Capitol Dome

Scenic Byway Utah State Route 24

Utah Scenic Byway 24 is 160 miles long, from US89 in Salina to I-70 near Green River.  U24 heads south from Salina, crosses under I-70 at mile marker 48 and continues into Kings Meadow Canyon.  U24 begins its climb uphill to Parker Mountain Pass at elevation 8,385' (2,556 m), passing U25 to Fish Lake (at elevation 8,848', 2,697 m), one of the best trout fisheries in Utah, 2-3 miles before crossing Parker Mountain pass.

U24 turns east at the summit, and stays pretty much above 7,000' (2,134 m) into a scenic drive alongside Fremont River through the Fremont River Canyon (Capitol Reef Scenic Byway) in Capitol Reef National Park and cuts through Waterpocket Fold.  U24 slopes gently downhill to Hanksville at elevation 4,125' (1,257 m), turns northeast in open desert alongside San Rafael Reef with distant views of the La Sal and Henry Mountains, passing Goblin Valley State Park on its way to I-70 at milemarker 147, thirteen miles west of Green River.

Capitol Reef National Park was created to protect Waterpocket Fold, a warp in the earth's crust that is 65 million years old.  It is the largest exposed monocline in North America.  Newer and older layers of earth are folded over each other in an S-shape.  This warp, probably caused by the same colliding continental plates that created the Rocky Mountains, has weathered and eroded over millennia to expose layers of rock and fossils.  The park is filled with brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs, gleaming white domes, and contrasting layers of stone and earth.

The 152 miles between U24's east and west junctions with I-70 is significantly longer than the equally scenic 99 miles as I-70 climbs Salina Canyon to the highest freeway elevation in Utah (7,980' at Emigrant Pass on the Wasatch Plateau).  I-70 climbs onto and crosses San Rafael Swell, dropping down 8-mile hill across San Rafael Reef to once again meet U24 at mile marker 147.  If I counted correctly, there are seven pullovers/viewpoints with some awesome scenic vistas on I-70 as it crosses the Swell.

Other Scenic Color Country sites along U24 include Waterpocket Fold, San Rafael Swell, and Scenic Byways 12 and 95.