Skyline Drive III
LOCATION: North of I-70, between U.S. 89 and S.R. 10.
HIGHLIGHTS: There are awesome vistas, stretching from the Great Basin to the Colorado Plateau. Road conditions vary, and the route includes some narrow ledges, all of which adds to the fun of reaching 10,900 feet on the Wasatch Plateau. The mountain biking opportunities are good as well. Summer and fall are the best seasons to visit. This road is also known as Skyline Drive South.
DIFFICULTY: Easy to difficult depending on where you start. The north end can be muddy and rutted. At mile 23 the road crosses a north-facing slope that can be blocked by snow well into summer.
TIME & DISTANCE: 6 hours; about 73 miles.
MAPS: URRA, pp. 60 (C–H, 1–3), 67 (A–C, 11–12) and 68 (A, 1). Manti-La Sal National Forest’s Sanpete, Ferron and Price Ranger Districts, (Sanpete and Price side: E–F, 3; Sanpete and Ferron side: D–F, 5–9). Fishlake National Forest (H–K, 5–6).
INFORMATION: Manti-La Sal National Forest, Sanpete Ranger District; Ferron/Price Ranger District’s Price Office and Ferron Office; Fishlake National Forest, Richfield District. Get the brochure Auto Tour: Great Basin Experimental Range from the Sanpete Ranger District.
GETTING THERE: If the weather has been dry for some time, letting the roadbed dry out, you can start on S.R. 31 at the Sanpete Valley Overlook [N39°36.869' W111°18.391'] and drive south. Zero your odometer at the start. Expect severe ruts. Easier accesses are the serpentine, 15-mile gravel road (Forest Hwy. 8) from Ephraim east up Ephraim Canyon; or the 37-mile drive from Castle Dale on S.R. 10, west on S.R. 29/Forest Hwy. 8 past Joe’s Valley Reservoir. I start at S.R. 31, from which you can drive the entire route.
REST STOPS: Twelvemile Flat Campground.
THE DRIVE: This leg of road 150 is more rugged and even more spectacular than the route I call Skyline Drive II (Tour 22), which starts 4.9 miles farther north on S.R. 31. The route begins high above Sanpete Valley. You will pass a number of lush, U-shaped glacial basins, and at about mile 20 the road takes you past North and South Tent Mountains, both of which exceed 11,200 feet. At mile 22.3 cross a sharp divide at about 10,600 feet, and a short distance farther cross the ridge. The road improves from here though it’s still one lane as it crosses an exposed, rocky landscape of rolling mountaintops and alpine meadows.
At mile 43.9 or so [N39°09.162' W111°29.222'] you will reach Hightop, at 10,904 feet, the highest point on the drive. (The elevation is in dispute and differs depending on your source. The sign says 10,897, but the Forest Service map says 10,904.) Descend to Twelvemile Flat and turn left at the campground [N39°07.426' W111°29.146'] toward Gunnison Valley. At mile 54.2 or so [N39°04.224' W111°33.232'] road 290 angles right (west), descending toward Mayfield. Follow the two-track that continues ahead into the woods. Soon it enters Fishlake National Forest, where road 150 becomes road 001. Note your odometer here. In 6 more miles [N39°00.599' W111°35.154'] road 001 (from here scenic Willow Creek Road) bears right (west), and continues for 25 miles toward U.S. 89. Skyline Drive, road 009, continues south down Salina Canyon to I-70 (13 miles).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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