After driving through the Icefields Parkway in Canada, I didn’t think I would ever have the chance to see a better scenic drive in my life. The following year however, I decided to explore Utah State on a major western US road trip that began from Las Vegas.
Prior to that trip, I had seen a little bit of this state while exploring Zion National Park on 2 separate occasions and after being floored by it and the drive I did in that park, I knew I had to take a few extra days to see what else Utah had to offer. And so I did.
What ended up happening was just beyond words because not only were the places that I saw there stunning, but the scenic drives to get to each spot took my breath away. I’m not going to say that Utah’s scenic drives are better than what I saw in the Canadian Rockies, or other gems like the Pacific Coast Highway, but one can make the argument that Utah’s scenic drives are close to if not at the top of that list.
You tell me what you think after I show you what I saw.
- 1 Here are the 9 scenic drives in Utah I’ll be recommending you take:
- 2 1) Arches Scenic Drive Road:
- 3 2) Road 313 to Dead Horse State Park:
- 4 3) Island in The Sky Road (Canyonlands National Park):
- 5 4) Road 12 in Utah:
- 6 5) Hole in The Rock Road to Coyote Gulch:
- 7 6) Road 63 in Bryce Canyon National Park:
- 8 7) Road 9 and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive:
- 9 8) Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Zion National Park:
- 10 9) Capital Reef Scenic Drive (Road 12 and 24):
Here are the 9 scenic drives in Utah I’ll be recommending you take:
- Arches Scenic Drive Road.
- Road 313 to Dead Horse Point State Park.
- Island in The Sky Road (Canyonlands National Park).
- Road 12 Utah.
- Hole in The Rock Road to Coyote Gulch.
- Road 63 into Bryce Canyon National Park.
- Road 9/Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
- I 15 from Las Vegas to Zion National Park (Gorge of Virgin River).
- Capital Reef Scenic Drive (Road 12 and 24).
Some of these drives are pretty short, while others will span on for 100’s of miles.
Either way, the diverse nature Utah state has to offer will really shine as you go on each road and every time you think that you already saw what Utah has to offer, that next turn you make will reveal entirely new nature and a completely different landscape. That’s one of the things that makes this state so amazing and beautiful. So let’s begin:
1) Arches Scenic Drive Road:
Arches National Park is a phenomenal national park I recommend everyone check out and one of it’s main attractions is it’s scenic drive that goes through the whole area.
It takes about an hour to finish this drive (one end of it), but as you enter it and begin the drive through the park, you are probably going to have a hard time focusing on the road because of the things you’ll see.
In my opinion, the best spots of the drive in this park are actually closer to it’s entrance. As you get deeper into the park, you will see more flat lands and less canyon walls like the image to the right shows.
But on the flip side, as the landscape changes in Arches the deeper you drive into it, so do the opportunities to see the many beautiful arches there, and you will have plenty to check out the deeper you go.
The link above I shared will show you some of the nicest areas of Arches National Park you can explore in a single day.
I’ll link my own short clip of the drive there just to give you a sample of what to expect:
2) Road 313 to Dead Horse State Park:
Dead Horse State Park is nested deep in Utah and there is a beautiful road that leads into it that I unfortunately didn’t have time to explore, but the research has been done so you can see a preview of how beautiful it is to drive there (as is the park itself):
This park bears a lot of resemblance to Canyonlands National Park with how the landscape looks, but you’ll probably find less people in this region because of the lack of advertising this area gets, and that’s mainly because it’s surrounded by the Mighty 5 National Parks of Utah which take all that attention away. Never the less, give this scenic drive a shot!
3) Island in The Sky Road (Canyonlands National Park):
Canyonlands National Park is an incredible park I was fortunate enough to fit in
as my last stop before finishing my road trip in Utah and the main road that goes through parts of the park there is known as Island in The Sky.
It is a road that takes you over the top of the park and allows you to access most of the fun hikes this park has to offer from the top of it, negating the need to climb up.
In fact, the 4 hikes I did in this park rarely involved much uphill climbing.
But back to the scenic drive itself:
This road has a lot to see as you drive through it, including what looks like barren planets that used to have oceans roaring through them, but that are now gone.
The landscape here is just something else and this drive through the park will help you see that, but you will have to turn to the sides to really get that good view of it.
4) Road 12 in Utah:
Out of all the roads on this list, Utah’s Road 12 might be the most popular and longest and that’s because it stretches from Zion all the way up to Capital Reef Park.
