Southern Utah is known for its incredible parks and hiking trails. From popular destinations like Zion or Capitol Reef National Park to lesser-known but equally stunning options like Snow Canyon or Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, there’s no shortage of places to explore.
But on a visit to the area, you might just find yourself looking to take a break from all that hiking. Luckily, there are plenty of scenic drives that are perfect for taking a load off of your feet and seeing even more of the region’s unique beauty. Whether you’re looking for an evening drive or a full day’s adventure, keep reading to learn about a few of the region’s best scenic drives.
Zion Park Scenic Byway
When the Zion Canyon Shuttle System is in operation from March to November, personal vehicles are not allowed on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which runs through the lower canyon of the park. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy a scenic cruise in the park.
Zion Park Scenic Byway actually begins on Highway I-15, just outside of Hurricane, Utah. The highway takes you through Springdale and into the East Entrance of the park. Continuing to the right instead of turning onto the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, you’ll begin climbing up, towards the top of the canyon, but not before passing through the iconic Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.
After exiting the park, you’ll pass through Mount Carmel Junction, moving onto Utah Highway 9 before ending your drive in Kanab.
You’ll enjoy awesome views on all 60-miles of this scenic drive. Driving out and back makes for a perfect afternoon cruise. Or plan a few stops along the way for an all-day adventure.
Smithsonian Butte National Backcountry Byway
This next scenic byway is unique from others on this list. So unique, that you’re going to want to have an off-road vehicle, or at the very least one with a high clearance, to drive it. The Smithsonian Butte National Backcountry Byway is an unpaved route that begins near Gooseberry Mesa and Smithsonian Butte, just to the southwest of Zion National Park. There’s an access point located on Highway 9 near Rockville, Utah, as well as one on Highway 59 near Hilldale.
With no facilities on this stretch of road, you’ll want to make sure you have enough gas and any supplies you expect to need during your drive. While the road is just 9 miles long, it covers some truly scenic territory. After heavy rain or snowfall, this road begins impassable, especially to any vehicles that aren’t four-wheel drive.
On the Backcountry Byway, you’ll enjoy incredible panoramic views of Zion National Park. Look for the East and West temples stretching towards the sky. When you reach the road’s highest point, you’ll have a sweeping view of the Virgin River Valley. You’ll also pass the historic Grafton ghost town.
Kanab to Page on Arizona Route 89A
If you wake up and find yourself facing a rainy day or you just need a break from hiking, a longer scenic drive might be just the ticket. For jaw-dropping scenic views, you’ll start by driving from La Verkin to Kanab, Utah. You can either do this by dipping south into northern Arizona on highway 389, passing through Kaibab, or by going through Zion National Park to Mt Carmel Junction, then south to Kanab.
If you’re coming from the south, you’ll turn to route 89A in Fredonia, Arizona. If you’re coming from the north, you’ll connect with your scenic route in Kanab, Utah. Either way, from there you’ll head southeast into Arizona.
This scenic drive takes you through a variety of landscapes. Climb towards the sky and into the pine forests near Jacob Lake. Here you’ll pass the highway that takes you to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon when it is open for the year. Dip back down to the desert, where red rocks stretch out to the base of rocky mountains in the distance. Route 89A takes you through Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, an often-overlooked but incredibly stunning monument.
Your drive ends in Page, Arizona, where you can take a side trip to Horseshoe Bend or stand on the shores of Lake Powell.
When you’re finished in Page, you can either head back the way that you came, or go north on Route 89, which circles back to Kanab, passing through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Exploring Southern Utah’s Backroads
These three scenic drives are certainly bucket-list-worthy. But they are far from your only options in the area. Just about any road you turn down in Southern Utah has its own unique views to offer. Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten road and explore during your visit!
Before you can start to explore though, you’ll need to plan your next visit. Check out all that The Dwellings have to offer to learn why it’s the perfect base camp for your next Southern Utah adventure.
Related to Southern Utah: