Utah – Self Guided Road Trips – Top 10 Undiscovered Utah Roads

Road tripping through Utah is remarkable for the tremendous diversity of scenic grandeur on display, as well as for the way Utah stands out culturally from its neighbours in the American West. Each journey is a photographer’s paradise, a hiker’s nirvana, a Western historian’s feast, and a geologist’s ultimate dream world. And much of what Utah has to offer is just waiting to be enjoyed through the lens of a favourite American pastime: the road trip.

But in a wonderland so vast, how do you maximise your time, choose the best routes, and avoid riding by some of the most fascinating natural and cultural attractions in Utah that might be hidden just off the road?

To help in your quest, we’ve pulled together guides and information to the network of scenic roads that wind their way through Utah’s diverse landscapes, including the must-do scenic road trips through our most popular destination and our Top 10 Undiscovered Road Trips. While many of our must-do road trip itineraries and roads less travelled do include portions of — or entire — designated scenic byways, we also have a catalog of our designated scenic byways with links to google maps of the routes. In fact, there are 27 designated scenic byways in our route inventory. That means no matter where your compass in pointing, when you plan a Utah road trip, you’re bound to encounter our most photo-worthy rides.

So pack some snacks, bring your binoculars, plan some spectacular stops and get ready to write your own story about these scenic road trips along the highways and backways that traverse the state. Your Utah road trip is about to begin.

Top 10 Undiscovered Utah Roads

Utah is filled with scenic drives through colorful landscapes you won’t find anywhere else. Whether you scour Utah’s All-American Road or check out the scenic drives leading into our national parks and mountain canyons, the drive to your destination is typically just as beautiful as the destination. But it doesn’t end there. Utah is a big state with diverse physiographic regions. Utah also stands out culturally from its neighbors in the American West.

In pursuit of Utah’s unique history and geology, we’ve assembled these Top 10 Undiscovered Road Trips in Utah. Please don’t take “Top Ten” literally, because there are dozens of other great road trips in Utah, but this selection will give you a super sampling, from the red rock deserts of Southern Utah to the mountainous beauty of central Utah to the expansive, largely uninhabited but starkly fascinating landscape of northern Utah. These drives tend to shy away from the more heavily traveled national parks, so you can expect fewer crowds and a thoroughly authentic Utah experience.

SOUTHERN UTAH

1. Utah’​s Desert Southwest

St. George to Littlefield, AZ Loop

A brilliant 100-mile loop tour that combines redrock canyon scenery and dry Mojave Desert landscapes. Highlights along the way include the Snow Canyon sandstone formations and volcanic cinder cones, excellent hiking opportunities, historic locations such as the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and the beautiful Mojave Desert/Joshua Tree Scenic Backway.

2. Bicentennial Scenic Byway

Hanksville to Blanding

A 133-mile high-desert drive across some of the state’s most rugged canyon country. Highlights along the way include the Glen Canyon crossing, views of the Henry Mountains, sight-seeing and excellent easy day hikes in Natural Bridges National Monument, and an abundance of ancient dwellings and rock art.

3. A Forest Oasis in the Heart of the Desert

Fish Lake Loop

This picturesque 40-mile alpine and high-desert drive takes road trippers along the Fishlake Scenic Byway. The route takes you to beautiful Fish Lake, with abundant opportunities for fishing and boating. Many attractive side trips can be done along the way, including the Cove Mountain Road Scenic Backway, Gooseberry-Fremont Scenic Backway, Thousand Lake Mountain Road Scenic Backway, and Loa to Hanksville Scenic Byway.

4. Beaver Canyon and the Sevier River Valley

Beaver to the Sevier Valley

This splendid 17-mile mountain canyon drive takes you from the town of Beaver to the Elk Meadows Ski Resort, then continues, unpaved, over the Tushar Mountains and down into the attractive Sevier River Valley corridor. Highlights along the way include the historic town of Beaver, abundant high mountain scenery, Fishlake National Forest, Puffer Lake, the scenic and historic Sevier River Valley, as well as great opportunities for hiking, fishing, and camping.

CENTRAL UTAH

5. Historical Sites and Wide-Open Spaces

Eureka to Delta

This trip is a distinctive 50-mile basin and range drive across broad, dry valleys and past rough desert hills filled with mining history. Highlights along the way include the Tintic District mining towns, Great Basin desert views, rockhounding, the Little Sahara Recreation Area, the historic site of the Topaz internment camp used during World War II, and the mud-walled Fort Deseret built in 1866.

6. Huntington and Eccles Canyons — Lakes, Stones and Dinosaur Bones

Huntington to Fairview and Scofield

The Wasatch Plateau is one of Utah’s most important geographical features, marking the division between the vast Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin. This 55-75 mile road trip combines the Huntington Canyon and Eccles Canyon Scenic Byways and provides an excellent introduction to the spectacular Wasatch Plateau high country.

7. Indian and Nine Mile Canyons — Natural History Meets Ancient Art

Duchesne to Price & North to Myton

This highly diverse 145-mile drive combines lovely forested canyons, the traverse of old Native American and settler trails, and many cultural and historical attractions in Helper and Price, as well as Nine Mile Canyon with its fascinating rock art sites.

NORTHERN UTAH

8. West Desert Ramble

Fairfield to Tooele to Dugway to I-80

A 120-mile basin and range drive that reveals elements of Utah’s mining, Pony Express, and Mormon history as well as the dramatic alpine terrain of the Deseret Peaks Wilderness Area and the forbidding desert wilderness of the Great Basin. This drive is a very good (and relatively easy) introduction to the Great Basin region as a day excursion from Salt Lake City.

9. Ogden River Scenic Byway

Ogden to Monte Cristo

The Ogden River Scenic Byway follows a narrow canyon 30 miles from the urban center of Ogden and up into spectacular alpine landscapes. Along the way to its high point of nearly 9,000 feet at Monte Cristo Summit, it passes through a complex quartzite gorge, a beautiful high valley, and some of the finest mountain meadows and forest in northern Utah. Also along the way are significant man-made attractions that include a genuine monastery and prize-winning hamburgers.

10. Northwest Railroad Trail Expedition

Snowville to Grouse Creek to Golden Spike to Corinne

This long excursion into the desert and grasslands of Utah’s undiscovered northwest corner features Great Basin views, remote ranching communities, the old Central Pacific rail line, the Golden Spike National Historic Site, a rocket display, and monumental outdoor art. Make sure you have a large-capacity gas tank or an extra gas can if you plan to drive the length of the old railroad grade.

 


Road trip information adapted from Scenic Driving Utah (Globe Pequot Press), which includes driving directions and maps for 28 of the best auto tours in the state.

 

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