Travel Guide to the Burr Trail Scenic Backway in Utah
The Burr Trail, which ends (or begins) at Boulder, Utah, is one of our favorite back roads in the country. We have driven it several times, sometimes in a 4x4 Jeep, other times in a 2WD Toyota 4Runner.
It is typically quiet, with little or no traffic. In earlier years the entire length of the road was dirt; today parts are paved. The drive and views are stunning! The switchbacks are breathtaking!
The road which connects Boulder with Bullfrog, and passes through the painted rock country of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument land is known as the Burr Trail.
|Towering cliffs over the Burr Trail on a sunny day in Utah|
The Burr Trail takes the adventurous traveler into some of Utah's most beautiful and extraordinary country, with views of the Henry Mountains, the colorfully contorted Waterpocket Fold, red Circle Cliffs, and Long Canyon.
Numerous hikes and side trips are available for those with the time and inclination.
Although in dry weather the Burr Trail is easily accessible in passenger cars, wet weather may make the road impassable even for 4WD vehicles. Recreational vehicles are not recommended.
County officials decided to pave the road from Boulder to the Capitol Reef National Park boundary a few years ago.
Driving the dirt and gravel section of the Burr Trail, experiencing some washboarding, on the way to the switchbacks
Various vista points along this backway offer thrilling views of sprawling scenery of buttes, mesas, plateaus and mountain peaks. The Burr Trail connects with Highway 276, just north of Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell.
Waterpocket Fold is a colorful eroded fold of rock layers nearly 100 miles long but only a few miles wide. In Burr Canyon, the Navajo sandstone has been completely eroded away, leaving a huge notch in the Waterpocket Fold.
Burr Trail Switchbacks
The famous Burr Trail switchbacks rise steeply up through the canyon. The trail drops nearly 800 feet in about a mile, while zigging and zagging down the Waterpocket Fold.
Originally, only the switchbacks were named the Burr Trail, a route used by cattlemen in the late 19th century to move cattle back and forth between winter and summer ranges. Today, the entire road from Bullfrog to Boulder is known as the Burr Trail, named after John Atlantic Burr, a local cattleman.
Aerial view of the Burr Trail Switchbacks
(Photo courtesy of BoulderUtah.com)
Getting ready to drive the rapid descent on the
switchbacks on the Burr Trail in Utah
Driving the steep switchbacks down the Burr Trail in Utah
... all hands on the wheel!
Burr Trail Driving Times and Distances
Driving time from Bullfrog Visitor Center to Boulder is about 2 hours, while continuing on to the Escalante Visitor Center will make the total trip about 3 hours.
The trip can take longer depending on how many stops are made along the way. Part of the trail is paved, the unpaved part is accessible via a typical passenger car most times of the year.
Stopping to enjoy the solitude on the Burr Trail
Lodging in and Around Boulder, Utah
We have stayed at the Boulder Mountain Lodge during our trips to the area. It offers a variety of rooms and suites, on two floors. It is located at the head of the Burr Trail, at 20 North Highway 12 in Boulder. Phone 435.335.7460.
On the beautiful grounds is a pond, the well known and highly respected Hell's Backbone Grill, and an excellent gift shop.
On other trips to Boulder we have stayed at Pole's Place Motel located at 465 North Highway 12, across from Anasazi State Park. It was founded by Eugene Napoleon "Pole" Griffin, and is today owned by a fourth-generation Boulder family. The motel is small, clean and quiet, with free parking right outside your door. Phone 435.335.7422.
Other lodging and B&Bs are also available in the area. Several dining options are available including the Burr Trail Grill and Burr Trail Outpost, as well as the Hell's Backbone Grill and others.
|The Boulder Mountain Lodge and Hell's Backbone Grill on Highway 12 in Boulder, Utah
Map of the Burr Trail from Boulder to Bullfrog, Utah (Courtesy of National Park Service)
Interactive Map of the Burr Trail and Boulder, Utah Area
Photographs Along the Burr Trail
Burr Trail in Utah ... 11 Miles to Capitol Reef, 52 Miles to Bullfrog Marina
|Brilliant blue skies as a backdrop to the red cliffs along the Burr Trail
||Time for rapid descent along the Burr Trail, still on the paved section
Ferry to Bullfrog
State Route 276 runs through the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and crosses Lake Powell via the Charles Hall Ferry. Travel time over the water takes approximately 25 minutes.
This does not include loading, unloading, and travel times on roads within the park.
Riding the ferry at Bullfrog at the end of the Burr Trail
The ferry's southern port is at Hall's Crossing and the northern port is at Bullfrog.
Photographs Around Boulder, Utah
Utah Scenic Byway 12 ... All-American Road
Utah Scenic Byway 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah
More Information About the Burr Trail
Want to Drive More Switchbacks in Utah?
The Moki Dugway is a steep, gravel three mile road located in southeastern Utah, traversing 1,200 feet from the top of Cedar Mesa to the broad valley below. The road is actually part of Utah Highway 261, most of which is paved.
The gravel section of 261, the Moki Dugway, is well maintained and open all year, but road closures can occur, so be sure to check conditions before traveling to this area.
Aerial view of the Moki Dugway in Utah, seen from the top of Cedar Mesa, with the Valley of the Gods below