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10 Best Scenic Drives In Utah, the USA

scenic drives in utah
Edip
Edip
Updated

Positioned on the West Coast of the United States, Utah is among the most visually appealing states in terms of its vast reaching landscapes with mesmerizing natural beauty. It is a truly diverse state and will not fall short of anybody’s expectations. Utah is divided into three distinct zones: Rocky Mountains, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau. There is almost an infinite amount of monuments and landmarks to cover within these zones, such as Great Salt Lake, Lake Bonneville, Utah Lake, Rush Lake, Great Basin National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, Notch Peak, Dinosaur National Monument, Snake Valley and much more! The best way to see all these attractions is by embarking on a scenic drive trip across the state. Scroll down for 10 best scenic drives in Utah, the USA.

1. Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway


Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway runs for over 38 miles (61 kilometers). It can be accessed at any time of the year, except for the winter months. The route runs through the grand and impressive Uinta National Forest, which makes for a visually astounding encounter. It is possible to set up camp in the forest park. Plus, the park is a very suitable atmosphere for outdoor activities. Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway also leads to Utah Valley, Wasatch Mountains, Mount Nebo, Devil’s Kitchen Geologic Interest Site, Payson Lakes Recreation Area, and Mount Nebo Wilderness Area. This road is sure to be a gateway to a memorable adventure that will heighten your senses!

2. Byway 163


Byway 163 extends for 64 miles (103 kilometers) from the border of Arizona and into Utah through Monument Valley. The road is painted with the unique red rocks and boundless views of the desert. Byway 163’s stunning scenery has made it a subject for several movies and it is an ideal place for shooting photographs. There is also opportunity to visit the village of Mexican Hat — named after the rock formation that has shaped it. There is a historic suspension bridge that runs over the San Juan River, which should not be missed for its marvelous views.

3. Highway 9

Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, Zion National Park, Utah (1025906566)
Source: Photo by user Ken Lund used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Highway 9 is also known as Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, or Mt. Carmel Scenic Byway. Zion National Park can be accessed all-year-round. This route runs for a total of 57 miles (92 kilometers) and runs through Zion National Park. There are lots of switchbacks, and the route is rather narrow. Driving here, you will be treated to lots of incredible views of red rock cliffs. Zion National Park is home to natural landmarks such as high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and Virgin River. Lastly, the park hosts a large number of plant and animal species. Highway 9 Drive is perfect for quaint, yet ecologically rich, adventures.

4. Highway 12

Utah State Route 12 MC
Source: Photo by user Chmehl used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Highway 12 comes with the iconic tagline, “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway”. It runs for over 120 miles (193 kilometers). The particular shape of the road makes it much more special to travel here. Highway 12 extends between Panguitch and Torrey. It is recommended to cover the route over four days to enjoy it to the fullest. Dixie National Forest, which is close to the highway, packs in landmarks such as Kodachrome Basin, Escalante Petrified Forest, Anasazi State Park Museum, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Cottonwood Canyon, Burr Trail, and Hell’s Backbone. Highway 12 continues towards Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park. This diverse drive is to be savored at a steady pace, for there is much to see here!

5. Flaming Gorge-Uintas Scenic Byway


Flaming Gorge-Uintas Scenic Byway compasses an 80-mile (128-kilometer) distance and runs between US Highway 191 and US Highway 44. The byway has the theme “Wildlife Through the Ages” due to its diverse ecology and the fossils that have been found in the region. There are highly colorful canyons, remarkable geography, dazzling sights, and forests that you will see nearby. Also, you will have the chance to visit Steinaker and Red Fleet State Park. You can experience the wonders of the Flaming Gorge-Uintas Scenic Byway through several nature trails and take guided tours of the Flaming Gorge Dam as well. The byway has been around since 1988 and continues to connect travelers with unforgettable scenery of Utah.

