Kolob Terrace Road
You’ve probably heard of California’s Pacific Coast Highway (PCH – Highway One), Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway or the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. Those are all absolutely incredible drives; definitely part of any list you’ll find of America’s most scenic drives. I would recommend (if you can) to make each one of those drives someday. But, if you’re coming to Zion, or just Southern Utah at all, there is one road that is sure to amaze. That’s the Kolob Terrace Road.
Through Zion National Park
The road actually starts outside of Zion National Park but then winds through some of the Park’s hidden scenery. You begin in desert landscape along Utah’s Highway 9 toward Zion. Along the Highway you’ll pass through a small town called Virgin. Just after Virgin, you’ll turn left (north) onto the Kolob Terrace Road. Not too far down the road, you’ll enter Zion National Park. It’s actually this side of Zion (west side) where you can hike the famous Subway.
Climbing from Desert to Mountain
The gain in elevation and change in landscape is what makes this drive so spectacular. Beginning at an elevation of 3,600 feet, cactus, Indian paintbrush and cottonwood trees populate colorful lava rock & sandstone desert. As you drive further up you’ll cross over the quaint “North Creek” – the same water that flows through Zion’s Subway hike. The initial ascent of the drive is a somewhat frightening stretch road; similar to the Angels Landing hike in that steep canyons cut down on either side of the road. Be sure to pay careful attention while driving the Kolob Terrace Road, especially on this stretch. Now, entering the Park, there will be occasional parking lots on the side of the road with hikes going into the nearby canyons.
Change in Landscape
Some of Zion’s most impressive rock formations like South Guardian Angel, North Guardian Angel (which looks like a giant sandstone pyramid), Pocket Mesa & more are scattered along the drive. Gradually driving up one terrace to the next, Cave Valley is perhaps one of the most serene little valley’s on the planet! (In my opinion). Imagine a small two lane road carving out the edge of a wheat field with towering, pinkish orange sandstone walls jutting up adjacent to these amber waves of grain. Oh and did I mention? There’s a small pioneer cabin boasting all it’s character in the middle of it all. Imagine that and you still haven’t experienced it. Kolob Terrace Road is all about the experience. I mean that; bring your friends or family, roll down the windows, pack for a picnic – you’ll be glad you did.
To the Mountain
Going around the bend you’ll start to enter mountain terrain. Pinyon pines, sagebrush and my favorite; ponderosa pines. Ponderosa’s are tall, high-desert pine trees which give off a very sweet aroma, almost like oranges. From here you’ll curve up the road to the last terrace; Kolob Mountain at 8,100 feet elevation. Quite a climb! On Kolob Mountain you’ll pass through Bear Valley and Blue Springs Reservoir. Take a right at Blue Springs Reservoir to get to the West Rim trailhead Farther through the forest you’ll finally get to Kolob Reservoir surrounded by pine trees and aspen groves. Kolob Reservoir is a perfect place to setup camp, cast a line, kayak, you name it!
Hollywood in Zion
If you’ve ever seen Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid with Paul Newman and Robert Redford you’ll find yourself driving through a Hollywood Western movie set when driving the Kolob Terrace Road, especially driving through Cave Valley where several scenes were filmed.
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Can this be done on a motocycle?
Absolutely! I’m envious of anyone who does this ride on a motorcycle. The road is paved the whole way to Kolob Reservoir, but from there you’re left with dirt roads alone. Of course, always be safe & have fun!