Utah’s Scenic Byway 24 – Capitol Reef Country
Scenic Byway 24 runs east and west between Loa and Hanksville, Utah. This incredibly scenic 75-mile drive winds between the Fishlake and Dixie National Forests, through Capitol Reef National Park, between the San Rafael Swell and the Henry Mountains and near the canyons of the Dirty Devil river basin. A drive straight through will take just a few hours, but there is plenty to see along the way so allow time to explore. (View maps here)
From the Interstate 70 near Richfield, follow Scenic Byway 24 south toward Loa, the seat of Wayne County.
While traveling at an elevation just over 7,000 feet, you’ll also pass through the communities of Lyman, Bicknell (home of Bicknell Bottoms Wildlife Habitat and historic Nielsen Mill) and Teasdale at the foot of the northern slope of Boulder Mountain. Around Torrey, at the intersection with Scenic Byway 12, this pretty Fremont River valley gives way to a backdrop of red rock cliffs and canyon country. Thousand Lakes Mountain, located in the eastern part of Fishlake National Forest, is surrounded by Fremont, Loa and Lyman to the west, Bicknell, Teasdale and Torrey to the south, and Capitol Reef to the east. Exposed layers of red sandstone along the lower slopes are topped by alpine forests and meadows at higher elevations. (Learn more about scenic drives – here)
The majesty of the rugged Waterpocket Fold is a highlight of Scenic Byway 24. The next 25 miles of this scenic drive passes through Capitol Reef National Park, the only route through the park. Just past the entrance and Chimney Rock, you can visit the orchards and historic buildings at the ghost town of Fruita. A trail behind the schoolhouse leads to a petroglyph panel, then continues on to Hickman Natural Bridge and the Fremont Indian ruins.
Past Caineville, the landscape flattens out with views in every direction. The Henry Mountains can be seen to the south. Located in the San Rafael Swell near Hanksville, about 20 minutes from the intersection with Highway 95, the Mars Desert Research Station is one of four simulated Mars habitats in the world. The Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry is located in the Morrison Formation, about 11 miles northwest of Hanksville. The quarry features hundreds of Jurassic Period dinosaur bones. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended for the dirt road that leads to the site.
Side trips that can be taken from Scenic Byway 24 include Scenic Byway 12, Fishlake Scenic Byway, Notom Scenic Backway and Goblin Valley State Park.