The Scenic Byway 12 in southern Utah bears the prestigious title of "All-American Highway," the highest U.S.
road designation. It winds through the northern portion of the vast Grand Staircase geology territory including
Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, ending at the
entrance to Capitol Reef National Park and provides sweeping views of the colorful geological wonderland of
cliffs and canyons. Many backways branching from Scenic Byway 12 provide access to roads, hiking trails,
and prominent features in the monument. It is a place of breathtaking vistas, desert flowers, canyons and
plateaus, and scenery that changes with every turn. It is a place of solitude, color and light. It tops out at
9,200 feet in elevation over Boulder Mountain in the Dixie National Forest.
The Grand Staircase is a huge stairway ascending out of the bottom of the Grand Canyon northward with the
cliff edge of each layer forming giant steps. The steps rise 5,500 feet from the floor of the Grand Canyon to
the edge of the jagged Paunsaugunt Plateau at the Pink Cliff of Bryce Canyon National Park. It is a huge area
larger than the State of Delaware.
The distinct steps of the Grand Staircase are the Vermilion Cliffs, the White Cliffs, the Gray Cliffs and the Pink
Cliffs. Locals call this ‘color country’ for the eye-popping hues that saturate this Southwest landscape. Thus
visitors of Scenic Byway 12 are treated to several different vibrant colors of huge cliffs, large canyons and
Several major points of interest in our 10-day 2010 tour are associated with this vast Grand Staircase geology
territory. We toured the Scenic Byway 12 from the Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park and eastward to
Boulder on June 1 and 2, 2010. There are many scenic lookouts along this highway and they are well marked
and paved for visitors to enjoy the 360-degree sweeping views. On the clear summer days on June 1 and 2,
2010, we could see hundreds of miles from these fantastic vantage points.
The photos of gorgeous views in the Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park are in Part 2 of this 2010
Tour in my web page at:
The photos from the awesome Grand Canyon and beautiful Vermilion Cliffs are in Part 5 of this 2010 Tour in
my web page at:
|Grand Staircase and Scenic Byway 12 - Part 6 of 11
of 2010 Tour of fantastic Southwest USA
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Breathtaking view from the Scenic Byway 12 in southern Utah of the glorious scenery of northern part of the
vast Grand Staircase geological territory.
This highway is a terrific drive if you enjoy solitude and breathtaking scenery. In AAA's Via magazine, highway
12 was labeled as the Amazing Technicolor Dream Road - Especially in autumn when leaves turn color. This is
the highway that thrills you and makes you pull over, get out of your car and simply gaze in wonder at the
sights 360 degrees around you, a whole highway full of jaw-dropping, awesome, grand vistas. These
overlooks, pullouts and stately forests may have you stopping more than driving!
Location and Direction to Scenic Byway 12:
Scenic Byway 12 in southern Utah, USA begins on U.S. 89 west of Bryce Canyon National Park. It goes
through the Red Canyon State Park and the northern edge of Bryce Canyon National Park. It then pushes east
and north 124 miles to end at the town of Torrey on Highway 24, just outside Capitol Reef National Park.
Scenic Byway 12 goes through the northern part of the Grand Staircase whereas Scenic Highway 89-Alt along
the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona goes through the southern part of the Grand Staircase.
Map: Click here to see Google Map showing west end of Scenic Byway 12 at junction with Highway 89
Map: Click here to see Google Map showing east end of Scenic Byway 12 at junction with Highway 24 at
This large area of geological Grand Staircase in southern Utah and northern Arizona is known as America's
largest playground. The 10 days in my 2010 Tour is still not enough to visit all the Points of Interest associated
with the Grand Staircase. I probably will have to come back for the third time sometime in the future to visit
some more points that I missed in this second tour in 2010 and in my first tour in 2003.
Our 10-Day 2010 Tour Route of Southwest USA is a large loop starting and ending in Las Vegas in Nevada,
USA. The sequence of fantastic Point-Of-Interest (POIs) on this large loop is:
Las Vegas in Nevada --------> Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park in Utah ---------> Cedar Break National
Monument in Utah --------> Red Canyon State Park in Utah --------> Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah
--------> Scenic Byway 12 through beautiful Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument in Utah --------> Scenic
Burr Trail and southern Part of Capital Reef National Park in Utah --------> Goblin Valley State Park in Utah
--------> Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah --------> Canyonland National Park in Utah ---------> Arches
National Park in Utah --------> Goosenecks State Park in Utah --------> Monument Valley in Arizona -------->
Antelope Canyons in Arizona --------> Glen Canyon Dam and Bridge over Colorado River in Arizona -------->
Horseshoe Bend of Colorado River in Arizona ---------> Navajo Bridge over Colorado River in Arizona --------->
Scenic Highway 89-ALT from east to west along beautiful Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona
--------> Grand Canyon - North Rim in Arizona --------> Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada --------->
Hemenway Park in Boulder City in Nevada ---------> Las Vegas in Nevada.
Several yellow headed blackbirds on the pond near the Boulder Mountain Lodge in the small village of Boulder. I
have never seen this kind of bird in New Jersey or east coast of USA. There were also some Canada geese
and other kinds of water fowl on this pond.
We stayed at this lodge for the night of June 2, 2010.
Scenic Byway 12 twisting through or along the colorful rock cliffs.
