Patricia Temples Photography

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Utah’s Scenic Byway, Route 12

We were told by locals and tourists alike that if we were headed to Capitol Reef National Park, we needed to take Route 12, a scenic byway and All-American Road. A road receives All-American designation by having scenic views unlike any anywhere else, and there are not many roads with this designation.  So, on Monday morning we headed out from Bryce Canyon NP (lower left) to Capitol Reef (upper right center at Torrey) via Route 12.

Route 12 Map.jpg

A guest at the lodge with whom I had a conversation told me it was a spectacular road, with pullouts and special sights all along the way.  He also told me that there was a section of the road which had sheer cliffs on either side.  “I just don’t know why they didn’t put guard rails on that section,” he said.  That was enough to get me going.  I dreaded that section all the way.

The scenery was indeed spectacular and there were sufficient pullouts (that’s what they call them in the west) to give me opportunities for shooting while standing still, something I hadn’t done nearly enough of, it seemed.  I was particularly excited by the heavy cloud formations overhead.  We innocently discussed the possibility of rain on this trip over the mountains.  But, I loved the drama they created and every time I held the camera to my eye, I had a heart palpitation!  Magnificent.

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But, I kept my eye on the map and the upcoming cliffs with sheer drops and no guard rails.

Route 12 7

It got gloomier, and it was clear we were headed into a storm.  Then, at 9300 feet on our GPS, the snow started coming down, then hail. The road quickly turned white.

Route 12 8

We drove slowly through this squall, meeting a few cars on the way, and every foot of the trip I’m thinking…..we have to drive on this slick road with no guard rails and sheer drops down the mountain.

Soon we started getting out of the snow, and things began to brighten.  We started seeing beautiful birch trees with their white trunks and black markings, just beginning to have new yellow-green leaves for the season.  I loved them.  But, I”m still worried.

Route 12 9

Route 12 10

Route 12 11The next thing I know we’re in Boulder, Utah!  Looking at the map, I could see we had passed the dreaded section of road.  I had missed it!  I still don’t know how. I think I must have just “blacked out” when we got there, since I was quite worried about it.  My husband, the driver, says it was a bit scary.  We had hit it before the snow storm and I didn’t even know.

After writing this draft, I decided to google “The Hogback, Route 12, Utah” and found a couple of youtube videos of the drive.  I don’t think I missed it at all!  I think it just wasn’t nearly as scary as I had imagined it would be.  It’s a one-mile section between Escalante and Boulder. Try it for yourself and tell me what you think.

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2 thoughts on “Utah’s Scenic Byway, Route 12

  1. I was in that area a number of years ago (more then 5 probably less then 10). We took the road out of Captial Reef to Notom, down through the valley, touched a little piece of Gen Canyon and popped out in Grand Escalante. Coming out of the valley sounds like what you feared. A steep climb on a dirt road with switchback curves. I loved it!!. My other back road experience is out of Bryce past Kodachorme Basin and Grovesnor Arh near Cannonville and Tropic. You cross through a creek and climb a rather steep hill past a ledge. The road is clay and it rained slightly when I was there making it slick as grease. You gun the car to get up the hill and before you realize it you are heading down and still have speed on. Fantastic experience if you like adventure. You wind up on a flat area of dust sort of like gypsum with a hard cruston top. I think the locals call it mummy dust.

    • That’s not the same road, Gary. We did that drive, too, down through Notom and over to Boulder. Not at all scary and totally beautiful. The one that gave me fears was Route 12 from Bryce to Torrey. Look at the map I included in my blog. The Hogback is the area that is steep on both sides. Look for a video on Youtube. It shows you exactly what it looks like.

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