And this is the main road which take you through most of the main national parks in Utah.
I honestly thought the only main scenic drives in Utah were centered inside the national parks, but I was very wrong as I drove through pretty much all of Road 12.
This road will take you to the top of mountains on narrow drives and into deep canyons and turns that will distract you a lot, I promise, so be prepared to drive extra carefully.
Just a warning about this area: There’s cows that roam freely in this region and I had never seen anything like that in any other state I’ve crossed. This whole state has open ranges for them and while seeing them is pretty rare, I had a few such occasions, especially at night, so be careful.
5) Hole in The Rock Road to Coyote Gulch:
I didn’t think I would be putting this road up because it’s not really as scenic as any of the other roads on this list. But what does make it worth of it is 2 things:
- It leads people to Coyote Gulch.
- It’s actually a very adventurous drive and it is challenging.
- There’s a bunch of places to see along this road for adventurous hikes. In fact, here is a list of the best hiking trails in Utah, 2 of which are in this region of the state.
So Hole in The Rock Road is actually connected to Road 12 but steers away from it and into many areas of the Grand Staircase Escalante Region.
If you drive on it, the major destination you’ll want to explore is Coyote Gulch and that drive itself will take you about an hour or longer to reach.
Along the way you’ll find very bumpy areas and a scenic mountain range to your right, with a pretty barren dessert to the left, but that’s where many of the of the exotic areas are hidden.
I enjoyed this drive when I did it and knowing the amazing places there are to see there is what adds to it’s beauty.
6) Road 63 in Bryce Canyon National Park:
Bryce Canyon National Park also holds a beautiful scenic drive and it also cuts from Road 12. It’s not a very long drive, but it’s very scenic with rock tunnels, beautiful landscapes and much more to see.
In fact, the landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park is the only one of it’s kind in Utah.
Once you get through this short drive, you’ll enter the park itself, which has another scenic drive you can do, that also has branches of parking lots around it that you can stop at to do hikes into the park itself.
Because Bryce Canyon is basically a canyon, the scenic drives you’ll do won’t really show you the heart of the park unless you park your car near one of the hikes and embark on it yourself.
The main scenic drive in Bryce is really the entrance road into it and that is really a great appetizer for what you’ll see once you start hiking at this place. I only did a few hikes in Bryce, but I truly enjoyed this park and it’s short drive.
7) Road 9 and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive:
Both these roads are located inside Zion National Park and they are the initial 2 places I explored when I first began checking out Utah State.
It was really the roads here that really aroused my curiosity to explore more of Utah State.
To be honest, after I drove through this park and was amazed by the beauty of it and the scenic drive there, I didn’t think I needed to explore anything else, as Zion had pretty much done it for me.
And you might feel that too if this is the first scenic drive you do in Utah, but I want to recommend you avoid that because Utah has so much more to offer.
If the other scenic drives on this list are any indication (and they are), Utah will have many more places for you to drive through that are equally as good and if you have done scenic drives through this state, I’d love to know which one stood out the most for you below.
As for Zion’s scenic drive, here is a dash cam video of my drive through one of the areas there:
8) Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Zion National Park:
This was the first real drive I did in Utah when I began exploring this state and I’ll never forget some of the most memorable spots on Interstate 15 that I saw, including a very beautiful gorge area around the Virgin River as well as arid and beautiful mountain ranges that are fully red at sunrise.
I did this drive on my way to Zion National Park from Las Vegas and it spanned for over 2 hours, but it really was the first drive that introduced me to the landscape of Utah and what it had to offer.
9) Capital Reef Scenic Drive (Road 12 and 24):
The last scenic drive on this list has to be Capital Reef’s scenic drive and that’s because it contains basically a mix of what the other drives on this list have to offer, mixed in with it’s own unique landscape too.
I briefly stopped at this park on my last road trip through Utah and the little time I had there was more than enough for me to want to come back.
The scenic drive there is one of the MANY gems you’ll find in the park. This particular one you see to the right is near the western entrance of it.
As you drive through this road, it loops many times before taking you into the eastern end of Utah State where you cross some very strange, yet amazing landscapes that look like endless flatlands made of concrete.
To describe the landscape in Utah is very difficult unless you’ve been there yourself, but Capital Reef National Park mixes a lot of the variety you see all across Utah and puts it together within and outside of the park area.
It’s only of the reasons I loved seeing this park!
And this summarizes the 9 scenic drives I found in the beautiful state of Utah! I highly recommend you do all of them to really get the most out of this wonderful area!