Burr Trail Scenic Backway in Utah

On Scenic Byway 12 in Utah, is located the small community of Boulder, 32 miles north of the town of Escalante, and 40 miles south of Torrey.

Towering cliffs over the Burr Trail on a sunny day in UtahTowering cliffs over the Burr Trail on a sunny day 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.

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
Driving the dirt and gravel section of the Burr Trail, heading 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.

Map of the Burr Trail Switchbacks
Map of the Burr Trail Switchbacks

 

Aerial view of the Burr Trail Switchbacks
(Photo courtesy of BoulderUtah.com)
Aerial view of the Burr Trail Switchbacks


Getting ready to drive the rapid descent on the
switchbacks on the Burr Trail in Utah
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!
Driving the steep switchbacks down the Burr Trail in Utah ... all hands on the wheel!

View to the valley from part way down
the switchbacks down the Burr Trail
View to the valley from part way down the switchbacks down the Burr Trail

Burr Trail Driving Times and Distances

Driving time from Bullfrog Visitor Center to Boulder is about 2 ½ 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.

One way mileage is approximately 67 miles. About 30 miles are paved.

There is no fee to drive the Burr Trail.

Stopping to enjoy the solitude on the Burr Trail
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.

Driving the Burr Trail and staying in Boulder?

Read Boulder lodging reviews, check availability and make reservations via TripAdvisor

Lodging in Escalante, Utah

Lodging in Torrey, Utah

 

The Boulder Mountain Lodge and Hell's Backbone Grill on Highway 12 in Boulder, Utah
The Boulder Mountain Lodge on Highway 12 in Utah

 

Pole's Place Motel in Boulder, Utah
Pole's Place Motel in Boulder, Utah

 

Map of the Burr Trail from Boulder to Bullfrog, Utah (Courtesy of National Park Service)

Map of the Burr Trail from Boulder to Bullfrog


Interactive Map of the Burr Trail and Boulder, Utah Area

Photographs of the Burr Trail

Burr Trail in Utah ... 11 Miles to Capitol Reef, 52 Miles to Bullfrog Marina
Burr Trail in Utah ... 11 Miles to Capitol Reef, 52 Miles to Bullfrog Marina


Still on the paved section of Burr Trail in Utah
Still on the paved section of Burr Trail in Utah

The red rocks along the Burr Trail
The red rocks along the Burr Trail

 

Entering Capitol Reef National Park in Utah
Entering Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Close-up of the various colors of rock along the Burr Trail
Close-up of the various colors of rock along the Burr Trail

Brilliant blue skies as a backdrop to the red cliffs along the Burr Trail
Brilliant blue skies as a backdrop to the red cliffs along the Burr Trail

Ready for a rapid descent along the Burr Trail ...
still on the paved section
Ready for a rapid descent along the Burr Trail ... still on the paved section

The 4x4 got dirty that day on the Burr Trail ... what fun it was!
The 4x4 got dirty that day on the Burr Trail ... what fun it was!

 

Riding the ferry at Bullfrog at the end of the Burr Trail
Riding the ferry at Bullfrog at the end of the Burr Trail

 

Photographs Around Boulder, Utah

Scenic Utah Byway 12 ... All-American Road
Scenic Utah Byway 12 ... All-American Road

Scenic Highway 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah
Scenic Highway 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah


 

For More Information

Burr Trail on the Glen Canyon National Recreation area official website at NPS

 

Burr Trail at the ScenicByway12.com website

 

BoulderUtah.com website

 

Boulder on VisitUtah.com website

 

Read more about the community of Boulder Utah on this website