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Kyle Jenkins | 08.31.2018

Utah is a large state and has vast, desolate drives between its strange and beautiful landscapes. Luckily some of these drives are not endless stretches of road but are a big part of the sightseeing. Make sure to call "shotgun" on any of these following drives; you don't want to get stuck in the backseat for these gems.

Northern Utah and autumn color

  • The Alpine Loop: Starting from the charming mountain hamlet of Sundance, this short stretch of heaven within American Fork Canyon gives you amazing views of Mount Timpanogos and its dynamic terrain. The aspen, maple and oak combine for a full spectrum of color in the months leading up to winter.
  • Big Cottonwood and Guardsman's Pass: Highway 190 takes you up and over the Wasatch Mountains and gives you one of the great slices of seasonal colors in the state. Beginning in Salt Lake and ending in Midway you get a few dozen miles of breathtaking beauty.
  • Little Cottonwood Canyon: The soaring granite cliffs along Highway 210 and the surprisingly good fall foliage keep a steady stream of tourists making their way up LCC each year. This is also a great way to view some rugged mountains in the depths of winter in a safe manner.
  • Weber Canyon: The autumn color hugs both side of Highway 84 as you make your way up to Smith and Morehouse Reservoir just a short drive from beautiful Park City. Large stretches of aspen are brilliant green in summer and bright yellow in fall.
  • Mirror Lake Highway: Head into the Uinta Mountains along Highway 150 on one of the major conduits of alpine adventure in the state. Head over Hayden Pass at sunset to see the lake filled basins bathed in purple light

Southern Utah and canyon country

  • Highway 12: Quite possibly the most scenic drive in all of Utah, this 122-mile stretch of road passes by desert jewels such as Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Kodachrome State Park, Calf Creek Falls and the alpine terrain of Boulder Mountain. You can see the most amazing array of geology in this one drive.
  • Hell's Backbone: This trip is a jaw dropping and nerve wracking way to experience the Grand Staircase, an alternative to Hwy 12 with historical significance and a must-do for people visiting the greater Boulder area.
  • Hole in the Rock Road: This dirt road off of Highway 12 is loaded on both sides with unusual sights and a ton of adventure opportunities.
  • Highway 95: Heading southeast from the small town of Hanksville and ending at the enigmatic Comb Ridge, this desolate road passes over Lake Powell at the northern end of Glen Canyon and takes you near Fry Canyon.
  • Kolob Canyon Road: For people passing through the area on the I-15, the Kolob Canyon scenic drive is the easiest way to get a massive dose of desert beauty just minutes from the freeway. This is perfect for those who don't have time to visit Zion National Park but still want a small taste.
  • Highway 9: Soaring sandstone cliffs line the road through Zion National Park and the small town of Springdale sits at its borders. From there Cottonwood trees grow from the banks of the Virgin River between the park and St. George. Beautiful canyon country without having to be too isolated.
  • Cedar Breaks: Even the approach to Highway 148 is a steep and stunning drive through Brian Head Ski Resort above Cedar City. The high alpine terrain has a rare and unique twist thanks to the hundreds of hoodoos cut into the sandstone by the regular rain and snow. Cedar Breaks National Monument can be easily seen from the many lookouts that dot this highway.
  • Capitol Reef Scenic Drive: All of the highways and roads leading to this area are gorgeous, but the scenic route within the park itself is a particularly special place. Purple, orange, red, brown and tan colored sediment all light up in the setting sun and show off an amazing display of natural contrast.
  • Highway 24: Make sure to keep your eyes on the road as you pass though beautiful scenes within Capitol Reef National Park, the historic town of Fruita, and as you pass the Nielsen Grist Mill. Easily one of the prettiest drives in the southwest, check out the small hamlet of Teasdale as a gorgeous side route through a charming desert town.
  • La Sal Mountains Scenic Loop: The mix of desert and alpine terrain combine for a stunning multi-faceted landscape near the adventure hub of Moab. Drive through the lesser known and gorgeous Castle Valley after descending from the large aspen groves that sit alongside the scenic drive.
  • Highway 163: Known to most as the "Forrest Gump" road, this stretch of highway has become particularly famous since the movie depicted the main character performing his run across the U.S. here. Looking out toward Monument Valley and the Arizona border, the place has gained cult-like status as a quintessential representation of the American Southwest and a great place to stop and take a photo.

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