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Five Magnificent Scenic Drives/Areas to Experience in Utah

1. Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway. Get ready for this 512-mile long looping National Scenic Byway that is heaped in all sorts of history and natural beauty as it travels through eastern Utah and western Colorado, skirting both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, and several National Forests. The loop is somewhat diamond-shaped, with corners at Moab, Helper, Vernal, and Grand Junction. Find the ancient history along the way -- including some of the world's most significant dinosaur fossil quarries and museums, including the Dinosaur National Monument, the Utah Field House of Natural History, The College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, and the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. The natural beauty you'll see includes two great rivers of the West, the Colorado and Green, as well as mountains, canyons, and barren plateaus. Be sure to take a side trip to Nile Mile Canyon, northeast of Price, which offers some of the most spectacular rock art in Utah. One other cool note for more recent history buffs is that parts of this scenic byway are historic in their own right. For example, part of I-70 in Utah is part of the Old Spanish Trail, and in Colorado, part of the old U.S. Highway 6 and US40.

2. Mirror Lake Scenic Byway. This 42-mile stretch of SR-150 starts near Kamas, in northeast Utah, about 40 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, following the beautiful Provo River, traveling through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and the western portion of the Uinta Mountains (one of the few ranges in North America that run east-west), and is one of the highest roads in the state, peaking at 10,687-feet elevation at Bald Mountain Pass. The route continues down to Mirror Lake before ending in Evanston, Wyoming. Along the journey, you'll have plethora of amazing views, including farms and ranches, rugged mountains, pine forests, alpine meadows, pristine lakes and rivers, and cascading waterfalls -- with numerous possibilities of stops for scenic overlooks, pullouts, picnic areas, hiking, and camping. Because of the high elevations, parts of the byway are closed in the winter, so best to drive it from June to October. Finally, while driving the byway is free, the highway falls within a National Forest Fee Area, which means if you plan to stop at any of the recreation areas along the route you will need to buy a day or multi-day parking pass.

3. Scenic Byway 12. Utah's only All American Road, also known as "A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway," this 123-mile long (with many options to make it longer) is a must-drive that takes you through two national parks, one national forest, one national monument, multiple state parks, several scenic back roads, and a mountain like you have never seen, with more than 80 lakes (accessible by roads/trails) and the highest timbered plateau in North America. Starting in Panguitch in the west and ending in Torrey to the northeast, the drive connects Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks, while traveling near Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Dixie National Forest, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Escalante Petrified Forest, Anasazi State Park Museum, and Boulder Mountain. Possible backcountry roads to add to the adventure include Burr Trail, Hell's Backbone Road, Cottonwood Canyon, and Hole-in-the-Rock. Do not miss two connecting scenic byways: the 18-mile Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive and the 55-mile Patchwork Parkway Scenic Byway that starts in Panguitch and goes west to Parowan, through the Cedar Breaks National Monument.

4. Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway. Utah's newest designated scenic byway covers ground long-ago lived upon by Native Americans, where you'll get to see Ancestral Puebloan culture and archeological sites, as well as geological wonders of the Four Corners region. The full drive, which goes through both Utah and Colorado, is approximately 480 miles, and is the first scenic byway designated solely for its archeological value. Some of the sites to hit along the way in Utah include Hovenweep National Monument, Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum, Butler Wash and Mule Canyon Indian Ruins, Natural Bridges National Park, Valley of the Gods, Gooseneck State Park, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Grand Gulch Primitive Area, and Three Kiva Pueblo. (Continuing into Colorado, to Mesa Verde National Park and Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.) Don't miss stopping at a unique spot -- the only location in the United States in which four states meet -- The Four Corners, part of the Colorado Plateau, is at the intersection of southeastern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico -- and marked by the Four Corners Monument.

5. Zion Canyon Loop Scenic Byway. Get ready for adventure on this 150-mile scenic loop that offers a feast for the eyes -- and your camera -- including sandstone cliffs, soaring monoliths, carved canyons, and starts in Hurricane, in the fertile farmland and orchards, continuing counterclockwise along Utah-9 east. But wait, before you begin, take a night or two at Quail Creek State Park, just west of Hurricane, which includes a 600-acre reservoir and offers camping, boating, swimming, and fishing. On your way to Zion National Park, consider a stop at Grafton, a ghost town dating back to the 1850s. Once at Zion, you'll have numerous opportunities via the Zion Canyon Road -- including stopping for a hike on the Emeralds Pool Trail and a meal break (and perhaps another hike) at the Grotto Picnic Area -- and ending with the Riverside Walk, a 2-mile (RT) hike that offers a hike through the canyon walls. Guided hikes are also typically available from March to November. Once back on the road heading east, get prepared for the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnels, built in the 1930s, including the mile-long tunnel 800 feet above Pine Creek carved into the mountain -- and the longest tunnel road in the U.S. when it was constructed. Stop shortly after for a view of Checkerboard Mesa, before continuing on to Mount Carmel Junction (with a possible side trip /stop at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park). Head north on US-89 until Long Valley Junction, turning westward on UT-14 and into the heart of the Dixie National Forest. Consider a stop at Strawberry Point Road for a panoramic view of Zion before continuing on to Cedar Breaks National Monument. Do not miss out on viewing the ancient Bristlecone Pines there. A possible side adventure is the Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway, a 51-mile drive that takes you to Panguitch Lake (with campgrounds). At Cedar City, turn south on I-15, heading back to Hurricane. End the journey with one more possible side trip -- to Snow Canyon State Park, featuring a gorgeous canyon carved from the red and white Navajo sandstone in the Red Mountains, with hiking, biking, and camping opportunities.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.


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