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Scenic Byways of the Grand Circle

The Grand Circle is home to some of the most spectacular scenic roads in the U. S. Known for their outstanding beauty, as well as the multitude of experiences they offer visitors, these scenic byways cover some of the nation’s most exceptional scenic areas. The Grand Circle boasts over 20 designated scenic byways, linking together the fabulous sites, history and recreation of the 11 National Parks and 16 National Monuments found within the Circle.

These itineraries offer several alternatives for your travels.  If you truly want to experience all there is to see along these byways and in the suggested National Parks, you probably want to schedule more time than is allocated in the suggested itinerary.  These itineraries are guidelines only and are NOT actual estimates of time you may decide to spend in any one of these areas.

Gateways - Denver/Denver or Albuquerque

Day One: Visit Denver, CO, the Mile High City, sitting exactly 5,280 feet above sea level.  Just west of Denver is the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway, including the world famous Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater.

Day Two: Heading out of Denver to Grand Junction consider taking the Mount Evans Scenic Byway that begins in the town of Idaho Springs or make a side trip on the Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway beginning at Copper Mountain.  After reconnecting with I-70, continue west to Grand Junction, known as Colorado’s Wine Country and home to the Colorado National Monument.  Also near Grand Junction is the Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway. 

Day Three: Travel to Montrose and Black Canyon National Park.  Travel SH 65 over Grand Mesa via the Grand Mesa National Scenic Byway. Then travel west to Delta, and south on US 550 to Montrose, CO.  Visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with its sheer walls and startling depths, before continuing south to Ridgway where US 550 meets the San Juan Skyway, an All-American Road.  Here the traveler has two choices – follow US 550 south through Durango to Cortez, CO or west via SH 62 to Telluride, CO then on to Cortez, CO.

Day Four: Visit Mesa Verde National Park, world famous for its exceptional Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Travel to Moab, UT on Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway by taking SR 262 through Aneth to Bluff, and north on US 191 to Blanding.  Just north of Monticello, connect with Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway, which is SR 211, and head west into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park.  Another section of the Park, called Island in the Sky, is reached via SR 279, Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway.

Day Five: Visit Arches National Park, with more than 2 000 natural stone arches. Travel to Denver via Utah’s Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, beginning near Moab and traveling north on SR 128 to I-70.

Option 2

Day Four: Visit Mesa Verde National Park, world famous for its exceptional Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Travel south on US 550, the Native Heritage Trail, to Farmington, NM.  Enjoy nearby Aztec Ruins National Monument or Salmon Ruins & Heritage Park.

Day Five: From Farmington continue traveling the Native Heritage Trail to Bloomfield and south on US 550 to the entrance of Chaco Canyon National Monument. Travel unpaved (but pretty good) roads through desolate country out of Chaco, and end up at Crownpoint, NM. Then down to the I-40 frontage road, which is also old Route 66, and a national scenic byway, to Grants, and I-40 to Albuquerque, following original portions of Route 66 where they still exist.

Day Six: Depart Albuquerque or take Highway 14, Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, to Santa Fe for a day of sightseeing.

Gateways - Phoenix/Albuquerque

Day One: Arrive Phoenix, AZ and enjoy countless activities ranging from golf, museums, galleries, performing arts, or fine dining.

Day Two: Travel north to Flagstaff, AZ on I-17.  Exit I-17 on Red Rocks Scenic Road, SH 179, to Sedona and follow State Road 89A, Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road, north to Flagstaff. Located on Historic Route 66, Flagstaff is home to great museums and close to Sunset Crater, Wupatki, and Walnut Canyon National Monuments. Travel north from Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on US 180, a portion of which is the San Francisco Peak Scenic Road.

Day Three: Visit Grand Canyon National Park-South Rim. Depart the South Rim on Highway 64 to the town of Cameron, AZ, and the historic Cameron Trading Post. Travel north on highway 89 to Page/Lake Powell.  As a side trip take alternate highway 89, the Fredonia-Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Road, towards Fredonia, cutting off at Jacob Lake for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on highway 67, the Kaibab Plateau North Rim Parkway. The North Rim is not open in winter.

Day Four: Depart Page/Lake Powell for Monument Valley, AZ via highways 98 and 160 to Kayenta. Take highway 163, the Monument Valley to Bluff Scenic By-way, to Monument Valley-- the most photographed landscape in America.

Day Five: Travel from Kayenta on Navajo Road 59 to Many Farms, then on highway 191 to Chinle, and on the Dinetah “Among the People” Scenic Road 64 to Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Day Six: Continue from Canyon de Chelly on Dinetah Scenic Road 64, which becomes Scenic Road 12, to Lupton where you connect with I-40 for Albuquerque, NM.   Explore Old Town or any of the wonderful museums or other sites in Albuquerque, also located on sections of Historic Route 66.  As a side trip from Albuquerque, continue east on I-40 to exit 181 and go south on NM 217, Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway, to see the three Saline Pueblos: Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivera.

Gateways - Las Vegas/Salt Lake City

Day One: Arrive Las Vegas, NV.  After taking time to explore “The Strip,” travel north to St. George, UT for the night.

Day Two: Heading out of St. George, travel on the exceptionally beautiful Zion Park Scenic Byway, SR 9, which travels from I 15 (near the NV-UT border) to Zion. Visit Zion National Park, a place of towering cliffs, narrow slot canyons, arches, waterfalls, and seep springs.  Continue on to Kanab traveling on the Mt. Carmel Scenic Byway, US 89.

Day Three:Travel north from Kanab via US 89, Mt. Carmel Scenic Byway.  When you reach the junction with SR 14, take that road west, known as Markaguant High Plateau Scenic Byway.  Take a sharp turn north on SR 148, the Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway to reach Cedar Breaks National Monument.  This is a natural technicolor amphitheater, more than 2,000 feet deep and three miles from rim to rim.  From Cedar Breaks continue north to Panguitch on the Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway, SR 143.

Day Four: Travel to Bryce Canyon National Park via Highway 12, Utah’s All-American Scenic Byway.  This is one of the most beautiful drives in the country.Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its delicately colored spires, fins and mazes, and the towering rock formations called “hoodoos.”

Day Five: Continue on Highway 12 All-American Road to the town of Torrey.  En route visit Escalante State Park, Calf Creek Falls, and Anasazi State Park. Allow plenty of time for photographs.

Day Six: From Torrey, take a side trip to the colorful rock formations and stellar canyon hikes in Capitol Reef National Park, where the Waterpocket Fold, an enormous wrinkle in the earth’s crust forms the 100-mile backbone of this park.

Day Seven: Depart Torrey for Salt Lake City, UT.