Scenic Byway 12 is 124 miles long. As you estimate the time necessary to travel the length of the byway, use an average speed of 40 miles per hour.
Cell phones do not work along many miles of Scenic Byway 12 due to the rugged terrain and remoteness. Plan accordingly and make calls while stopped in one of the locations with service.
GPS Navigation Systems
Travelers entering the region should be particularly careful about trusting GPS navigation systems. Units programmed to provide the most direct route may lead you into the backcountry.
Many of the backcountry roads in this region are very rough and remote. High-clearance and/or four-wheel drive vehicles are needed to travel some sections of these roads, many of which are seasonally maintained and impassible when wet. All are far from emergency road service so travel prepared for anything.
Use the pullouts and waysides along the byway where you will find interpretive sign panels with local area information. Never block the road by stopping in the traffic lanes to take photographs. When you find yourself overwhelmed by the spectacular scenery on Scenic Byway 12, pull off the road where it is safe to do so.
Share the Road
Many segments of Scenic Byway 12 have sharp curves and narrow to no paved shoulders. Give cyclists and school buses space and pass only when it is legal and safe.
You may encounter livestock or wildlife on or near the roadway. Slow down or stop as required and proceed only when it is safe to do so.
Even small rain storms can cause dangerous flash floods in streams, drainages and canyons along Scenic Byway 12. Be aware while hiking. Do not attempt to walk or drive through flood waters. You or your vehicle can be swept away causing injury or death. Inquire about current weather conditions at one of the area visitor centers.
From spring to fall, travelers may encounter smoke in the area. Land management agencies use fire to reduce overgrown understory in the forest and minimize the risk of larger, more catastrophic forest fires. You may see signs indicating a prescribed burn is in progress.
Travel with water, food, spare tires, maps and extra clothing in case of roadside emergencies, especially if driving backways.
Why are the rocks red?
The red color is caused by the combination of iron and oxygen (an iron oxide). Different shades of red result depending on the other elements present in the rock and their exposure over time to water and sun.
When I drive through those tunnels am I in Bryce Canyon?
No, you are in Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest.
Are Sunset Point and Sunrise Point the best places to watch sunset and sunrise in Bryce Canyon?
The two best overlooks for watching sunrise are Bryce Point and Sunrise Point. For sunset in the Park, we recommend Fairyland Point or Paria View.
Can I take the Cottonwood Canyon Road as a shortcut?
For most, the answer is no. Travel along this route is typically extremely rough, and when rain or snow occurs, it becomes impassable. Do not trust your GPS navigation system to determine the best route to take in the area.
Where is the Grand Staircase?
There is no staircase per se. The National Monument’s name is a reference to the series of cliffs rising from south to north from the foot of the Kaibab Plateau (adjacent to the Grand Canyon) to the rim of Bryce Canyon.
What kind of wildlife lives here?
Wildlife commonly seen in the area include elk, mule deer, pronghorn (antelope), jack rabbits, ground squirrels, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, ravens, jays, finches, lizards, and bull snakes. Black bear, bobcats, and mountain lions are rarely seen.
What is the elevation range along the byway?
From 5,223 feet to 9,636 feet above sea level.
What is the average annual precipitation here?
This amount varies by elevation, but the range is 10–15 inches of precipitation per year, a good portion of which comes in the form of snow in the winter.
Why isn’t there much water in the riverbeds?
Rivers in the area are fed by springs and seeps, and much of what naturally flows is diverted for agricultural purposes in the growing season. But during the “monsoon season,” typically in late summer, the region experiences isolated afternoon thunderstorms capable of exceptional downpours across a broad catchment area. As rainwater flows down ever widening channels in the landscape, those broad rivers with just a trickle today will fill to capacity for several hours and recede again.
Leave No Trace
While it may appear that this immense landscape is impervious to our collective footprints, in fact, the opposite is true. The desert is arid and surprisingly fragile. And since these lands belong to everyone, we each have a responsibility to be good stewards.
Pack out all trash. There are trash collection facilities in all communities along the byway.
Don’t bother the wildlife. (A telephoto lens is your best friend when you’re photographing wildlife.)
Leave artifacts, fossils, rocks, plants, and other natural objects as they were when you found them. Contrary to your momentary temptation, that chunk of rippled sandstone will not look better in your garden than in its current natural setting. And besides, collecting in national parks and monuments is not allowed, and collecting artifacts and dinosaur fossils on all public lands is illegal.
And finally, when in doubt about whether your planned activity is allowed at a particular location, check with any of the visitor centers along the way.