Breathtaking Drive to the Needles in Canyonlands National Park

Time always flies on vacation! On most trips, there are more things to do than time allows.  It can be really hard to narrow down the to-do list!

In Moab, Utah, you can’t help but face this dilemma! Nestled near 2 National Parks, the Colorado River, and some of the best rock terrain in the nation, it is tough to decide what to include on the itinerary and what to save for another trip!

On our first trip to Moab, we spent time in Canyonlands National Park Islands in the Sky District.  We wanted to visit the Needles District, but there just wasn’t time to make that drive.

On our most recent trip, we debated whether or not it was worth the 1 hour and 45 minutes drive one way to see the Needles.  We decided to go for it and quickly found out that the answer is YES!Indian Creek Scenic Drive Utah

To reach the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park from Moab, head south on Hwy 191. Turn right (west) on SR 211.  This is where the drive starts to get really interesting.

SR 211 is also known as the Indian Creek Scenic Byway. It joins highway US Hwy 191 about 40 miles south of Moab. This Scenic Byway is 18 miles each way and ends at the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.  The highway winds among spectacular buttes and rock formations!

As you enjoy this scenic drive, don’t miss Newspaper Rock, one of the country’s largest collections of petroglyphs which is also a Utah State Historic Site. This amazing rock art is about 15 miles west of Hwy 191.

Once you arrive at the entrance to the Needles District, the possibilities are endless! And, there are far fewer people in this district than in Islands in the Sky. I think you’ll find a Moab day trip to the Needles along the Indian Creek Scenic Byway to be vacation time well spent!Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Falls Scenic Byway – Idaho

The good old USA is best seen by car.  Sure, flying is faster.  But there is something extra special taking a road trip across the country stopping along the way.  And, we have great scenic byways throughout the county.  Mesa Falls Scenic Byway in Idaho is one such example.  We stumbled across this little treasure on a road trip from Salt Lake City to Big Sky, Montana.

Mesa Falls Scenic Byway Sign in Idaho
Mesa Falls Scenic Byway Sign

The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway would be easy to miss.  It is a little jaunt off Interstate 20 in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest which is north of Idaho Falls but south of West Yellowstone, MT.  By Interstate, the distance from Idaho Falls to West Yellowstone is 108 miles.  If you take the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, the distance is 119 miles.  So, it is not too far off the beaten path. While you won’t be adding much mileage to your trip, you will want to allow time to stop and enjoy. You can access the Byway (Hwy 47) at Ashton, Idaho.

There are several stops along Mesa Falls Scenic Byway including the Teton Overlook.  Even though the Grand Tetons are nearly 40 miles away, you can still see them off in the distance.

Grand Teton Overlook
The Grand Tetons are visible from the Teton Overlook.

At the Lower Mesa Falls stop, there is a short walk to the Grandview Overlook, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.  Here you see the Snake River drop 65 feet through columns of basalt.

Lower Mesa Falls
Grand Overlook view of Lower Mesa Falls.

The real treat is Upper Mesa Falls.  There is a visitor center at this stop as well as a walk way with overlooks along the river.  The view is spectacular.  I really enjoy how the mist of the waterfall nourishes the greenery along the cliffs opposite the falls.mesa-falls-scenic-byway-idaho1-5-tripmesa-falls-scenic-byway-idaho1-4-tripmesa-falls-scenic-byway-idaho1-6-tripmesa-falls-scenic-byway-idaho1-9-tripUpper Mesa Falls Idaho

The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is a real gem and should not be missed if you are traveling in the area.  It far exceeded my expectations! It was a great place to stop and stretch our legs and enjoy a picnic while taking in some fabulous views!