the road, travelers often have a destination in mind. That destination quickly takes a backseat to the journey as they climb into the Dixie National Forest from Torrey.
A stop at the scenic overlook near the road’s summit at about 9,000 feet puts it all into perspective. Atmosphere envelopes distant lands, the Henry Mountains, Grand Staircase–Escalante and the shimmering red rock of Capitol Reef National Park. Contrasting stands of subalpine fir and aspen decorate the immediate surroundings.
The byway begins at the junction of Hwy 89 and SR-12 (Scenic Byway 12), seven miles south of Panguitch and eight miles north of Hatch. When you start, you bisect the beautiful red rock formations of Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest. Continuing east, the byway passes through spectacular views of a variety of rock formations. Stone and mud food-storage structures called granaries can be seen along the route. Visitor centers and businesses along the way have information about the area. From Escalante, geographically located near the midpoint of the byway, the road turns north winding through vast expanses of slickrock country. Along the way travelers are rewarded with views of the Escalante River, Calf Creek Canyon, and the Hogsback and Boulder Mountain. At Boulder visitors can get a firsthand look at life in a prehistoric Native American village at the Anasazi Indian Village Park. Continuing north from Boulder, still on SR-12, the road crosses the eastern flank of Boulder Mountain with spectacular views of Capitol Reef National Park, the Henry Mountains, Circle Cliffs, and Navajo Mountain on the far side of Lake Powell. On a clear day travelers can see more than 100 miles into Colorado and Arizona. The byway ends at the junction of SR-12 and Hwy 24 in Wayne County. The town of Torrey is just west of this junction, or travelers can take the nine-mile drive east to the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center.
Points of Interest
Dixie National Forest
A nearly 2-million acre expanse of outdoor lover’s paradise. The forest includes peaks and plateaus, lakes and valleys.
Capitol Reef National Park
Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles.
Anasazi State Park and Museum
Explore an Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) village that was likely occupied from A.D. 1050 to 1200, and one of the largest communities west of the Colorado River. Outside the museum, tour a life-sized, six-room replica of an ancient dwelling and view a portion of the original site. Inside, view artifacts excavated from this site and learn the lifeways of these people.
Lower Calf Creek Falls
Calf Creek is a perennial stream located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There are two waterfalls which you can visit, the upper falls and the lower falls. Though both hikes are enjoyable, the lower falls is more accessible, an easier hike, a bigger drop, and much more popular. The 6-mile out-and-back hike is relatively flat, and the trailhead is located just off of Utah Scenic Byway 12, the highway between Escalante and Boulder. There is a sign for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Calf Creek Recreation Area
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
From its spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, across the rugged Kaiparowits Plateau to the wonders of the Escalante River Canyons, the Monument is a diverse geologic treasure speckled with monoliths, slot canyons, natural bridges, and arches.
Bryce Canyon Country
Starting in Panguitch, enjoy a hearty breakfast in town before heading out on the byway. Drive southeast for 23 miles to reach Bryce Canyon National Park. Head to the Sunset Campground, and set up camp. Be certain to make reservations in advance. Pack a lunch and follow the Calf Creek Falls trail three miles to the 130-foot waterfall oasis amid red rocks. Return to camp before dark. After dinner, enjoy the dark sky with an astronomy program or a ranger-guided full moon hike. Settle into a deep slumber in this international dark sky park.
Make a camp breakfast, then head out for another hike or hire a guide for a day of canyoneering in the slot canyons. After you pack up your campsite, visit the Bryce Wildlife Museum. Follow the byway back to Panguitch or continue on the route for another adventure.
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