Checker-Board rock wall of mountain when we arrived at the small village of Boulder which is about half way
on the Scenic Byway 12.
There were also several deer in the wood at the edge of the pond next to the Boulder Mountain Lodge.
A key section of Scenic Byway 12 is also known as the “Million Dollar Road to Boulder” and was built by the
Civilian Conservation Corps and completed in 1935 (paved in 1971) providing the first year-round access for
automobiles to this isolated pocket in southwestern Utah. Before then, mail and supplies were carried to
Boulder by mules and pack horses over Hell’s Backbone or the Boulder Mail Trail, both hazardous routes.
The name Grand Staircase comes from the giant steps or layered cliffs that begin at the North Rim of the
Grand Canyon, reaching all the way to the pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon. All the layers of the Staircase can be
observed when approaching the Utah town of Kanab from Arizona. When driving on US 89-Alt, about halfway
between Jacob Lake and Fredonia, the steps are seen at a distance. A good view of this is LaFevere overlook
as shown in the following photo that I took from the overlook along US 89-Alt on our way driving from Jacob
Lake to Kanab.
This high, rugged, and remote region, where bold plateaus and multi-hued cliffs run for distances that defy
human perspective. Even today, this unspoiled natural area remains a frontier with the vast expanse of raw
desert and maze of canyons
The Grand Staircase extends 150 miles from bottom to top and rises 5,500 feet in elevation. The Grand
Staircase is made up of five tilted, southward, facing escarpments called stairsteps. The series of topographic
benches and cliffs, which form the "Grand Staircase", step progressively up in elevation from south to north.
The risers correspond to cliffs and the steps correspond to the broad benches, terraces, or plateaus in the
staircase. More detailed graphical sketches and descriptions of the fantastic Grand Staircase can be seen at
the following websites:
The Vermilion Cliffs form the second riser. The final riser (fifth Riser), mostly north and west of the monument,
in Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon National Park, is formed by the Pink Cliffs. The Pink Cliffs consist of
lower Tertiary limestones and marls of the Claron Formation that are sculpted into the beautiful natural
features found in Bryce Canyon. The cliffs culminate as the Paunsaugunt Plateau, which is the uppermost
bench or step of the "Grand Staircase."
There is a treasure chest of world-class paleontological sites out in the wilderness of the Grand Staircase that
is for all the world to share and enjoy. This vast oasis of remote and pristine land provides precious records of
geological, biological, paleontological and archaeological data.
There was nothing but expanses of rock stretching toward the horizon in this view.
The Grand Staircase is a territory of multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles, and canyons. The
land rises in broad, tilted terraces which form the Grand Staircase. From the south the terraces step up in
great technicolor cliffs: Vermilion. Together these escarpments expose 200 million years of the earth’s history
in a dramatic geologic library.
Another version of description is: The horizon expands to reveal a series of plateaus, bone-white to chocolate,
gray, coral pink and Pompeian red. The combination creates the illusion that the earth is rising in titanic steps
— hence the name, Grand Staircase.
The highly treasured characteristics of the Grand Staircase are pristine and remote, best-kept secret in the
West. It offers a seemingly endless choice of natural wonders that lie blissfully forgotten and empty. It’s
America’s Outback. Some hikers may wonder if they might disappear into the desert void. Hikers must pay
special attention to landmarks so they can find their way out.
Dellenbaugh, in Powell Expedition Team in 1800s wrote: “We had at last traversed from the unknown to the
unknown, and felt well satisfied with our success.” In fact, several professionally trained surveyors had tried to
find a route there and failed.
Part 7 of 11 entitled "Waterpocket Fold and Burr Trail - Part 7 of 11 of 2010 Tour of fantastic Southwest
USA" is on my web page at:
The Scenic Byway 12 in the northern portion and the Scenic Highway 89-Alt in the southern portion enable
visitors to sample the wonders of the Grand Staircase. The giant condor, the largest bird in North America,
also lives in the Grand Staircase territory.
Seasoned backpackers in great physical shape can venture into several primitive backways and hiking trails
for more intimate exploration and enjoyment of the fantastic, special features and attractions of Grand
Staircase territory which is also known as America's Outback. The special attractions include the famous and
gorgeous "WAVE", towering walls of "Willis Creek" slot canyon, the surreal landscape of Lick Wash slot
canyon, Bull Valley Gorge, Badlands near Paria Movie Set, Wolverine Bench, Mud Springs, Devils Garden,
Escalante River Area, Grosvenor Arch, Deer Spring Point, Mollies Nipple and White Cliffs, Coyote Point,
Coyote Gulch with golden sandstone, Cockscomb, White Pocket, Wahweap Hoodoos, Starlight Arch, Paria
River, Peek-a-Boo Canyon, spectacular Calf Creek Falls, Sand-castles in the Sky, Dry Fork Coyote Gulch,
Hole-in-the-Rock Road, Spooky Canyon, named for its otherworldly atmosphere, Dirty Devil region, etc.
For example, some sample photos of the georgeous stone WAVE can be seen at the following websites:
Crystalline stream of Escalante River with lush green shrubs, cottonwood, willows, many birds and fish - a
paradise in the vast expanse of raw desert.
The view is extensive and magnificent
How I use information age technologies to enhance my enjoyment greatly of sightseeing large driving tour loop
of thousands of miles and of one to two weeks in duration covering many Points of Interest is described on
my web page at: