Scenic Utah Backroads

Sunday we headed home from Page via Cottonwood Canyon Road to Utah Scenic Byway 12. I was a little nervous knowing we'd have no cell coverage, but it was just fine. In wetter weather, these roads become impassable. But the kiosk at the Big Water Visitor Center said the road was okay for 2WD cars today.

Entering Cottonwood Canyon (click image to enlarge)

In the beauty of the morning light, we saw our first Northern Shrike! A good omen. Cottonwood Canyon Road goes along a massive formation called the Cockscomb, and there are many other interesting geological features along the way as well. Unfortunately, high power lines run the length of the road, somewhat spoiling the rugged wilderness scenery.

Yellow Rock formation in Cottonwood Canyon


Almost to Highway 24, we stopped at Grosvenor Arch. This beautiful arch was originally called Butler Arch but was later renamed for Gilbert Grosvenor, the first full-time editor of National Geographic Magazine.

Grosvenor Arch

Shortly after Cottonwood Canyon Road became paved again, we detoured into Kodachrome Basin State Park which was fantastic, even in the mid-day light. Definitely a place we'll want to visit again and do more hiking. Who can resist a park named for one of the most beloved Kodak film brands?!

Nature Trail at Kodachrome Basin State Park

Canyon in Kodachrome Basin State Park

At Highway 24, we stopped at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Cannonville.  It was tempting to head west to nearby Bryce Canyon, but, constrained by time, we decided to stay on our easterly course. The road between Escalante and Boulder was pretty, but once again we were disappointed to see all the high power wires.

Viewpoint along SB12
Henry Mountains, just after sunset as viewed from SB12

With so much to gawk at along the way, we only made it as far as Torrey, UT just outside of Capitol Reef National Park. We stayed at the Best Western there, where we enjoyed a great view from our balcony. In the morning I heard new bird noises, and I think they must have been Chukars.

Panorama Point in Capital Reef

Monday we drove through Capitol Reef, stopping first at Panorama Point and the Gooseneck. We then did the Scenic Road in Capitol Reef, and drove about halfway out to the Grand Wash.

Along the Scenic Road in Capitol Reef

There is a lot more to see in Capitol Reef, but our Traverse may not be the car to see it in. We took in the visitor center's excellent movie and looked at some more petroglyphs before leaving the area.

Fremont Indian Petroglyph panel in Capitol Reef, circa 700-1200CE

The scenic drives with crazy landscapes were behind us now, with the exception of Goblin Valley State Park. We spent an hour or so walking around the odd "goblin" sandstone formations before heading back up to get on I-70.

Sandstone formations in Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Goblin Valley State Park

Even though it was getting late and we'd been on the go all day, we couldn't resist stopping in Breckenridge to see Steve & Lauren in their new place. (It's so cute!) After a quick dinner and a delicious CoCoNut Porter at Empire Burger, we said our goodbyes and were on our way home.

Here's a map of this part of the trip:

We'll be back to the southwest again soon!