To get to Burr Trail Road, we took Utah Scenic Byway 12 south for 38 miles toward the small town of Boulder from Torrey. SB-12 is a treat of in itself: winding through the picturesque country of Boulder Mountain and Homestead Overlook.
Burr Trail Road
Also known as BLM-100, the beautiful back way of Burr Trail Road starts out paved, and twists through the extensive Slickrock canyons of eastern Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Originally a track used by Mormon pioneers moving livestock to and from Boulder Mountain and the areas near Waterpocket Fold, it is now paved and provides access to some of Utah’s prettiest wilderness. We first passed by some wonderful examples of cross-bedded Navajo sandstone just outside of Boulder. We then passed Deer Creek Campground, and then before we knew it, the deep gorge of Long Canyon, which starts just before an area called The Gulch.
Driving through Long Canyon felt of pure and innocent: without prior research for this part of our trip, our sense of awe and surprise seemed amplified without a shroud of expectation. Long Canyon is about seven miles long, and as we dropped downward, we got a stunning preview of the first half mile looking deep into its red cliffs of sheer sandstone.
Through the whole of the drive we met with only three other cars, but for much of the trip I felt like we were the only ones privileged with intimate viewings the marvelous varnished cliffs. In one section of the canyon, the sandstone eroded into an odd collection of pockets or holes, giving it a Swiss Cheese look.
We exited Long Canyon and stopped at an overlook providing a great panoramic view of the Henery Mountains, Circle Cliffs, and the Waterpocket Fold. Such a treat to be looking down on sloping mounds colored like striped candy.
We took Burr Trail Road down, gently sloping toward Horse Canyon, through the White Canyon Flats, and then wiggled slightly through the white stone hills of Studhorse Peaks.
Just as we crossed the border from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to Capitol Reef National Park, Burr Trail becomes a dirt road. We stopped for a moment and examine the Waterpocket Fold and the Circle Cliffs from afar.
We meandered for a bit when we are surprised by the Burr Trail Switchbacks. We stopped at a pullout to marvel at the steep 800-foot tall incline, and the zigzagging dirt road into Burr Canyon, and into the Waterpocket Fold proper. I turn to Hitch and I saw his lizard-brain whispering to him about it “being too high” upon his face. He has a slight fear of heights. We smile at each other and I say, “This is adventure!” then get into the truck to wind down the sheering slope of the switchbacks.
I marvel at the sprawling scenery and before I know it we’re at the bottom, within the walls of Burr Canyon. Before driving on to the Notom-Bullfrog road connection, we stopped at the bottom and look up, the road hardly noticeable from this angle.
We turned northward onto Notom-Bullfrog Road, along the eastern side of the Waterpocket Fold within the Badlands of Capitol Reef. We passed the buttery colored cliffs of Oyster Shell Reef, bright stripped hills, red colored cliffs, sandstone fingers rising up from sand, and pale jagged teeth-like rocks scaring the road side. Occasionally, I spied a trail leading off somewhere and felt a desire to explore them. Before we knew it, the landscape sadly boring after Ceder Mesa Campground and crossing the border from the National Park and on the BLM land.
The fun ride seemingly over until we reach State Route 24 and turned toward Capitol Reef Visitor Center. SR-24 gently follows the Fremont River between red craggy sandstone cliffs and among the lush green fed by the river. The route even granted a great view of Capitol Dome from the road. A nice finish to a great drive.
Hi! I know you took this trip almost two years ago but we’re are heading out to that part of Utah this summer. Did you drive the Burr Trail pulling your Airstream?
Nope. We have a 30-foot Airstream so we camped at an RV park in the town of Torrey, UT, and then drove our RAM 4×4 truck through both roads.
Burr Trail Road you might be able to take a small RV if you start from Boulder, UT, but then you’d have to turn around before the Burr Trail Switchbacks….before it joins with Notom Bullfrog Road at the bottom. I think the switch back grade is way too steep for most trailer type RVs. I also would not take an RV on Notom Bullfrog Road, because its too narrow, and a few areas require high clearance. Notom Bullfrog Road does turn into a graded gravel road near the campground, but south beyond that it was messy.
I suggest checking with a park ranger from both Grand-Staircase National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park before attempting to drive with an RV. Conditions may have changed in the last two years since they do get the occasional floods and they’re always working on their roads.