Experience Southern Utah on Scenic Byway 12
No Southern Utah road trip is complete without a journey down Scenic Byway 12. This state highway stretches nearly 123 miles from Panguitch to Torrey, offering road warriors a glimpse at some of the most stunning scenery in the state. In fact, the miles of Scenic Byway 12 are so magnificent that it’s deemed an official “All-American Road,” a title given to only select scenic byways that display multiple features so unique and nationally significant that they are tourist destinations in themselves.
While it’s possible to complete the journey in around three hours, you’ll want to plan for at least twice that. Beyond driving slowly enough to savor every scene, you can’t miss the chance to stop and experience the many amazing adventures that await along this heart-stopping highway.
Scenic Byway 12 begins just south of Panguitch, a charming and historic town known for its namesake lake full of trophy-sized trout. The vibe is wonderfully western, and its commitment to authentic architecture has earned Main Street a place on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s also a great home base for exploring Southern Utah, and visitors love the comfort of a cozy Panguitch Lake cabin.
The start of your Scenic Byway 12 drive is a stunning one as you pass underneath the towering arches of Red Canyon. Resembling a smaller version of Bryce Canyon’s famous formations, the arches stand in direct contrast to surrounding acres of rich ponderosa pines. Feel free to stop at the Scenic Byway Information Kiosk and the Red Canyon Visitor Center to learn more about the area, then stretch your legs along one of the area’s five distinct hiking trails for a closer look at the canyon.
Next, stop at one of the state’s most popular national parks to explore scenes so dramatic they feel extraterrestrial. You’ll be immediately captivated by the park’s soaring rock formations and colorful hoodoos as you stand over the amphitheater and gaze deep into an ancient and fiery canyon. You could spend multiple days exploring miles of high desert landscape, but some of the best trails can take you through some terrific highlights.
Kodachrome makes a terrific pit stop for insta-worthy photos and gorgeous geology. The park features 67 monolithic stone spires that have accumulated over 180 million years, some of them soaring over 150 feet into the air. Hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking are popular pursuits in the park.
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
Despite the name, this unique state park offers more thrills than chills. Hit the easy hiking trail to explore the signature petrified forest with its kaleidoscope of color and ancient history. You should also plan to stop by the visitor center before you leave – its exciting exhibitions feature ancient fossils from plants, animals, and even dinosaurs!
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Stop at this magnificent national monument to stroll through slot canyons and gaze over craggy sandstone cliffs. It’s divided into three distinct areas that span over 1.7 million acres and offers some of the best hiking trails in the state. If you’re pressed for time, the most popular slot canyon trails include Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons (you can take a loop to see both.) The Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is also worth the work – it’s a smooth 7 miles out-and-back and features two waterfalls.
While these significant stops will surely be the highlight of your drive, there are countless other spots along the way that are worth the time to take-in. From scenic overlooks offering panoramic views to off-road trails and hidden gems, you’ll find something beautiful around every bend. Once you’re done, return to your Family Time Vacation Rentals property to explore the other amazing adventures Southern Utah has to offer!