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Trip Report Great trip from Bryce to Capitol Reef along Utah Highway 12

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We spent 2 days in Bryce, 2 in Boulder and 2 in Capitol Reef (Torrey) in early July. We've been to Bryce several times before and also to Capitol Reef, but it was our first time along the breathtaking Highway 12 - that drive is a destination by itself; certainly one of the great highways in the world. We wanted to share some of the highlights of our 2 days along that section. We only had a 2WD rental car and limited time; there's a lot more you can do with 4WD high clearance vehicles as you can tell from this forum (our thanks also to utahtea and the other utah experts on this forum for helping us plan our stops). There's even a website just for the highway: http://www.scenicbyway12.com

Our highlights along Hwy 12:
- Kodachrome State Park at sunset is a great place to hike. We did the short Shakespeare Arch - Sentinel loop and the Angel’s Palace loop (we did not have time for the Panorama trail). Reasonably easy hikes, great views (especially the second half of the Shakespeare-Sentinel loop; the Arch itself is meh), both hikes under an hour and a half including time for lots of photos, and very different from the scenery in Bryce. The Shakespeare Arch hike rises up from the middle of the plateau, so it has expansive views in all directions and part of the landscape you look over is almost redolent of African savannah; I'd recommend this hike over the Angel's Palace if you only have time for one short hike. Overall, we'd strongly recommend hiking here as a complement to Bryce (but I think doing it very early or late in the day is crucial to getting the right lighting and having a good experience - as it is for most hikes and photography in this part of the country).

- The Petrified Forest State Park in Escalante provides another interesting walk: jewel-like petrified logs embedded in the ground, and other interesting features on a nature walk. (If you are expecting a forest of stone, you will be disappointed - the petrified wood that remains is all at your feet. The state park system really needs to remove the word ‘Forest’ from the name.) If you’re short of time, this is one that you could skip.

- The Kiva Coffeehouse was closed when we stopped there (it closes at 4:30pm); but it looks worth a stop since it's right off the road.

- En route to Boulder, the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls is particularly lovely at the right time of day (we did it just before sundown and the contrast between the green on the valley floor and the colors on the red rocks was gorgeous), even if you don’t walk the whole way to the falls.

- In Boulder, the Anasazi State Museum is a good introduction to the history of the Ancestral Pueblo people in the area.

- The Burr Trail road from Boulder provides more spectacular views. We made several stops to clamber up interesting rock formations and to peek into the narrow canyon within Long Canyon (about 11 miles from Boulder, on the left).

- And two rave-worthy restaurants we did not expect to find in such small towns: Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder (don't miss the Jenchilada - we ordered it for two successive dinners; the molasses trout is also excellent), and Cafe Diablo in Torrey (the salmon and watermelon salad were standouts).

- I'm also writing a separate post about renting bikes to ride the paved bike path through Red Canyon near Bryce.

In short, a trip to Bryce Canyon, while a great destination in itself (and we’ve visited several times), can also be just the start of a fabulous trip through southern Utah.

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