Utah's First All-American Road--Scenic Byway 12
Trip Start Nov 22, 2007
55Trip End Dec 01, 2008
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We encountered some rainy days while camping near Capitol Reef. Since our motorcycles are our only form of travel while we are camping, that limited some of our plans for time in the park. One rainy day, we decided to rent a little 4WD SUV and take a ride to Escalante-home of the Grand-Staircase-Escalante National Monument-more cliffs and canyons and geologic wonders. Route 12 was recently declared a National Scenic Byway-something the Utahans are very proud of. You can get to Capitol Reef from Bryce Canyon by taking Route 12, but it is slow going for large rigs, with lots of mountains and hills to climb, as well as many switchbacks. But it shouldn't be missed if you have time, and we would suggest a car or motorcycle as the best means of travel since you will want to stop along the way, or maybe take a side trip.
We rode Route 12 up over Boulder Mountain to the town of Boulder
After lunch in the meadow, we got back in the car and headed further down the mountain toward Boulder. Just past Boulder, you can continue on Route 12 to Escalante and beyond to Bryce. Those who are brave can take a side road, Hell's Backbone Road, to Escalante. Guess which we did. Here is how the route guide for Scenic Byway 12 (which we picked up at the visitor center) describes this road: "Hell's Backbone Road is one of the most dramatic stretches of road in Utah as it travels along a ridge with a sheer drop on both sides
We saw a large snake in the road (one of the locals called it a blow snake) that got away before we could get a picture. We also saved a baby bird that appeared to have failed to clear the road on its first flight test. We saw deer and the omnipresent chipmunks and squirrels. When we finally reached Hell's Backbone Bridge, we stopped for a while to admire the colorful cliffs and wonder at the narrowness of the ridge that supports the bridge. My feet felt queasy just standing near the edge. . .and I held my breath as we crossed over.
Once you are over the bridge, the road slowly descends through the hills and forestlands to the drier foothills outside of Escalante-at the foot of the Grand Staircase, if you will. Here the country is open and filled with horses, cattle, wild turkeys and bluebirds. We arrived in time for an awesome Utah sunset complete with rainbow colors projecting from a cloud prism in the rays spanning to the right of the sun. Well, I guess you could say we've been to Hell and back!