Red Rocks Scenic Byway, Canyonlands National Park & Arches National Park

I left Long Beach, CA before sunrise and made it to Quartzsite, AZ before 8am.
From The 10 – that’s what they call it in California – or Interstate 10, I took the 303 loop around Phoenix to I-17 north.
Around the town of Rimrock I got off of Interstate-17 and got on AZ-179 headed towards Sedona.
I was looking for the Red Rocks Scenic Byway – a Nationally designated America’s Scenic Byway that’s also an “All American Road.”

This is the most elaborate sign I’ve come across for an “America’s Scenic Byway.”
The Red Rocks Scenic Byway is only 7.5 miles long so it’s one of, if not the, shortest Scenic Byway there is.
They say it’s the gateway to the world-famous red-rock country of Sedona.
I had never been to Sedona before – and I still haven’t really been there.
Instead of turning left on 89A and heading into Sedona, I turned right and headed towards Flagstaff.
I stayed on 89A until it merged with the old Route 66 through Flagstaff.
Route 66 veers off to the right and follows I-40 – we stayed on 89 and passed Mary’s Cafe from “Two Lane Blacktop” again and made our way to Forrest Service Road 545.
We made a right and drove to the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

The road into Sunset Crater National Monument is thru an old lava field and it takes you right up to the Sunset Crater Volcano.
It’s very cool.
Continuing on Forrest Service Road-395 we drove right into the Wupatki National Monument.
It felt like every time I drove around a bend or crested a hill there was a spectacular view.
The red rocks in this part of the country are truly amazing.
In the movie “Easy Rider” the Wupatki National Monument is where they spent the night in the pueblo.
You can’t do that any more, but the drive is well worth it.

The scenery is amazing.
I mean just look at those red rocks out in the distance.
After Wupatki National Monument we got back on 89 north to AZ-160 east and headed towards Tuba City.
The little town on Kayenta is where we took a right onto highway 163 towards the Monument Valley.
About 20 miles outside of Kayenta is the Utah boarder.

It’s no surprise that highway 163 is a Scenic Byway – it’s a part of the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.

It’s also been in “Easy Rider.”
If you’ve never been here – here’s a little tip from your good old Uncle Jeff.
If you’re on 163 – be sure to stop at mile marker 13.

Mile marker 13 is the money shot and offers spectacular views of the Monument Valley.
It’s the place Forrest Gump stopped running in the movie.
Some maps even have it listed as “Forrest Gump Hill.”

It’s been an iconic spot long before Forrest began his run.
If you’re on 163 hopefully you’re not in a hurry.
Be sure to take your time.
The drive and the scenery are spectacular.
My suggestion to you is to stop at every turn-out you see and take in the sights.
And thats just what I did.
I put down the camera and I just stopped.
And I looked.
And after a moment…
I noticed the silence.
It was completely silent.
Not a sound from anywhere.
Amazing.
After passing thru Mexican Hat, highway 163 changes into highway 191 at the Bluff Airport, just before the town of Bluff.
We took 191 from Bluff straight up to Monticello to the Monticello Inn – a cozy, little place to crash for the night.

But not before getting some dinner.
I asked the lady at the front desk where to go for dinner and a cold beer.
If you’re hungry or thirsty and you’re in Monticello, make sure to stop in at the Granary Bar & Grill.
It’s a cool little hole in the wall with great food and cold beer and it’s walking distance from the Monticello Inn.
I asked the owner – Ben – if he had any recommendations on sights for me to see on my way up to Moab and he told me I’d pass right by Wilson’s Arch.

