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Utah Highway 12 from Bryce to Torrey

DaveNV

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I've booked into Villas at Southgate (formerly ORE) in St. George, Utah, for next Fall. We check in October 1st. As in previous trips to St. George, we plan to use it primarily as a launching pad for excursions to the parks in the area. We did Zion pretty thoroughly last trip, so plan to see Bryce Canyon this time, staying overnight somewhere near the park so we can catch the sunrise as it hits Bryce the next morning. If we see most of the Bryce sites the previous day, after seeing the sunrise, we'll be heading out looking for new scenery.

Loosely planning things at this early point, I'm thinking driving Highway 12 from Bryce to Torrey would be great at that time of year. The aspens would/should be in full Fall color by then, making for some outstanding photography. Is that date about right, or will the leaves likely to be done changing color by then?

Anyone here have first-hand knowledge of this highway, and the best points of interest along it? The maps show a lot of things to do, but as time will be somewhat limited, I want to maximize the experience. We already know there is too much to see properly in one trip, and we know we'll be back. We want to make this trip memorable for what we do see this time around.

What do you think? Any ideas for us to check out?

Dave
 

Rose Pink

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DH and I drove this several years ago and the one thing that really stands out in my mind is Hogs Back Ridge. It is part of highway 12 and you will be driving on it. Not for the faint of heart--especially with a semi coming at you from the opposite direction. From the following link you can get several ideas. We went to see the Anasazi excavation in Boulder and a short side trip into Kodachrome--that's one place I'd like to go back to. Are you planning to go to Capitol Reef NP?

http://www.so-utah.com/hwy12/homepage.html
 

DaveNV

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Thanks for the link. I'll definitely check it out. Kodachrome sounds really interesting, as does the Anasazi site.

Capitol Reef is vaguely in the plans, depending on time. We've even talked about trying to get all the way to Moab for a day or two, but I'm not sure I want to work that hard, or have to rush things. I know from previous experience that southern Utah has SO much to see and do, there is no way to properly see everything in only a few days.

So many choices... :)

Dave
 

Laurie

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I second the suggestions for Kodachrome (stop and take a hike there - we did) and for the drive along Hogs Back Ridge. We got to Capitol Reef too late to see much of it, except for what we could see from the road, and it looked spectacular - but we started out from St. George, and I'm sure quite a bit later than sunrise! You're wise to start from Bryce. We looped back around west and then back down to St George, driving thru some gorgeous aspen groves somewhere along the way - before hitting some very pretty green hilly country, so you can experience several totally different landscapes in a day.

Enjoy! Route 12 lived up to its reputation as one of the most scenic drives in the US, IMO.
 

Red Rox

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Route 12 is one of the most amazing roads in the world! We took almost all of a day to drive from Torrey to Bryce, so going up and back in a day would be plenty. I would suggest that you drive up aggressively and spend a short time in western Capital Reef (maybe as far as the fuit groves)and then head back and gage your time as you choose to.
 

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I have been entertaining the idea of exchanging into St. George next October also. I haven't even begun my research. I have bookmarked this thread. Glad to hear that there is much to keep us occupied.
 

Werner

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We toured the Southern Utah / Northern Arizona region for over two weeks in early June in what we called our "Rocks and Rock Art" tour. There are many things to see and many roads to take and they all take time. If you really only have one day then I would stick to Rt 12. There is also Cedar Breaks National Monument and Red Canyon, on the way to Bryce. Just stopping to take pictures along the highway will take up a full day going all the way to Torrey and back. If you spend a second night out, either in Torry or Escalante, you open up many more opportunities.

1. Explore at least one slot canyon in the Grand Staircase Region (Willis Creek, Cottonwood Narrows)
2. Grosvenor Arch
3. the Petroglyphs at Capital Reef N.P.
4. Hiking takes time but hike to the Calf Creek Waterfall is very nice. The 3 man pictograph is along the trail.
5. Also the Parowan Gap petrolgyphs northwest of Cedar City.

On a future trip with more time take Hole-in-the-Rock Road out of Escalante (4WD) to the end (about 70 miles). Most of the road is just washboardy gravel but the last 5 miles involves some rock crawling. Along the way you pass Devil's Garden, access to more slot canyons (Peek-a-Boo Slot, Spooky Slot and more). The end of the road is a spectacular view of Lake Powell from the high cliffs at the spot where Mormon settlers had to open the Hole-in-the-Rock to winch their wagons down to the Colorado River. We did this road in early June and the high desert was in full bloom (after a wet winter). Blue and purple sage flowers made the desert floor glow purple. Yellow and magenta prickly pear and lots of other flowers were in bloom.

This link is one of the best sites for planning a trip to the southwest. It covers the entire area in detail and even has special interest sections, like ancient ruins, slot canyons, etc.

