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Now paved, Utah's Highway 12 opens up the canyonlands.

Now paved, Utah's Highway 12 opens up the canyonlands

Most maps chart southern Utah's scenic State Highway 12 as partly paved, partly gravel. Last fall, the remaining 10 miles of gravel road between Boulder and Grover were paved--giving easy year-round access to mountainous back country and pristine canyonlands between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon national parks.

It's a high road, more than a mile above sea level, which means heavy snowfalls; but this winter, when conditions allow, the road will be plowed to provide new access to cross-country skiing areas.

On the north, State 12 starts at State 24 just a few miles west of Capitol Reef National Park. Climbing to 9,200 feet in the Boulder Mountains, you'll drive through aspen forests dressed in fall colors (until first snows sometime this month) and pass little-known campgrounds and back-country lakes.

Continuing south through open range and vast, winding canyonlands, the road brings you to Boulder, where the Anasazi Indian Village State Historical Monument (50 cents admission) has a museum and ongoing archeological excavations.

Nearby, you can camp and find boating (no rentals) and fishing in the reservoir at Escalante Petrified Forest State Reserve ($2 day use, $7 to camp year-round). Or go hiking in the red-walled canyons of Calf Creek Recreation Area ($4 to camp until water shut-off during winter months, then free). Escalante Primitive Area has many fine backpacking routes.

From Boulder, go southwest 70 miles to Bryce Canyon National Park. Sixteen miles beyond Bryce, State 12 ends at U.S. 89 seven miles south of Panguitch.

Photo: Watch for cattle as the road winds through high-desert plateaus and canyons

Photo: Newly paved section winds through high country in Utah's Boulder Mountains
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Date:Oct 1, 1986
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