Saturday, July 29, 2023
Bryce Canyon City, UT → Cedar City, UT
131.21 km && 1334 m elevation [81.53 mi && 4377 ft elevation]
🇧🇷 Song for today: Perfeição — Legião Urbana 🇧🇷
For the past few days, we've been biking down Utah's Scenic Byway 12 – often considered to be the most scenic road in the US!
It is recognized as an "All-American road," a distinction given to roads that are themselves tourist attractions due to their unique features. There's a number of national parks, state parks, national monuments, and scenic overlooks – all packed in a relatively small distance! It's a truly remarkable display of the diversity of geography unique to Utah.
In all, the UT-12 covers about 197 km (123 mi), which I finished biking through today! The rest of the team detoured off the first half of the highway to cut some distance on day 52.
To mark the occasion, I figured I'd recap the best sights along the way.
Capitol Reef National Park
Okay, this is cheating a bit. Capitol Reef is located about 10 miles before the start of the UT-12, which is located on the outskirts of Torrey. Still, people often consider it to be the actual beginning of the scenic drive (and we did spend a rest day there too), so why not?
Dixie National Forest – Boulder Mountain
Out of Capitol Reef, I biked up to Torrey, where the road begins in earnest. The UT-12 becomes steep riding (🆙) early on, as it crosses the Dixie National Forest by climbing through Boulder mountain. The scenery becomes much greener, with a nice, shady forest taking over for the arid surrounding areas.
Much of the forest's area is used for open range cattle ranching, which led for some interesting experiences with cows along the way!
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
To be fair, the actual Grand Staircase extends for hundreds and hundreds of miles southward – until the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. This massive area has a mix of sandstone cliffs, slot canyons, slickrocks, prehistoric sites, Western movie sets (maybe?), and anything else one could imagine, really.
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
We camped here for a night, in the shores of the Wide Hollow reservoir (which is a great place for a swim, by the way). Hiking through the petrified forest is cool, but it's important to remember to take only photos! Some say the petrified wood is haunted and removing a piece brings the taker nothing but bad luck.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon was the favorite part of a US Southwest trip I did last year, and it has again beat all competition for the top spot in this trip (so far)! As it sits in an elevated plateau at the top of the Grand Staircase, there was lots of climbing involved to get to the park, but the landscape made it immediately worth it. The park is also celebrating 100 years this year – nothing quite like some limited-edition-to-be centennial postcards!
The park holds the largest concentration of hoodoos (irregular columns of rock formed by erosion) in the world. Across the park, there are many points that give great views of large amphitheaters (bowls) filled to the brim with some of the wackiest natural statues. Beyond many beautiful hiking trails down in the canyon (right next to the hoodoos!), the park also offers a 29 km (18 mi) scenic drive with many higher-up viewpoints. I took yesterday morning to bike up the steep road – about 600 m/2000 ft elevation gain – and stop at every point!
The Red Canyon is located at the very end of UT-12, right off the highway. The amazing red sandstone formations are icons of the state's natural landscape – this area is often called the "most photographed place in Utah!" There's a nice bike trail connecting this area to Bryce Canyon too.
What a ride!