There are lots of rock art sites in the area but they take time to see. Nine Mile Canyon, near Price, is known as the "World's Longest Art Gallery", about 20 miles of rock art on the canyon walls, including the famous hunt scene. Horseshoe Canyon, which is an isolated component of Canyonlands NP is a 7 mile rt hike to some of the most spectacular pictorgraphs in North America.

Unfortunately, timesharing is not a great way to tour large areas. St. George is on the western edge of the region. There are some relatively unknown Parks in Northern Nevada, west and southwest of St. George that might be worth exploring from St. George.

P.S - A one day side trip out of Bryce is to take 12 to Cannonville, (stop at the Grand Staircase / Escalante National Monument Visitor's Center there for maps and advice), walk Willis Creek slot Canyon for a couple of hours, back up to Kodachrome, then Grosvenor Arch, the Cottonwood Narrows, and then continue south following the road through Cottonwood Canyon to rt 89, take 89 through the beautiful Vermilion Cliffs back to Bryce. Assuming dry weather, the roads are washboard gravel, not 4WD, and the loop takes a very full day but gets you reasonably easy access into the Utah backcountry.
 
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lawtechie

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Thanks for the link. I'll definitely check it out. Kodachrome sounds really interesting, as does the Anasazi site.

Capitol Reef is vaguely in the plans, depending on time. We've even talked about trying to get all the way to Moab for a day or two, but I'm not sure I want to work that hard, or have to rush things. I know from previous experience that southern Utah has SO much to see and do, there is no way to properly see everything in only a few days.

So many choices... :)

Dave


MOAB was fantastic and I highly recommend it. The Arches National Park was unreal! I love Utah. We have a timeshare in Park City. We loved Utah so much we bought land north of St. George and not far from Cedar City. We also bought land near Flaming Gorge near the Utah, Wyoming and Colorado borders. Most people don't know what a gem the state of Utah is!!
 

DaveNV

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We also bought land near Flaming Gorge near the Utah, Wyoming and Colorado borders. Most people don't know what a gem the state of Utah is!!

I've spent a alot of time in Utah over the years, just not recently. I love that it's like discovering the place all over again. I can't get enough of the place.

Flaming Gorge is a fantastic area. And nearby, Vernal is one of those undiscovered gems of a town many people don't know much about. But if you have a dinosaur lover in your family, it bears knowing that Vernal, Utah is where the Dinosaur National Monument is found. An amazing Visitor's Center with a huge cliff face with real dinosaur bones sticking out of the ground. And then, if you want to complete the experience, make a quick drive across the state line, and see the monument from the other end in Dinosaur, Colorado. It's pretty cool driving down a street named Tyrannosaurus Blvd., or some such.

Dave, who is making himself wish he was in Utah right now...
 

GetawaysRus

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I did some searching in the Western States forum for information on driving Utah route 12. This is an older thread, but helpful, so I'll post here.

Another thread that I found is: https://tugbbs.com/forums/index.php?threads/utah-trip.90245/

Other very useful sites that I'm using:
https://scenicbyway12.com/
http://boulderutah.com/highway-12-boulder-utah/

When planning a trip to somewhere we've never been, I find the hardest issue to be how much time (how many days) to budget. So I'm hoping for some comments from people who have driven highway 12 that will help me decide how many days to allow. We're retired and there's no need to rush, but too slow a pace isn't good either.

I was able to reserve back-to-back timeshare weeks, so that's our start. From our home in southern California, we'll first have a week in Las Vegas at Marriott's Grand Chateau in early May 2019. Then I was able to pick up a week at Marriott Summit Watch in Park City using an AC. We then leave Park City and, from what I've read, this is a good time of year for a drive along route 12. We'll be driving from the north end to the south (and then back home to southern California when we're done).

So far I've reserved 2 nights in Torrey. We'll use those days for Capitol Reef, Notom Road, and if time permits, perhaps we'll drive a little of the area between Torrey and Boulder before coming back to Torrey for the night.

Then we drive south. Between Torrey and Boulder is the Homestead Overlook (a stop of just get out of the car and look at the view?), Anasazi State Park, Burr Trail Road (paved for 30 miles, so I'm guessing a couple of hours to drive). And just south of Boulder: Hell's Backbone Road (my car is not a 4WD - perhaps this is not for us?), the Hogsback, Calf Creek Falls (6 mile hike - that will take at least 2 hours, probably more), and Escalante River Trailhead. Near Escalante is Petrified Forest State Park. That's a lot of possible places to visit, so I'm thinking we'd stay in Escalante (one night? two nights?)

