Scenic Byway 12 / National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Scenic Byway 12 / National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Know Before you Go: Scenic Byway 12 Tour


Scenic Byway 12 is 126 miles of road that winds through rugged Western deserts and stunning vistas sure to take your breath away!

On our journey, we’ll pass two national parks, three state parks, and a national forest all within a national monument.

Shaka Guide has provided you with a full day of activities and adventures on this road trip tour, but you’re in control of your adventure!  

Whether you want to explore the parks, hike the trails, hit the back roads or just cruise along and listen to great stories, Shaka Guide’s Scenic Byway 12 tour has you covered!

Start Planning!

scenic road in utahDXR, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Our tour starts at the intersection of Route 89 N and Utah Highway 12, also known as Scenic Byway 12.
  • Our tour ends in Torrey, Utah at Capitol Reef National Park.  
  • Along the route, we’ll pass Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - three separate land regions, each containing state parks, forests, hiking trails, lakes, museums, and viewpoints. We’ll point out some fantastic side trips, scenic and historical backways, and optional stops to maximize your experience. 
  • There are fees to enter the National Parks and federally protected recreation areas.  If you plan on visiting more than one National Park or forest while you’re here in Southern Utah, we recommend you purchase the yearly park pass for $80.  
  • There are day-use fees for the state parks in Utah.  These fees range from $5-$10 depending on the season and must be purchased at the visitor centers or here.
  • Bring cash - some state parks are cash only!
  • The tour takes roughly 2 ½ to 3 hours if you make minimal stops.  However, with hundreds of miles of parks and forests to explore, we suggest carving out at least 8 full hours of daylight if not more! 
  • We recommend taking the tour in spring, summer, and fall. Unless you are comfortable and familiar with driving in extreme snow and sleet, save the road-tripping for the warmer weather. 
  • The tour gives you several scenic backway options for side trips that will take you onto unpaved roads that are subject to washouts - please check your rental agreement. 

What to Expect

curved roadNational Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Start Early!

We recommend starting your road trip early in the morning.  There is something magical about watching the sun rise over the pink cliffs of the Grand Staircase!

Sunrise times vary depending on the season, so check with any of the park visitor centers or sunrise-sunset.org to get the most accurate information.

Hit the Trails! 

As we mentioned, Scenic Byway 12 is 126 miles long. That means at some point, you’re probably going to want to stop and stretch those legs a bit.  

But if you’re not quite up to an outdoor activity yet, no worries! Between two National Parks, three State Parks, a National Forest, and numerous overlooks, there are over 100 hiking trail options along Scenic Byway 12. 

download shaka guide scenic byway 12

Sample the Local Fare!

If you visit during peak season, bring your appetite!  There are tons of unique dining options on your journey.  

Whether you’re looking for a light snack or a dinner fit for a cowboy, you’ll be able to find it along Scenic Byway 12.

If you’re short on time, be sure not to miss the historical Kiva Koffeehouse for a caffeine boost, a delicious snack, and a dose of Ancestral Puebloan history.     

Learn Everything You Can!

Your Scenic Byway 12 road trip adventure isn’t just beautiful overlooks and hikes.  

There’s a reason they call this the Journey Through Time By Way.  You’re driving through 126 miles of American history, and there are numerous museums, visitor centers, and wayside road signs to tell you all about it.  

Be sure to stop by the Anasazi State Park Museum to walk through an actual Ancestral Puebloan village!


scenic roadKodachrome Basin State Park / Murray Foubister, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How much you spend truly depends on what you do along the tour route, but here’s a breakdown of some costs:

  • $90-$150 per day: average car rental fee plus gas
  • $30 per car: Bryce Canyon National Park entrance fee
  • $30 per car: Capitol Reef National Park entrance fee
  • $10: Kodachrome Basin State Park day-use fee
  • $10: Petrified Forest State Park day-use fee
  • $5: Anasazi State Park Museum entrance fee
  • $25: Lunch/snacks
  • $30-$50: Dinner 
  • $50: Souvenirs

Safety Information

desert overviewTony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here at Shaka Guide, your safety is our top priority.  Here are some stay-safe tips for the ultimate road trip experience.

  • Get plenty of rest before driving, and never drive tired!  If you’re traveling with a group, make sure there is at least one other responsible, licensed driver who can step in if you need a break.
  • Always observe speed limits.  Not only does this tour rely on your phone’s GPS system, but parts of our tour are along school bus routes.  Be mindful of sudden stops and children crossing the road.
  • Please don’t text and drive.  It is against the law in Utah.
  • Be sure your car has a roadside safety kit.  
  • When hiking and exploring, bring plenty of water and stay hydrated.
  • Always hike and explore in groups. Stay away from ledges. Don’t overdo it; if you’re not comfortable with the difficulty of a hike, don’t attempt it.  
  • Do not feed or pet wildlife.  Some smaller critters may seem friendly and even approach you for food.  Remember that wild animals carry disease, and feeding them anything that isn’t part of their normal diet can upset their digestive system and possibly make them aggressive.

Start Packing!

hikers walkingBob Wick; Bureau  of Land Management, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s our packing list for this tour. It may seem a little long, but remember, what you bring depends on the activities you choose to do for the day.

  • Sturdy sneakers or hiking boots
  • Hiking Clothes: lightweight layers and pants with pockets
  • Backpack
  • Phone or camera
  • Hiking stick
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun Glasses and/or Hat
  • Snacks
  • Car Charger *Very Important*
  • Phone Mount

During your road trip, please observe all posted park rules and regulations.

The National Park Service, Utah Department of Natural Resources, and the Bureau of Land Management all work tirelessly to keep the parks clean and safe for everyone to enjoy, but they can’t do it without your help.

Check out Shaka Guide’s article The Leave No Trace Principles for more information on how you can help to keep our parks pristine for generations to come.

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