And he was right.
I would have driven right past it on 191 and not even stopped if it wasn’t for his recommendation.
That’s another great reason for going to a local place rather than a chain – you get the local low-down.
I got there just as the sunlight was passing thru the hole in the rock.
Right place.
Right time.
From Wilson’s Arch we drove thru Moab and onto Arches National Park.
As I pulled into get a picture with the Arches National Park sign there was no one around…
Until I was about to take the picture.
Then it seemed like everyone showed up at once to get a photo with the sign.
So I left.
I made a right at the stop-light, got back on 191 and headed towards Canyonlands National Park.
It’s not even 10 miles from the entrance of Arches to the turn-off for Canyonlands.
We turned off at UT-313 – the Dead Horse Point Mesa Scenic Byway.

Dead Horse Point State Park is to the left.
We continued on the Island in the Sky Road to Canyonlands National Park.

In my experience, National Parks have some pretty great driving roads.
Canyonlands National Park is no exception.
The scenery is so spectacular and the road is so nice that I drive below the speed-limit so I can take it all in.
It’s roads like these that I’m here for and I’m gonna enjoy it.
I hate it when people are inconsiderate and won’t pull over to let you pass.
I try to practice what I preach.
When I noticed a big Jeep coming up behind me – I pulled off on the shoulder and let him pass.
Island in the Sky Road finally ends at the aptly named Grand View Point.

And I’ll be honest – Grand View Point has some pretty grand views.
The road ends in a natural cul-de-sac and everywhere you look – you’re rewarded by a grand view.

After taking in all the views I could in I got back on highway 191 – which is also a part of the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Scenic Byway – another one of America’s Scenic Byways.

And finally made it to Arches National Park.

I got my picture.
I had been to Arches before with my dog CSCO in my old 72 Blazer, but that was years ago so I needed a refresher.

Arches National Park is another National Park with a great driving road.
You’ve gotta drive up a few switchbacks in the red rocks to get into the park and it’s super cool.
After enjoying all the red rock arches I could handle, I fueled up The 55 back in Moab.
With The 55 full of fuel I headed towards the town of Cisco.
We got on UT-128 – another section of the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Scenic Byway – it follows the curves of the Colorado River and ends in what was once the town of Cisco.
Once I got next to the Colorado River I noticed how green it is.
The green of the Colorado River is a pretty striking contrast to the bright red rocks that make up most of the surrounding landscape.

For you movie guys out there – do you remember “Vanishing Point?”
It’s about a guy named Kowalski who races his 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco.
The beginning, and the end of the movie are filmed in Cisco, UT.

There’s not much left in Cisco now, but – spoiler alert – this is where Kowalski runs into the bulldozers.
If you zoom-in on the photo you can see someone has spray painted “Vanishing Point” and “Kowalski.”
I love this kind of stuff.
After Cisco we made our way onto Interstate 70 and into Colorado.

Then I put the pedal down and boogied to my brother’s place in Keystone.
After dropping off some goodies for my nieces and nephew I made my way up and over Loveland Pass – 11,990 feet above sea level – in the dark – so no picture.
Between Loveland Pass 11,990, Independence Pass 12,095 and Trail Ridge Road 12,183 – I’ve driven three of the five highest paved roads in North America.
All I need to complete the Top 5 are the Mount Evans Scenic Byway – 14,264.
I would have done in July but its been closed all year due to the pandemic
And Cottonwood Pass – 12,126 – which was just paved a couple of years ago – so it’s the newest addition to the list.
From Loveland Pass it was almost all down hill to my Pop’s place in Evergreen.
I’m still amazed at the beauty and all the cool places there are to see in this great country of ours.
And I’m fortunate enough to be able to get out and see it.
I urge you to do the same thing.
Get out there.
Get out there and see something you’ve never seen before.
If you need some help finding a place.
Let me know.
I’d be more than happy to help you with some ideas for your next road trip.
Until then…
I hope to see you out on the road.
#idrivea55


2 thoughts on “Red Rocks Scenic Byway, Canyonlands National Park & Arches National Park

  1. Enjoyed his trip since I’d driven some of the same roads years ago. So much beauty to see, but more fun with a companion to share. Heres to more road trips!

    Liked by 1 person

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