Though easily accessible on one of the nation's most scenic roads, Boulder, Utah retains a serenely remote quality. The town appears like a refreshing seep in a vast wilderness, creating an oasis of rustic and sophisticated rural life. Legends of incredible outdoor adventure and Zagat-rated cuisine lure travelers off the road. The legends are true.
In Boulder, visit with locals about how best to enjoy and preserve this stunning mountain sanctuary on Utah's All-American Road, Scenic Byway 12. Boulder's 200 residents live amid the natural beauty and endless adventure of incredible public lands, pristine national forest and the rugged Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Boulder takes its name from nearby Boulder Mountain, a vast timbered plateau of the Dixie National Forest that rises to 11,316 feet.
Few knew of Boulder before the northern stretch of the scenic byway was paved in 1985. According to the town, they were the last in the nation to receive their mail by mule train, changed only by the completion of a year-round road in 1939. Now, auto tourists and outdoor adventurers have discovered this gem at 6,700 feet, and stop over for local pastries, organic coffee and one-of-a-kind art at the Burr Trail Outpost or beautifully crafted farm-to-table fare at Hell's Backbone Grill. To extend your stay in the Boulder area, there are both comfortable lodging options and dispersed camping on delicate public lands only minutes from town.
Boulder is located on Scenic Byway 12, about 45 minutes from its northern junction with S.R. 24 between Torrey and Capitol Reef or a two-hour drive from the highway's southwestern junction with U.S. 89 near Panguitch. From the north, Scenic Byway 12 climbs out of Torrey, Utah, to more than 9,600 feet with sweeping views over the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef National Park. Just south of Boulder is the Hogsback section of Highway 12, a winding feat of engineering on a narrow spine overlooking the monument.
Back road explorers (with four-wheel drive and high-clearance vehicles in some conditions) can emerge in Boulder on the Burr Trail by way of the mostly unpaved Notom-Bullfrog backcounty road.
Anasazi State Park and Museum
Worth the trip alone, explore an Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) village dating to about A.D. 1050 to 1200, and one of the largest communities of its kind west of the Colorado River. Outside the museum, tour a life-sized, six-room replica of an ancient dwelling and view a portion of the original site. Inside, view artifacts excavated from this site and learn the lifeways of these people. See the map and TripAdvisor reviews.
Hell's Backbone Grill
Hell's Backbone Grill astonishes hungry travelers on Highway 12 with Zagat-rated organic, sustainable and locally sourced cuisine. Few dining establishments are better known in Southern Utah. Throughout the growing season, the grill sources fresh from its own gardens, including heirloom fruit trees and heritage hens, while working with local ranchers for grass- fed and-finished beef and lamb. Restaurant and farm staff freeze, dry or can surplus harvest. Explore Boulder’s other locally minded restaurants.
Explore roughly 70 miles of backcountry roads either between Boulder and Notom or Boulder and Bullfrog Marina (in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area). The journey begins with 30 paved miles out of Boulder, starting next to the Burr Trail Grill. The backway quickly leaves the town behind and blazes a path deep into the Grand Staircase-Escalante, passing Deer Creek campground, multiple trailheads, side roads and an easily accessible slot canyon called Long Canyon. After about 30 miles the pavement ends as the road enters Capitol Reef National Park and descends the Burr Trail switchbacks, not suitable for trailers, then connects with the Notom-Bullfrog Road. When hiking, Tread carefully on cryptobiotic soils and leave no trace.
Calf Creek Falls Recreation Area
Calf Creek Falls is a popular hike on a developed interpretive trail in the Escalante Canyons section of Grand Staircase-Escalante. It begins at the Calf Creek campground, located midpoint on State Hwy 12 between Boulder and Escalante. The hike to the falls and back is about less than 6 miles round trip. The trail is an easy walk along Calf Creek; it can get hot in the summer months, but the falls area is a cool haven.
Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument
Experience 1.8 million acres of outdoor adventure and star-filled night skies. Slot canyons, slickrock and other geologic wonders fill your line of sight while hiking, mountain biking, off-roading and camping. Visitor centers at Big Water, Kanab, Escalante and Cannonville. The massive Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is vast and rugged, yet easily accessible off Scenic Byway 12 and U.S. Highway 89. Divided into three regions: Canyons of the Escalante, Grand Staircase and the Kaiparowits Plateau, scenic and recreational opportunities abound within the monument. Visitor centers are located in Kanab, Escalante, Cannonville and Big Water.
Capitol Reef National Park
Enter a world of magnificently colored and rugged rock features made of contrasting red Entrada and white Navajo sandstone. Capitol Reef National Park’s central formation is a magnificent warp in the crust of the earth known as the Waterpocket Fold. The fascinating geology is the backdrop to the park’s unique Western pioneer heritage found along Scenic Byway 24 and the park’s scenic drive, but this formation extends for nearly 100 miles deep into Utah’s best red rock country.
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Scenic Byway 12 and the Burr Trail Scenic Backway meet at this town with incredible views of monuments, parks, and recreation areas, all part of the American West