Scenic Byways and Backways

Scenic Byways and Backways offer a unique combination of recreational adventures, cultural attractions, and varied landscapes. There are numerous routes throughout Utah to choose from. The Ashley National Forest has two Scenic Byways and two Scenic Backways. All offer spectacular views and experiences off of the Interstate Highway system.

Photo of the Scenic Byway Sign Northbound.Flaming Gorge - Uinta National Scenic Byway crosses the Ashley National Forest between the communities of Vernal and Manila. A segment of this Byway also crosses the Flaming Gorge Dam and terminates at the Utah - Wyoming border. Byway travelers can view and experience the greatest variety of wildlife and wildlife habitat in the State of Utah. Information and interpretive facilities are found at the Northeastern Utah Visitor center in Vernal, Flaming Gorge Dam, the Forest Service office in Manila, and at 14 interpretive sites along the Byway.

"Wildlife Through The Ages," is the theme and vision of the Flaming Gorge - Uintas National Scenic Byway. This Byway offers a unique opportunity to interpret wildlife and wildlife habitats both past and present. Visitors will explore wildlife and its diversity; discover the habitats animals prefer; experience seasonal and daily changes; and learn when, where, and how to view and photograph wildlife as they travel along a route passing through one of the richest areas for wildlife and fossils in the West.

 The backdrop to this unique corridor of wildlife discovery is the majestic peaks of the Uinta Mountains; forests of aspen, ponderosa, pinyon/juniper and lodgepole pine; sandstone towers and cathedrals; giant red-rock formations; cottonwood and willow lined mountain streams; and the blazing red cliffs called Flaming Gorge.

The journey begins north of Vernal among the ancient habitats of the Frontier, Morrison, and Chinel formations. Dinosaur bones and tracks, sharks teeth, fish scales, and seashells common to these formations can be viewed at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park in Vernal, the Dinosaur Quarry in Dinosaur National Monument, and in the rocks near Steinaker and Red Fleet State Parks. More modern records of wildlife are found in the rock art and trails left by Indians that used Brush Creek as a travel corridor on their way to better hunting grounds.

Photo of an elk along a scenic byway.As the journey continues, ancient sand and limestone formations, rich in fossils of primitive seas, shape today's habitats. Elk and deer now walk over the sands of ancient seas, hawks and eagle fly over areas where dinosaurs walked and fish swim among the remains of petrified forests. Deep water and shallow wetlands, created by Steinaker and Flaming Gorge reservoirs, are seasonal homes to osprey, loons, ducks, geese and numerous wading birds. Sagebrush flats and pinyon/juniper forests shelter wintering herds of deer and elk. Mountain meadows and forests of aspen, ponderosa and lodgepole pine provide homes for a wide variety of birds and mammals, including moose, black bear, marmots, snowshoe hare, golden eagles, goshawks, and red flicker woodpeckers. Clear mountain streams supply insects for dippers and spawning gravel for salmon and trout.

As the journey nears it northern end, bighorn sheep can be seen among the rocky outcrops above Sheep Creek, and the cottonwoods and willows above the stream harbor more species of migrating song birds than any other spot in Utah. The journey ends in Mancos or Hilliard Shale formations near Manila and Antelope Flat. Here the antelope and jackrabbits wander through the remains of an ancient sea.

Photo of the Scenic Byways Sign Southbound.Indian Canyon Scenic Byway begins in the community of Duchesne on US Highway 191 and crosses the colorful terrain between the Uintah Basin and the San Rafael Swell near Price, Utah. Varied landscapes of steep and colorful rock formations and conifer and aspen trees provide a special visual treat to Byway Travelers.

Red Cloud Loop Scenic Backway can be accessed from Highway 131 in the Vernal area or at the junction of the Backway and the Flaming Gorge-Uintas National Scenic Byway located 15 miles north of Vernal. The Backway travels through majestic sandstone canyons, mixed conifer and aspen forests, and large meadow areas. Backway travelers are provided breathtaking views of the High Uintas mountains. The majority of this Backway is over unpaved roads.

Sheep Creek Scenic BackwaySheep Creek Scenic Backway crosses the highly acclaimed Sheep Creek Geological Area adjacent to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The Backway provides the traveler with outstanding views of twisted and colorful geological formations which rise above the traveler like city skyscrapers.