Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Byway 12 and Grand Staircase-Escalante
Located 11 miles from the town of Torrey
, Capitol Reef National Park
is one of Utah’s best-kept secrets. It’s home to Cassidy Arch
(named for Butch Cassidy), one of the few arches that you can walk on (conditions permitting). To reach the arch from the Visitor Center, take Scenic Drive south about 3.5 miles and turn left at the sign for the Grand Wash Trailhead. You’ll drive down a dirt road that sometimes requires 4WD or high-clearance vehicles (check with the Visitor Center for road conditions). After you travel 1.2 miles, you’ll reach the Grand Wash parking area. From there, walk up Grand Wash for less than a mile to reach the well-marked junction with a path that leads to Cassidy Arch.The hike is rated strenuous, and the approach is exposed at times, so be sure to wear shoes with good grip and watch out for ice patches. The trail is generally well-traveled and marked with cairns. When you reach the arch, take in views of Grand Wash’s red rock walls and the snow-capped arch, which sits at an elevation of 6,450 feet.
From the same trailhead, the Grand Wash Trail offers a less strenuous walk that’s about four miles out and back. You’ll walk through a dry creek bed with towering sandstone walls. Keep an eye out for the enormous dome-shaped rock formation known as Fern’s Nipple. Grand Wash can be accessed from either Scenic Drive side or Highway 24.
Also known as “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway,” Highway 12 offers a fantastic stretch of views and winding roads through Escalante and Boulder, and is commonly referred to as the All American Road
. The highway connects U.S. 89 near Panguitch
on the west with S.R. 24 near Torrey on the northeast, and while it isn’t the quickest route between these two points, the journey becomes part of the destination. You can take your time on this highway and break up the trip into a multi-day journey, with some stops along the route to enjoy the distinct geology of Bryce Canyon and Grand-Staircase National Monument.