For a scenic, half-day tour of Arches National Park, just head out on the main road. You'll hit pullouts for the La Sal Mountains' 12,000-foot peaks, Balanced Rock's balancing act, the Fiery Furnace's maze of rock fins, and more. One spur road takes you to the many strange formations in the Windows Section, while a second leads to a view of Delicate Arch.
While adventurous mountain bikers tackle this drive on two wheels, you may wish to navigate Canyonland's White Rim Trail on four. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are necessary to drive this famous 100-mile trail, which lies midway between the mesa top of Island in the Sky and the Green and Colorado Rivers below. Enjoy a leisurely backcountry adventure, or zip through in two days' time; either way, plan ahead for permits and campsite reservations.
The 29-mile stretch from Escalante to Boulder is perhaps one of the most scenic paved desert drives in the country. But it's not a road for the motorist in a hurry. Midway through the drive you'll have to navigate some narrow, twisting turns, with a drop-off on either side of the road. Slow it down and take in the scenery (while keeping your eyes on the road).
From Boulder, drive on to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area via the Burr Trail. This 66-mile, partly dirt byway runs through Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to connect with Utah Route 276. The Burr Trail passes by domes and buttes of Navajo sandstone, descends into narrow Long Canyon, and switchbacks down to Waterpocket Fold. Take a side trip along a spur road and a short hike will lead you to a stunning view of this 100-mile fold in the earth's surface.
Take a spin down the Bicentennial Scenic Byway, a 133-mile drive along Utah Route 95 from Hanksville to Blanding. From barren desert, the terrain changes to the red sandstone of slickrock country. Look for petroglyphs at the Hog Springs rest stop, and when you hit Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, pull off at the Hite Overlook for a picnic and a view of Lake Powell. The byway runs past Natural Bridges National Monument, which makes a great side trip for hiking and sightseeing. Finally, head on to Blanding, where you can visit Edge of the Cedars State Park.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication