Classic Roads: Utah’s Scenic Byway 12

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: James T. Parks

Utah’s State Route 12 is a “National Scenic Byway” recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It also has the designation of being an All-American Road, one of just 120 so named nationwide, which means it possesses unique features and intrinsic qualities not found elsewhere. All-American Roads are destinations unto themselves. Route 12 and its extensions run through two national parks, a national monument, three state parks, and a national forest. The total distance is approximately 225 miles.

Located in the southwest corner of Utah, on the expansive geological formation known as the Colorado Plateau, is a land of incomparable scenic splendor. You’ll travel through snaking canyons, over buttes and mesas, and along rock walls with mineral stains and possibly a petroglyph left by the Ancestral Puebloans. You also may catch sight of an eagle, hawk, or vulture soaring overhead. Deer and elk are often spotted grazing in alpine meadows. Vegetation runs from rabbit brush on open plains to aspen and fir trees in the alpine landscapes.

During the warmer riding months, late May to early October, the route is often busy with tourist traffic, which may cause slow going in some sections. However, the elevation changes, overlooks, and frequent curves keep a your senses fully engaged. During my recent trip here, the number of motorcycles plying the route seemed to outnumber the cars. This is undoubtedly one of the premier motorcycling routes in America.