topmenu

Save on your hotel - www.hotelscombined.com

Driving the Burr Trail on a Boomer Road Trip in Southern Utah

Driving the Burr Trail Updated: 04.01.2018

Alan and I are huge fans of exploring the country lanes and dirt roads of the United States. On a visit to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, we had our pick of dirt roads and four-wheel-drive trails to explore. But many of those roads are really long, requiring camping on the trail for a night or two. For an easy half-day drive that leaves time to enjoy lunch on the patio of Kiva Koffeehouse, we recommend driving the Burr Trail.

The gray pavement of Burr Trail travels through the pink walls of Long Canyon on a scenic drive in southern Utah.

That’s Burr Trail down there in Long Canyon.

Driving the easy portion of Burr Trail Road

On a late May boomer road trip, the journey starts as we turn off Highway 12 at Boulder, about 32 miles north of Escalante, Utah. Potholes litter the paved road for the first few miles. But once we enter the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument portion of the journey, the road smoothes out before descending into Long Canyon.

Recreational vehicles are not recommended on the Burr Trail.

For seven miles, red sandstone cliffs rise steeply on either side of the narrow canyon. Dark brown streaks of desert varnish leave their mark on the canyon walls. Earlier in the week, on a hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls, we learned that desert varnish is a thin mineral coating caused by living microbes that oxidize iron and manganese found in clay minerals.

The paved portion of the scenic Burr Trail travels between the pink walls of Long Canyon in Southern Utah.

We’re surrounded by red cliffs in Long Canyon.

Over breakfast at Circle D Eatery in Escalante, our server told us about a small slot canyon to explore that the locals call Singing Canyon. He told us to look for an unmarked pullout in Long Canyon about 11 miles on the Burr Trail from Boulder.

Alan easily spots the pullout and parks the car. We walk slightly downhill, across a sandy path toward a narrow slit in the canyon wall. Where the slit widens, trees with the verdant green of new spring growth decorate the small entrance to Singing Canyon.

A man stands in Singing Canyon, a slot canyon on the Burr Trail. He is dwarfed by the red and pink canyon walls.

Alan is dwarfed by a slot canyon.

The narrow slot canyon isn’t very long. But it does require scrambling over a few boulders to reach the end. Why is it called Singing Canyon? Belt out your favorite tune or yell out a few words and the name will become self-evident.

The rocks are pink, sage brush covers the ground and the trees are stunted in the high desert country on the Burr Trail.

The scenery changes as we drive out of Long Canyon.

Back in the car, we continue the drive through Long Canyon. Geological colors change from red to yellow and beige as the road climbs out of the canyon.

A red cactus blooms near the Burr Trail in southern Utah.

When clouds hamper landscape photography, look closer.

At a crossroads of trails, Alan and I stop again to stretch our legs and explore. Desert cactus and wildflowers are blooming. And we see a few RV’s and tents scattered about in anticipation of Memorial Day weekend.

Traveling to Utah? Start your trip research at our Utah Travel Planner page.

The pavement turns to dirt at the western boundary of Capitol Reef National Park—31.2 miles from Boulder. It’s the turn-around point for today’s drive on the Burr Trail. Up until this point, this has been an easy drive on a paved road that we highly recommend for exploring one of the most remote areas of the wild West. The experience will reward you with a look at the beauty and ruggedness of southern Utah.

A ribbon of dirt road travels through green sagebrush as it crests a hill on Burr Trail Road. Looking out into Capitol Reef National Park the stone ridges fold onto each other with mountains in the distance..

Looking out into Capitol Reef National Park.

Parking at a scenic viewpoint, we get out of the car again. To say that the landscape is dramatic is an understatement. Unfortunately for us, the cloudy weather limits the colorful scene folks usually see. But despite the photographic conditions, amazing geological formations spread out before us: the west side of Waterpocket Fold—a 100-mile bend in the earth’s crust—the Henry Mountains and beyond to the mesas and buttes of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Although we’re turning around, the road continues across the Waterpocket Fold, down a set of spectscular hairpin turns, part of the original cattle trail known as the Burr Trail, until a junction. The left turn, Notom Road, takes visitors on a scenic jaunt to Highway 24 near Torrey, Utah.

But it’s the right turn that Alan and I would like to take one day. The road continues to Bull Frog at Lake Powell. Driving the Burr Trail Scenic Backway from Boulder to Bull Frog is a 67.4-mile journey that includes a ferry ride across Lake Powell. Leave it to us to seek out the more off-the-beaten-path travel option in a remote part of Utah.

Planning Your Burr Trail Trip

The National Park Services has published a mile by mile description of the Burr Trail.
We used the Benchmark Utah Road & Recreation Atlas to research roads and off-road trails.
Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante & the Glen Canyon Region, by Falcon Guide, provides detailed hiking trail guides for the area.


Tips for exploring the Burr Trail, especially the dirt portion

  • Be prepared for no cell phone service
  • Bring extra food and clothes in case of a break down
  • Pack plenty of water
  • Do not drive the dirt portions of the Burr Trail on a rainy day. Even four-wheel-drive vehicles can’t negotiate the slick mud.
  • Check your spare tire before beginning the drive
  • Spring or fall are the best times to drive the Burr Trail
  • For the latest road conditions and travel information call the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center at 435-826-5499
  • Be sure to read our USA road trip planner.

Where to stay near Burr Trail

Lodging choices are sparse. And they book up quickly, especially on holidays like Memorial Day. We stayed in Escalante. But next time, we’ll book early enough to stay close to Boulder at Boulder Mountain Lodge or Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch.

Save to Pinterest

Text on photo: Driving the Burr Trail in Southern Utah. Photo: Ribbon of pavement snakes through the pink walls of Long Canyon in southern Utah.
Have you explored this area of southern Utah? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

Disclosure: Affiliate links have been included for your convenience. However My Itchy Travel Feet receives a small portion of the sale at no additional cost to you.

,

Scratch Those Itchy Travel Feet!

Boomer travelers rely on our email newsletter for fresh travel inspiration, tips, and advice. It's free! No spam, unsubscribe anytime.