- 124 miles (199 km)
- Three hours to drive or three days to experience the Byway.
- Fees at campgrounds and parks along the way.
A kaleidoscope of color and a national gem at each end -- Utah's Scenic Byway 12 is a showcase of sandstone sculpted by nature where people have lived and explored for thousands of years. Drive this Byway connecting Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks and you will soon see that you are on no mere transportation route -- the views and stops along the way are just as enthralling as the two stunning parks at each end.
Named for one of the area's early-modern settlers, Ebenezer Bryce, Bryce Canyon National Park is frankly indescribable. The colors and formations written for us in the brilliant sandstone by millions of years of air and water erosion are breathtaking. They're like scenes and characters from a fairytale -- turrets and spirals or goblins and ghosts. Enter the tale yourself on one of the park's many hikes, and reach storybook vistas that stretch your imagination.
While there are opportunities for wonderful drive-by sightseeing from your every car window, be sure to step outside your car to take in the Byway's most memorable experiences. A few days or a few weeks hiking the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will put the modern world's dust and noise behind you. The Monument's huge vistas are compelling. Outside of that auto you can see ancient, gnarled pines grasping for water or chance upon a chipper chipmunk chattering at the morning.
Not far from the end of the Byway is Capitol Reef National Park. In the summer months you can enjoy fresh, locally grown fruit from the historic orchards before you visit the naturally formed arches and remote canyons. Here in the area's deserts, in the midst of daunting formations and vast expanses, nature stands out daring and fierce, yet it remains gentle enough to foster fruitful trees, small wild flowers and desert animals. This confrontation with both friend and foe is invigorating and readily accessible to you, when you hike one of the park's 15 managed trails.
Capitol Reef also houses history. Visit the Fruita schoolhouse on Highway 24. It's a restored and refurbished one-room school, used between 1900 and 1941. With two-seater pinewood desks and a potbellied stove, the tiny school served farm children from the entire area. Today visitors can look in its windows and listen to a tape-recorded message from one of the school's teachers, thus gaining a feeling for what it might have been like to attend school there, maybe barefoot and wearing dusty petticoats or faded suspenders.
On Scenic Byway 12, history, nature, scenic beauty, and recreation smoothly blend to form a kaleidoscope of warm colors, like part of a modern day fairytale. The scenic beauty along the entirety of the Byway provides a marvelous backdrop for recreation and rest, introspection and invigoration. The Byway is for everyone to enjoy, whether it be from a car window, on a short tour, or through an extended backcountry journey.