Flaming Gorge-Uintas Scenic Byway
Through the Uinta Mountains and Sheep Creek Canyon
|Mileage||68 miles (109 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||1 hour, 33 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||All Seasons|
|Roadways||Forest Road 218, US Highway 191, and Utah Highway 44|
|Forest PassesSome of the adventures on this scenic drive require an admission fee that these passes cover. Please read the drive description for more information.||America the Beautiful Annual Pass|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Vernal, UT▼, Manila, UT▼, and Dutch John, UT▼|
3.6 average from 20 votes
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Natural areas along this route require an entrance fee used to protect and maintain our most scenic treasures. Save time by purchasing your forest passes before you go.
Traveling through the Ashley National Forest, the Flaming Gorge-Uintas Scenic Byway offers diverse terrain ranging from dry deserts, aspen groves and the rugged flaming red rocks of the canyon. Known as “the drive through the ages”, experience history from the Jurassic, to early explorers, homesteaders and cowboys while surrounded by dazzling, expansive postcard-worthy vistas.
The scenic drive begins in Vernal, the “dinosaur capital of the World.” You can reach Vernal via the US-191 or US-40 highways. Before taking off, consider a side trip to the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum (M1). Six hundred million years of history, including dinosaurs, Native American life, the natural history of the area and how it was discovered can be explored. Just outside the museum is the popular Dinosaur Garden, where full-size replicas stand tall.
You should also visit Dinosaur National Monument (Utah) (A1). Declared a National Monument in 1915, it is one of the most productive sources of dinosaur bones in the world. The Fossil Discovery Hiking Trail allows you to see fossilized bones embedded in the rocky cliff face — where you can imagine what life must have been like with these giants of the Jurassic roaming the land. Stop at the Visitor Center to take advantage of all the monument has to offer including guided tours. This area also features native pictographs, spectacular scenery and whitewater river trips.
The Jones Hole Scenic Backway (T1) is just a few miles east of Vernal and is also a must-drive. The road is paved, passes through desert, groves of Aspens, following the rugged canyon to Jones Hole, a 2,000-foot-deep gorge. Spectacular views of the red and white sandstone cliffs await. Visit the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery and hike the Jones Hole Trail, which meanders along the creek. For this drive, head east on US-40, and as you approach Jensen, head north on UT-149.
Heading north on US-191 from Vernal to Manila, keep an eye open for the kiosks and signs that will teach you about the area’s history as you pass through petrified forests, primeval rocks, and fossils.
Four miles into the trip, you arrive at Steinaker State Park (H1) which is well known for its trout and bass fishing. Three miles further, is Red Fleet State Park (H2) which in addition to fishing and camping, also features dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic period. A short drive followed by a 2.5-mile hike will bring you to the footprints.
The road then begins to climb up a series of switchbacks where at the end, stop at Windy Point (V1) to enjoy the vast canyons and valley below.
In 4-miles, consider a side-trip on Red Cloud Loop Road which will bring you through canyons on your way back to Vernal. This road is popular with bird watchers.
The road continues through the forests with openings that allow you to see the canyon on the left. In 15-miles, you will arrive at a fork where US-191 and UT-44 meet.
Consider taking a 6-mile side-trip to the Flaming Gorge Dam (A2), which was built in the 1960s and combines a number of waterways that create the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. There is a 20-minute tour of the power plant and a good chance to see osprey during summer. On the way there, stop at the Swett Ranch (A4) a classic Utah ranch operated by the US Forest Service. Flaming Gorge Reservoir is a paradise for swimming, water-skiing, river-rafting and scuba diving.
For this scenic drive, continue on west on UT-44. In 4-miles on the right, stop at the Red Canyon Overlook (V2) for jaw-dropping views of the canyon. Perched atop the cliffs, the Visitor Center provides information about Flaming Gorge and plaques along pathways around the center explain the wildlife and plants.
In a few more miles, keep an eye out for unpaved Forest Road 94 on your right which will bring you to the Dowd Mountain Overlook (V3) where you can picnic in the splendor of the Red Canyons. There are hiking and mountain biking trails in this area, although not for the lighthearted.
Further up the road, this scenic drive turns left around milepost 14 on Forest Road 218 for Sheep Creek Canyon. This road is mostly paved although in some sections you may wonder if that is the case or not. If you are in a rush or its winter, you could continue on UT-44 to Manila.
In about 6 miles on Forest Road 218, you will begin to notice interesting rock sculptures caused by erosion and upthrusts. In the distance, you will see the Ute Mountain Fire Tower (A3) built to spot wildfires in the days before helicopters and airplanes. The Ute Mountain Fire Tower is one of the few still standing and is a national historic landmark. A short side trip on the unpaved Forest Road 221 and Forest Road 5 brings you to the tower where you can climb to the top for stunning views.
As you continue, you will see signs describing the history of the area, including how the canyon was created by the Uinta Crest Fault which is responsible for exposing several layers of strata. At the end of Forest Road 218, Navajo Cliffs Picnic Area (H4) makes for a beautiful picnic spot beneath cottonwood trees.
From here, head north on US-191 to Manila where the drive comes to an end. If you are heading back to Vernal, consider the side trip on Red Cloud Loop Road for added adventure. Or to make this into a scenic loop, continue on UT-43 which will become WY-530 until Green River where you will join onto US-30/I-80. Head east on US-30/I-80 and then take exit 99 for US-191 South. To return to Salt Lake City, you would head west on US-30/I-80 for another few hours.