One of the outings we really enjoyed while we were visiting the Bryce Canyon area was driving along Utah Highway 12 and visiting some of the points of interest. You could do this drive in a single day, but it would be a long day. We covered it in one long day with a half-day as well. It all depends on how leisurely you want to be and what's of interest to you.
This is what we did. Not in the order, we did it, but rather by location going east.
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Once you pass up the turn off for Bryce Canyon on Utah Highway 12 East, the first spot of interest is Mossy Creek trail. It is a short but pretty hike jam-packed with things to see. There are hoodoos and arches and waterfalls, you name it and this trail has it.
The first town you'll come up to is Tropic. Once you arrive in town, past the cemetery and then turn right on Bryce Way. Go through the residential area, past the high school, and continue on the road until ends at the Tropic Trailhead. Follow the trail in 1.8 miles then you'll have your choice of trail options depending on what you want to see. Of course, technically speaking eventually you cross over into official national parkland, but no fee box or Rangers was collecting!
The town of Escalante is just another small town with a few trails with one exception. The Escalante Mercantile and Natural Grocery. When spending a day on Highway 12 don't bring a picnic, instead, stop here and pick up some truly outstanding food. Although we already had a packed lunch (don't tell Mr. Misadventures that I secretly wanted to throw away our food and buy half the store!) we picked up some supplies and a just-baked baguette from the owner and her dog Jack.
Sitting between Escalante and Boulder is the world's greatest coffee house. Built by an architect over a decade ago, this oasis among the cliffs offers not only a phenomenal view but really good coffee. They serve food as well and even have two cottages available for rent. Stopping here is a must!
Boulder – Burr Trail
The next stop along 12 hosts one of the entrances to the Burr Trail, a notable off-road route between the Bryce Canyon area and the Escalante Grand Staircase and Capitol Reef Park. The Burr trail itself takes all day to navigate but you can take a 30-minute detour off Highway 12 from Boulder and see a great slot canyon, magnificent monoliths, and beautiful bentonite hills before turning around and heading back to Boulder.
Things we saw but did not get a chance to explore
Kodachrome – the next town after Tropic is Cannonville and that's where the turnoff to drive to Kodachrome Park is. We visited this park in 2012, so we skipped it this time.
Airstream motel – if I wasn't already living in an RV, I would have definitely made plans to stay in Shooting Stars, an Airstream motel on the way to Escalante. This spot is totally adorable and a great way to see if you can endure cramped quarters.
Stone Hearth Grille Restaurant – in Tropic on Bryce Way. Promoted as a fine dining establishment, I wished I'd seen this earlier in our trip as I would have liked to try it out. It was the only fine dining location I saw in the area.
Hiking – there are tons of great hiking spots along Utah Highway 12 including Calf Creek Trails just after the Kiva Koffeehouse. If we were staying closer to this area, we would have definitely made time for it.
How about you? Have you driven on Utah Highway 12? What's your favorite stop? Do you have a favorite scenic drive?
Feature image photo credit: faungg
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