Right next door to Las Vegas, the state of Utah is overflowing with scenic byways along twisty, two-lane roads that will test your driving skills. This is a great time of year to take a detour into the mountains and red rocks of the Beehive State, whether taking the scenic route on the way to or from Las Vegas, or as a day trip from the city.
At this time of year, the leaves in Southern Utah are beginning to turn, creating patches of yellow, red, and orange in the midst of the pine trees. It’s not as dramatic as a New England autumn, but what the area lacks in colorful trees, it makes up for in dramatic landscape.
Last week I drove up State Route 14 (off I15, at Cedar City), through Cedar Canyon, then past Cedar Breaks National Monument (altitude: 10,000 feet). Cedar Breaks isn’t as well known as Zion or Bryce, but its eroded landscape of cliffs, canyons, and hoodoos is no less impressive.
The drive is challenging, and perfect for convertibles and motorcycles. This is a road for anyone who loves mountain vistas and scenic drives. Panoramic views of Dixie National Forest and the Markagunt Plateau surround the road, and you’ll find pullouts along the rim of Cedar Breaks. I’ve got one word for Utah transportation officials: guardrails. Seriously. In some spots, the drop-offs beside the road are as breath-taking as the view.
Taken as a detour off I15, a drive over SR14 won’t add many miles to a drive to or from Vegas, but the mountain road will add time. Traveling north on I15, take SR14 to SR148, then SR143 toward Brian Head. Continue driving to I15. This will take you in a loop through a corner of the Dixie National Forest.
If you’re making a day trip from Vegas to Utah, take the same route, but stop in Cedar City for restaurants, or pack a lunch for a picnic at Cedar Breaks. Turn around at Cedar Breaks to make the trip back down the mountain. Round trip from Vegas to Cedar Breaks is seven to eight hours.
Photo of Cedar Breaks courtesy of Joanna Poe
Photos of Utah State Route 14 courtesy of Ken Lund