Valley of Fire Road. Image credit Clari Massimiliano via Shutterstock.

7 Most Scenic Road Trips to Take in The Colorado Plateau

The following picturesque road trips highlight the Colorado Plateau's jaw-dropping natural vistas and historical attractions which overflow with activities and landmarks for travelers to discover. These trips provide deep insights into the region's diverse tapestry, from twisting routes through red rock canyons to motorways connecting to ancient Native American sites. Discover impressive rock formations, colorful desert vistas, spotless national parks, and important historical sites, all while taking advantage of the ample possibilities for hiking, photographing, and engaging with the Colorado Plateau's cultural and natural legacy. 

Monument Valley Loop (Utah and Arizona)

Scenic drive in the Monument Valley region of the USA.
Scenic drive through Monument Valley. Image credit cb_travel via Shutterstock.

Start a 17-mile loop that meanders through Monument Valley's famous red rock formations. Admire the majestic buttes and mesas that have been featured in countless films and pictures. Fill up a water bottle and set off along the Wildcat Trail to take in the desert sites. For an indoor activity, the Goulding Trading Post Museum where visitors can find out all about the valley’s film history. There are also plenty of landmarks worth checking out including Three Sisters and Hogan’s Point. The Navajo Nation's rich cultural past adds depth and educational experiences while learning of the enduring customs and tales of the native people who call the area home.

Scenic Byway 12 (Utah)

Arch tunnel through rock along scenic highway 12 near Red Canyon. Utah
Arch tunnel through rock along scenic Highway 12, Utah. Image credit Paul Brady Photography via Shutterstock.

Get ready for 122 miles of breathtaking canyons, historic woods, and quaint tiny villages. The grand cliffs of the Escalante River, the stunning slot canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the natural amphitheaters of Bryce Canyon National Park are just a few of the impressive vistas on display along Scenic Byway 12. Keep an eye out for historical sites like the Anasazi State Park Museum along the journey that is conserving the remains of former Native American civilizations. It is recommended to make a stop in Panguitch for a bite to eat, with four blue ribbon fisheries to check out and other diverse dining options, it is a great town to spend some time in. Kodachrome Basin State Park is highly recommended to stop over at nighttime as it is a certified Dark Sky Park with spectacular views of the night sky. The Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons are other natural marvels to visit, however, claustrophobic individuals might not be interested. In that case, they can opt for Calf Creek Falls instead.

Million Dollar Highway (Colorado)

Colorado Highway 550. Famous Million Dollars Highway Near Durango, Colorado, United States. San Juan County.
Million Dollar Highway, Colorado. Image credit Virrage Images via Shutterstock.

Drive the 25-mile section of US Route 550 in Colorado known as the Million Dollar Highway to feel the surge of excitement travelers get while driving across incredible mountain ranges with breathtaking views. Travel into the San Juan Mountains' interior, where craggy peaks and sheer cliffs form an amazing background. Do not miss the opportunity to explore Silverton and Ouray, two ancient mining towns, where visitors can indulge in the extensive mining heritage that previously characterized this area. The San Juan National Forest, Molas Lake, and Red Mountain Pass are all gorgeous natural sights, offering stunning views of the region’s landscapes. If a little relaxation is in the cards, a visit to The Trimble Spa and Natural Hot Springs is the perfect remedy for sore muscles after a day of driving!

Bryce Canyon National Park Loop (Utah)

Scenic view of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah with its red colorful rock formations.
View of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Image credit jenna3984256 via Shutterstock.

On the 18-mile picturesque journey through Bryce Canyon National Park, see a world of fantastical hoodoos and colorful rock formations. From Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point, take in jaw-dropping views of incredible geological wonders. This route has no shortage of amazing trails such as the Navajo Loop Trail, Fairyland Loop Trail, and Rim Trails, all of which have more of those stunning scenic photo ops. Fun fact for avid hikers, the Navajo Loop Trail is within walking distance from the Queens Garden Trail, so there is no need to drive over to another location for extra exertion. Visitors will feel as though they are at the top of the world peering down from Bryce Point which looks especially dazzling at sunset. If tourists are all hiked out, there are also trail rides available through Bryce Canyon.

Valley of Fire State Park Loop (Nevada)

Panoramic view of Valley of Fire Road in Nevada, road view
Valley of Fire Road.

Learn about the stunning Valley of Fire Road in Nevada, which received its name from the spectacular red sandstone formations that can be seen there. This scenic path has striking cliffs, ancient petroglyphs, and alluring desert landscapes.  Pack a camera to capture the Great Basin's natural beauty and take pleasure in the brilliant colors that the environment is painted with. Visit the breathtaking desert locations such as Elephant Rock and Atlatl Rock, take a walk up to Mouse's Tank, and discover the unusual Pastel Pink Canyon Trail. The trek at Rainbow Vista is another short route that offers breathtaking views of the Valley of Fire, well worth the trek once tourists get to the observation platform. Although this road journey is not very lengthy, the vistas are guaranteed to shorten the time spent traveling along it.

Route 128 (Utah)

The Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (State Route 128) Utah, USA alongside the Colorado River
Route 128 along Colorado River. Image credit LARISA DUKA via Shutterstock.

Route 128 offers travelers stunning river vistas and soaring cliffs as it meanders 44 miles along the Colorado River. Admire the beautiful spires of Fisher Towers, a famous landmark for climbers and explorers. While traveling through Castle Valley be sure to try out some of the hiking trails around it. Cisco is a great and peculiar first stop, where visitors can see the rundown ghost town it has become, littered with scraps that make for a desolate landscape. From Cisco, make your way over to the Dewey Bridge, a famed example of human ingenuity that was sadly destroyed by fire, which is another landmark that can be seen along the path. For those curious about all the movies and shows filmed in the area, the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage will be able to fill in the gaps and provide additional information about the region’s history.

Mesa Verde National Park Loop (Colorado)

Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Parks, Colorado, USA
Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Parks, Colorado. Image credit Sopotnicki via Shutterstock.

The Mesa Top Loop Road in Mesa Verde National Park offers a 6-mile drive through a historically significant terrain. Take in the magnificent cliff structures constructed by the Ancestral Puebloans, including the world-renowned Cliff Palace, Spruce Tree House, and Balcony House. Learn about the Pueblo peoples' cultural history and their creative response to this challenging environment while touring the ancient architectural wonders. Find out more about the park’s history by visiting the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, which even shares a parking lot with the Petroglyph Point Trail. If the museum is not enough history for visitors, learn more about the mystery of these prehistoric homes and the interesting everyday life of the inhabitants of Mesa Verde by taking a guided tour.


The Colorado Plateau hosts many visitors drawn there by its extraordinary scenery, fascinating past, and breathtaking natural treasures. Travelers can truly appreciate the landscapes of this area, from the monumental rock formations of Monument Valley to the prehistoric cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, by taking one of these seven beautiful drives. The Colorado Plateau Road excursions provide an experience that will astound, whether prospective visitors are attracted by geological wonders, enthralled by historical sites, or just looking for a new adventure. While setting out on these spectacular road journeys over the Colorado Plateau, be sure to pack your camera, hiking boots, and a sense of adventure. Take to the open road, enjoy the stunning views, and make some lifelong memories, The Colorado Plateau will not disappoint. 


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