21 Jun Southern Utah Scenic Drives Best Explored with a Slingshot
If you’re only planning on a short-term rental, you might not be looking for more than a quick joy ride in your Slingshot. But if you rent for 4, 8, or even 24 hours, you’ll have the chance to explore more of Zion National Park and the surrounding area. Get away from the crowds of Springdale and explore the area’s beautiful scenery with a scenic drive. Here are a few of the best you can choose from.
Zion Park Scenic Byway
Perhaps the first scenic drive that most visitors to the area think of is the Zion Park Scenic Byway. At just 60-miles in length, it won’t take nearly as long to drive as the next route on this list. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t want to give yourself plenty of time for stops, hikes, and photos along the way.
This byway winds through Zion National Park, following Utah Highway 9. The road begins in Kanab. From there you can make the 20-minute drive to Mount Carmel Junction. Then you can head west on Utah Highway 9 towards the park.
Taking the Zion Park Scenic Byway also means you’ll get the chance to cruise through the iconic mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. This is perhaps the coolest mile you could possibly drive in your Slingshot.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take your Slingshot through the heart of Zion, as the road is closed to public vehicles during the busy season. But you can park your vehicle at the visitor center and hop aboard the free shuttle to take the 6-mile journey through the park.
Highway 12 Scenic Byway
Running 124-miles from Torrey, Utah to US 89, you’ll need a full day to drive out and back on this road if you plan to make any stops. But if you have the time, you’ll be treated to some of the most beautiful views in Southern Utah.
On this long, scenic drive, you’ll pass some of the region’s famous red rock domes, as well as wooded mountainous areas. Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are situated on this route, as are the lesser-known Kodachrome Basin State Park and Escalante Petrified Forest. At the end of this road, in Torrey, you’ll also find the western edge of Capitol Reef National Park.
Small, classic western towns like Escalante, Boulder, and Tropic make excellent stopping points along the way for catching lunch or stretching your legs.
Bonus Route: Hole-in-the-Rock Road
If you have time, you can also veer off this road for a 57-mile side trip on Hole-in-the-Rock Road. You’ll go from desert views to stunning overlooks on Lake Powell.
Johnson Canyon Road
If you aren’t too afraid of heights, this cliff-hugging route will have your heart pounding. Johnson Canyon Road begins less than 10 miles to the east of Kanab. From there, it climbs upwards along cliff-lined canyons, continuing for 18 miles before ending in a 3-way junction.
Johnson Canyon Road follows part of the western edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. If you’re visiting during the busy summer months, this often-overlooked park is perfect for escaping the crowds that fill Zion and Bryce this time of year. At over 1.9-million acres and featuring stunning rock formations and breathtaking cliffs, it’s worth a visit any time of year.
Bonus Route: Skutumpah Road
When you get to the 3-way junction at the end of this road, you can either turn back or continue on to another great scenic route, Skutumpah Road. This rough road isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to drive the 33-miles along the edge of Kodachrome Basin State Park, you’ll enjoy even more beautiful views, as well as access to trails and overlooks.
US Highway 89
Another road beginning near Kanab and great for enjoying from your Slingshot is US Highway 89. This 75-mile road is perhaps the most scenic on this list, with long, empty stretches and very little traffic. On your way to Page, Arizona, you’ll pass colorful striped sandstone cliffs as well as soaring ridges spotted with pine trees.
At the end of Highway 89, you’ll cross over the beautiful Colorado River as you enter Page. Grab a tasty meal and do some sightseeing, then start your trip back to Kanab in time to enjoy the beautiful sunset views over the cliffs and ridges along this road.
Bonus Route: Paria River Valley Scenic Backway
If you’re interested in a side trip and a touch of adventure, take the Paria River Valley Scenic Backway at milepost 31. This route will take you to the ghost town of Paria, which was once used as a film set but has long since been abandoned.
Choosing the Right Scenic Route
While many of the scenic drives on this list promise beautiful scenery you can enjoy without obstruction from your Slingshot, choosing the right one depends on your own interests and previous visits. If you’ve always stuck to exploring Zion during your trips to Springdale, it may be time to branch out. If you’re looking to mix up driving with hiking or sightseeing, check out the options along each of these routes to find what you’re looking for. And be sure to leave time for a bonus sidetrip; these often make for the best memories!