Utah Byways

Plan a trip to one of Utah's many byways!  Prepare yourself for history lessons, wildlife, vast scenery, mysterious formations and fun adventure.  Utah's diverse landscapes gives you multiple options for your next day trip. May 10th, 2019 marks the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad Grade In recognition of this great American achievement, the Utah State Governor created a Spike 150 Commission to bring partners together and create a celebration that will last not only a day, but the course of the year. 

Bull Creek Pass Back Country Byway

buffalo herd from the henry mountains

Bull Creek Pass National Back Country Byway winds for 68 miles through Utah's Henry Mountains. The view from the route includes colorful canyons, steep cliffs, vast badlands, and rugged alpine mountains. The byway climbs nearly a mile as it loops through this colorful, vibrant mountain range set between Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Parks.  This route was constructed to provide access to the Henry Mountains for recreation and exploration.  Allow 6-8 hours to drive this stretch.  For more information contact the BLM Henry Mountains Field Station.

Nine Mile Canyon Back Country Byway

rock art on cliff with byway in background

Nine Mile Canyon is known as a major representative area of the prehistoric Fremont Culture. The canyon houses a myriad of rock panels along the main road and in side canyons. Petroglyphs (carvings on rock faces) and pictographs (paintings on rock faces) depict animals, hunting scenes and godlike figures. Cliff granaries on high canyon ledges may be spotted by careful observers. In the 1800s, the canyon was used by both fur trappers and the army. Iron telegraph poles, stage stations and settler cabins are common sights. Vegetation and terrain along this Backway vary from high desert species to aspen groves. The buff colored cliffs of the canyon are highlighted by balanced rocks and window arches. Deer and elk are seen frequently.  This route follows 9 Mile Canyon and stretches approximately 78 miles.  Allow 2 hours to drive the byway.  For more information, contact the BLM Price Field Office.

Pony Express Trail Back Country Byway

Pony at Springs Station with sunset in background; west desert district, UTAH

The Pony Express Trail National Back Country Byway traverses 133 miles through western Utah. Covering topography from barren desert mountains to wide basins, this route follows one of historical importance. In 1860 and 1861, Pony Express riders delivered mail, covering hundreds of miles of ground from Missouri to California. As you drive the byway, note the remains of old Pony Express stations that still sit on the side of the road every 10 miles or so.  This route was established to conserve the historical significance of the Pony Express and its route through Utah.  Allow 5 hours to drive the byway. For more information, contact the BLM Salt Lake Field Office.

Silver Island Mountain Back Country Byway

Silver mountains in the west desert district of Utah

Follow the Silver Island Mountain National Back Country Byway along its 54-mile loop around the Silver Island Mountains and through Utah's Great Basin Desert. Revel in the solitude of Silver Island Mountains as you hike, mountain bike, or rockhound on rocky terraces and watch some of the world's fastest vehicles zoom across the Bonneville Salt Flats. Only four miles east of Wendover, Utah, the byway runs through a desert landscape marked with geological remnants of the region's volcanic past. Remnants of more recent history take the form of wagon wheel ruts embedded into the Historic California Trail which runs along the byway's north end.  Allow 2-3 hours to drive this loop. For more information, contact the BLM Salt Lake Field Office.

Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway

pass over smithsonian butte road

Take in the stunning desert landscape of Southern Utah when you drive the Smithsonian Butte Back Country Byway. All nine miles between Big Plain Junction and Rockville, UT, just south of Zion National Park's southern entrance, offer gorgeous views of the surrounding geographic wonders including the byway's namesake and Zion Canyon, not to mention the historical Grafton ghost town. Allow 45 minutes to drive the byway. The Smithsonian Butte Back County Byway doesn't receive regular maintenance and quickly becomes impassable when wet. It also features a steep grade and steep drop-offs in certain sections and is not suitable for over-sized vehicles or towing trailers. For more information, contact the BLM St. George Field Office.

Transcontinental Railroad Back Country Byway

transcontinental railroad in west desert district of Utah

Although one might look at Utah’s northwestern region and see nothing but vast, isolated desert, a sharp observer would see a historical playground distinguished by the Transcontinental Backcountry Byway. Traversing the flatlands of the Great Salt Lake Desert, the byway stretches between the area just west of Golden Spike National Historic Site and the Utah-Nevada border, following the deserted Central Pacific Railroad grade lain in 1869. Allow 3-4 hours to drive this 90 mile stretch. For more information, contact the BLM Salt Lake Field Office.

150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad Grade 



Evan Glenn
Trails and Travel Management Program Lead