6. Capitol Reef Drive

Capitol Reef National Park
Source: Photo by user Wolfgang Staudt used under CC BY 2.0

Capitol Reef Drive is laid-out over a 7.9-mile (12.8-kilometer) distance and portrays landscape that is often associated with Utah. The route is divided into two paths: Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge. Grand Wash contains the now-abandoned Oyler Uranium Mine. It is a perfect occasion to witness rock formations that are unique to the state. These rock formations are also a great way of thinking about the history and development of the region. Some of these formations are Moenkopi Formation, Chinle Formation, and Navajo Formation. Other highlights that can be encountered are the Windgate Sandstone, Waterpocket Fold, and Slickrock Divide. Capitol Reef Drive is an important geological formation that everyone should witness at least once.

7. Potash Scenic Byway


Potash Scenic Byway follows a 17-mile (27-kilometer) road that is paralleled by the Colorado River on one side of it and a large sandstone cliff on the other. The beginning of the drive is marked by Jug Handle Arch, which continues until Moab Salt Plant. The drive will pass by lavish canyons, areas with dinosaur tracks and ancient rock arts, and it will also pass under numerous arches and climbing tracks. Some of the monuments include the Wall Street climbing area, Corona Arch, and Jaycee Park and the “portal” overlook. You can continue the journey towards Canyonlands National Park or Shafer Trail — though a 4x4 vehicle is needed for the latter.

8. Highway 89


Highway 89 runs on a north-south axis. The highway is 500 miles (800 kilometers) in total and runs between Idaho and Arizona. The part that crosses the state of Utah passes through the Bryce Canyon Country. Panguitch and Hatch stand out in particular as destinations that are worth checking out. Both are home to some of Utah’s remarkable natural gems. Panguitch hosts landmarks such as Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Tropic Reservoir, Koda Chrome Basin State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monuments, and Panguitch Lake. Meanwhile, Hatch has Mammoth Cave, Dixie National Forest, Sevier River, and Daughters of Utah Pioneer Museum for its visitors.

9. Smoky Mountain Road

Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Source: Photo by user John Phelan used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Smoky Mountain Road is a 78-mile-long (125-kilometer) thrilling experience along an unpaved, one-way road. It can be accessed from either Big Water or Escalante, and it passes through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. It can take up to six hours to cover the Smoky Mountain Road and you will definitely need a durable vehicle to do so. However, all the preparation is worth the adventure with unfathomable views of Lake Powell, Navajo Mountains, Kaiparowits Plateau, Fifty Mile Mountain, Table Cliffs, Bryce Canyon, and Boulder Mountain.

10. Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway

Utah State Route 128 Along Colorado River Near Moab, Utah (2408381076)
Source: Photo by user Ken Lund used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway is spread over a 480-mile (772-kilometer) distance and can be covered with a thrilling 4-day journey. It is a comprehensive experience for connecting with the prehistoric state of the region, as there are numerous dinosaur fossils on areas covered by the route. The presence of these fossils has greatly affected the region — that explains the town of Dino, Utah. There are numerous landmarks and attractions to discover here as well, such as Dinosaur Garden, Dino Quarry, Ashley National Forest, Western Mining and Railroad Museum, Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail, Dinosaur Journey Museum, Canyonlands National Park, Canyon Pintado National Historic District and more!

Experience true vastness

The 10 best scenic drives in Utah, USA are excellent for the adventurers and trailblazers. Plus, all of the destinations covered throughout the article evoke a sense of curiosity and encourage one to discover all of what Utah has to offer. The mentioned drives will lead you to national parks, national forests, prehistoric regions, mesmerizing rock formations, mountains, plateaus, rivers, canyons, reservoirs, climbing routes, basins, etc. Most importantly, the scenery on Utah’s roads will paint a lasting picture on your mind and will leave you wanting to return time and again to this fascinating part of the United States.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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My name is Edip Efe Ulucay - I am a designer and writer currently based out of Istanbul, TR with an academic background in architectural design. Through sharing articles, I hope to inspire others...Read more

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