Activities - Scenic Backways & Byways

 

Backways:
Please note that backways are dirt/gravel roads.

Joshua Tree Road
In the Mojave Desert near the Utah-Nevada border, there is a forest of Joshua trees that is accessible from the Joshua Tree Road. The landscape here is slightly different here than the rest of Washington County since it is in the Mojave Desert. During the spring, there are many wildflowers blooming, and this makes this season an ideal time to traverse the route. The road passes through the Shivwits Paiute Indian Reservation, Wittwer Canyon, and Bulldog Canyon while crossing near Jarvis Peak. There are also remnants of an old cowboy outpost along the way. The loop is about sixteen miles long. It starts and ends on Highway 91 near the turn off to Gunlock at one end and four miles away from the Utah-Nevada state border on the other.

Smithsonian Butte Scenic Backway
The Smithsonian Butte Scenic Backway starts in Rockville near Zion National Park and meanders between Gooseberry Mesa and Smithsonian Butte along the Vermillion Cliffs. From this dirt road there are spectacular views of the North Guardian Angel and East and West Temples in Zion National Park. Another highlight of the road is a great view of the Virgin River Valley at the road's highest point. There are no services along the road, but fishing is allowed just outside of Rockville in the Virgin River. It is nine miles long and connects Rockville and Highway 59 - intersecting it eight miles northwest of Hildale.

Warner Valley Scenic Backway
This 35 miles long dirt road is accessible from 1450 South in St. George and goes to historic Fort Pearce in the Warner Valley. Fort Pearce was built in the 1860s to defend the area from the Navajo Indians during a period of shaky relations between the settlers and the Indians. Fortunately, the fort never was attacked. Another highlight along the road is a set of dinosaur tracks that were discovered in the early 1980s. Since this road is level, it is great for families, and kids will enjoy a chance to see the dinosaur tracks.

Byways:

Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway
Kolob Canyon is a beautiful highlight of Zion National Park, on its west side the canyon is an interesting complement to Zion Canyon with its dramatic red cliffs and rock formations. Unfortunately, many people each year ignore it as they drive down Interstate 15 because they mistakenly consider Zion Canyon as the highlight of the national park. Many come to Kolob Canyon to see and explore the many "finger canyons" that are in the canyon. Traveling along this byway during or after a rain storm is very beautiful since there are many spontaneous waterfalls that highlights this desert and red landscape. This approximately five miles long byway traverses the canyon and provides access to many trail heads. The byway starts at Exit 40 on Interstate 15 and is about an hour's drive from Springdale at the mouth of Zion Canyon.

State Highway 18
Highway 18 heads north from St. George's west side and provides access to Snow Canyon State Park, Dixie National Forest, and the beautiful Pine Valley area. Part of the road has dramatic views of Snow Canyon Park from cliffs on its eastern end, and The Ledges Golf Course is right off of the highway at this point. Of note, several volcanoes are along the road indicating that this area has a geologic interesting past. Towns such as Veyo and Pine Valley are along this road and have services.

Zion Park Scenic Byway - U-9 / Zion Mt. Carmel Highway
This scenic byway spans the area between Interstate 15 and Mt. Carmel. It passes through the towns of Hurricane, La Verkin, and Springdale. During the construction of the stretch between lower Zion Canyon and Mt. Carmel in the 1920s it was considered virtually an impossible project since it eventually required two tunnels (including one approximately 1.1 miles long). However, this stretch was worth the effort since it provides access to some spectacular scenery in Zion National Park including the Great Arch of Zion, Checkerboard Mesa, and slick-rock. Of note, the ghost town of Grafton is only three miles off of the byway, and the movies "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Electric Horse" were partly shot in the town. The byway is about 54 miles long.