Then south again to Bryce. Along this section is: Cottonwood Canyon road (paved for 9 miles), Kodachrome Basin State Park, and of course Bryce (been there before, but it was many years ago). So perhaps another night near Bryce or in Tropic?

(We visited Zion National Park recently, so I'm not planning a stop there, but that could easily be another day for someone.)

Anyway, comments are welcome....
 

DaveNV

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I've done this drive several times. Google Maps says Highway 12 between Torrey and Bryce Canyon is a 2.5 hour drive. So everything you're looking at doing between them will add to that time, if you try it the same day. And all of that will depend on how much time you anticipate spending at those other places.

My only comments are that if you're a hiker, Capitol Reef has some very interesting things to see. You may want to see what you can learn before you get there, to decide if you're giving it enough time. It's more than a drive-through experience.

Also, the Hogsback is just a winding road along the spine of the mountains. Other than periodic signs in front of private homes offering goods and services, there isn't much to see beyond the surrounding scenery. So it'll go pretty quickly. Beautiful country, and an amazing drive, so no matter what you decide to do, it's all good.

Have fun!

Dave
 

sue1947

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The best scenery along Highway 12 is actually from the road. Take your time and pull out at various spots etc. The side roads are fine for access to additional adventures but include a lot of miles through some pretty uninteresting scenery. Any dirt roads need to be approached with sufficient information including recent weather reports. The dirt is mostly clay and when wet it cakes to your tires eliminating traction and making your car virtually un-driveable. Make sure you check locally before heading out.
For a short trip like this, stick to the main areas and you will get a good feel for the area. With only 2 nights in Torrey, you only have 1 day to explore Capitol Reef and you will probably want at least one more. If you aren't hikers, you can spend that day driving around and doing some of the short walks near the Visitor Center/river. For short hikes (from easy to harder), look at Capitol Gorge, Grand Wash, Cassidy Arch (extend along the Fryingpan trail) or Hickman's Arch (extend up along the rim). Spend one day at Capitol Gorge and Cassidy Arch along the road south from the Visitor Center and another day at Hickmans Bridge and maybe Grand Wash from the north end. If you can do the more extensive hike up to the Rim Overlook, eliminate Grand Wash; it's not that great but ok if you need something flat.
Notom-Bullfrog Road is a nice loop, but the scenery is only spectacular for a short bit. You'll see more and better if you get out of your car and do some hikes.

From Torrey down to Escalante/Bryce: Calf Creek Falls is a nice hike. Allow 3 hours. In the spring, the falls will be running full so take a picnic lunch along.
Another worthwhile side trip is Devils Garden via the Hole in the Rock road. It's unique and worth the extra drive if you have time. Here's a link to a post with good photos:
https://www.earthtrekkers.com/devils-garden-grand-staircase-escalante/

Adding a night in Escalante gives you time to explore along the way and do the side trips and hikes. Instead of staying in Escalante, you might also look at the cabins at Kodachrome Basin State Park. I stayed there probably 10 or so years ago and really liked them. They had been recently remodeled and had 2 beds + micro/refrig plus a nice porch and picnic table/Barbq out front but mostly, you walk out your door to the trail around the state park. The park is worth a half day; i.e a morning walk before heading on to Bryce or down Cottonwood Canyon (I haven't done that drive so can't advise one way or the other). They are at the intersection with the cottonwood Canyon road or an easy drive up to Bryce so you could stay there a couple of days to access both areas. Or staying in Bryce at the park lodging giving you access to an easy walk at sunrise/sunset to the rim also can't be beat.

Summary: book another night in Torrey and one night in Escalante plus time at Bryce or a couple nights at Kodachrome Basin.
 

geist1223

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3.3 years ago in June we were at Park City heading for St. George. We did not want to take the short direct route on the Interstate. Our route was I15, US50, Utah24 to Capitol Reef, then back to Utah 12, US89, 9, I15 to St George. It was a long beautiful drive. We really only got out at Capitol Reef as we would be spending several days in St George and would do Bryce and Zion from there. I do remember as we were on 12 that we had an about 45 minute delay. They were moving cattle from their winter range to the summer range. The Hwy was the only route. So you just sat there as the cattle, cowboys, an cattle dogs flowed by.
 

Karen G

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Once owned these: FirstFairway@Walden X 2; Lawai Beach; ManhattanClub; PuebloBonitoRose; 4 South Africa--now timeshare-free
There's another timeshare in the vicinity that is rarely mentioned. It's https://www.cedarbreakslodge.com, a Diamond Resorts property, in the little ski town of Brian Head, UT. It's just a few miles from the Cedar Breaks National Monument, https://www.nps.gov/cebr/index.htm. We've rented there a couple of times before our daughter and son-in-law bought a condo in Brian Head. It's a nice property.
 
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