Thursday, March 6, 2014

Southern Utah by Motorcycle

utah highway 95 motorcycle
Utah Highway 95, south through Lake Powell National Recreation Area
Utah's southern region offers no apologies for its vast stretches of lonely highway, strange rock formations, and country towns still 50 years behind the times. And why would a motorcycle trekkie even want one?

Highway 12 was designated by the Federal Highway Administration as a National Scenic Byway in June 2002, and further designated as an All-American Road. Its 124 miles of curvy, sweeping two-lane asphalt take a motorcyclist back through time, perhaps millions of years ago, illustrating how the wind, rain, and rivers left behind their unusual marking on the land's reddish hues.

It's no wonder the Federal Highway Administration nicknamed it, "A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway".

But let's not forget Highway 24 through Capitol Reef, or Highway 95 through twisty canyons of Lake Powell, or Highway 261 down the Moki Dugway, or Highway 163 into Monument Valley, and of course Highway 9 through Zion National Park.  We did them all.

I left Southern California with six other friends in April 2009 during Easter Vacation week. It was cold the entire way through Utah, but weather was clear.  Our trek began in the west at Zion National Park, going north east up Highway 12 & 24 towards Hanksville. Then it was down Highway 95 & 261 into Natural Bridges and Mexican Hat and into Arizona.

I was on my 2005 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic. I was able to use the bike's built-in CB Radio and keep in communication with four of the six other riders.  Among us were 3 Goldwings, 2 Ultra Classics, a Honda Shadow, and a Kawasaki Vulcan.

The trip took 4 days and 3 nights. We camped at Zion National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, and Grand Canyon Caverns (AZ). The entire route from home back to home was 1,400+ miles.

Points of Interest along the way:
  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Grand Staircase Escalante
  • Head of the Rocks
  • Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Moki Dugway
  • Monument Valley
  • Grand Canyon (AZ)
  • Grand Canyon Caverns (AZ)

zion national park
Day 1, after all day riding up from Southern California, Paul and MikeMo have fun at Zion National Park
zion national park motorcycle
Day 2, at Zion National Park
Red Rocks Dixie National Forest
Day 2, Red Rocks, Dixie National Forest, Highway 12
bryce canyon
Day 2, Me standing against Bryce Canyon
head of rocks
Day 2, a place called "Head of the Rocks" along Highway 12
highway 12 utah
Day 2, Highway 12 runs through this scenic canyon area
highway 12 boulder mountain
Day 2, Highway 12, ascending elevation up Boulder Mountain

boulder mountain pass utah
Day 2, at Boulder Mountain Pass, highway 12
capitol reef national park
Day 2, Highway 24 through Capitol Reef National Park
highway 95 utah
Day 2, Highway 95 south, Mount Ellen in the distance
highway 95 utah
Day 2, Highway 95 south through Lake Powell Recreation Area
highway 95 utah
Day 2, Highway 95 south through Lake Powell Recreation Area
motorcycle camping utah
Day 2, Camping at Natural Bridges National Monument, it was really cold when we got there, and froze our asses at night.  No campfires allowed here, so all we had was this BBQ grill.
moki dugway
Day 3, standing atop Moki Dugway looking south towards Mexican Hat.  Highway 261 right.

moki dugway
Day 3, the Moki Dugway is a very twisty dirt road that descends the side of a cliff. It's officially Highway 261.
highway 261 utah
Day 3, Highway 261 south towards Monument Valley.  This horizon has been used in several movies.
monument valley arizona
Day 3, Monument Valley, Arizona.  The Navajos will charge you $5.00 to ride this 12-mile dirt road to get up-close shots
of the rock formations.
cameron arizona
Day 3, Cameron, AZ. The blue Honda Shadow belongs to Gary. He says it only does 140 miles range. So we made him do 160 miles instead. He was one of the two riders without helmet communication, so he was shitting bricks the last 20 miles, but he made it.
grand canyon
Day 3, Larry, Brian, Gary, and Paul, at Grand Canyon.
route 66 arizona
Day 3, riding down Route 66, the Mother Road, Arizona
grand canyon caverns camping
Day 3, camping at Grand Canyon Caverns. It was only $15.00 to camp for all bikes, has nice bathrooms and hot showers at no extra cost.
grand canyon caverns
Day 4, Grand Canyon Caverns is about 100 miles south of Grand Canyon, but has a small air shaft connected to the Canyon.  You take this elevator down a few stories.  It's a privately owned cavern.
grand canyon cavern
Day 4, inside Grand Canyon Cavern.  During the 1960s Russian Missile crisis, the federal government commandeered this cavern to store ammunition, food and water.
highway 95 arizona
Day 4, Highway 95 south towards Lake Havasu, AZ
harley-davidson ultra classic dashboard
Day 4, Highway 62 west towards Joshua Tree National Park. The dashboard of my Harley-Davidson. I had to use a rubber band to secure my XM radio to its cradle because the bike kept vibrating it out.
You can see all 250 photos at my Google+ Album...


  1. Great ride, great pictures, great recap, and best of all is the joy of being able to relive the trip some 5 years later. Thanks for letting us tag along!

  2. Steve, now that was a sweeeet trip! Seeing your photos and reading about the ride makes me want to quit my job and head for the open road. I hope that one day before I'm too old and feeble I can make a trip like that. Who knows, I might steal some of your routing info. Thanks for sharing.


    Live Free. Ride Hard. Be Happy

  3. Great pictures Steve. Sure looks like a beautiful area. Would be nice to take a little time to ride through there and also do some hiking.

  4. fabulous pics, adventurous journey, bravo dudu....

  5. What an awesome bunch of photos! Why can't there be rocks and roads like that all round the world?! And you get sunshine too!

  6. Super good photos, Steve. I agree that the area is just a bike enthusiast's mecca. And for us iron butt types, it's a short ride there and back to see some spectacular scenery. Nice post! Dan

  7. You're speaking my language on biking thru s Utah. The whole stretch from I-70 just west of Green River, south to Hanksville and Capitol Reef and on to Bryce Canyon and Zion has got to be one of the best rides in America. I did it in 2012 and it was amazing. I especially liked 'the hogback' section of Grand Staircase/Escalante NM.

    Great post, great photos. Looks like you guys had a blast.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)