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Utah Travel Headlines Blog

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway

The scenery that makes Utah's national parks famous doesn't stop at the park boundaries. Many areas near the parks also offer majestic views and the opportunity for outstanding recreation.

One such spot is the Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway, which runs for 9 miles from Rockville, just outside Zion Natonal Park, to Hwy 59 southeast of Hurricane. The route cuts between Gooseberry Mesa and Smithsonian Butte, and provides amazing views in every direction.

Smithsonian Butte was named by John Wesley Powell when he explored the area. It offers Zion-like scenery in an area that draws only a small number of visitors every year.

The byway provides wonderful views into Zion Park and the Virgin River Valley, and out over Canaan Mountain to the south.

On the Rockville side, the road is steep as it climbs up the mountain. I was glad I had four-wheel-drive when I challenged the route on March 1, 2008. All the snow had melted from the area and the road was dry, but I had to climb over big rocks and through deep ruts. A high clearance vehicle was definitely needed on that stretch.

Up on top the road is much better, but high clearance is still advised.

As the season progresses the road will be graded and improved. But storms can make it a difficult go during any season of the year.

On top of the mountain there are prime spots for primitative camping, in a beautiful pine forest. There are no services along the road, and no developed campgrounds, but plenty of opportunity to explore.

It you want a scenic drive through amazing country, give it a try.

- Dave Webb

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