Flaming Gorge Scenic Drive


Flaming Gorge Dam
Flaming Gorge Dam

Flaming Gorge Scenic Drive is an 82-mile route that crosses Ashley National Forest from south to north (or vice versa if you want), traversing the zone between Vernal and Manila. You even get to cross the Flaming Gorge dam along the way... what have you got to lose?

This route offers the greatest diversity in wildlife and wildlife habitat that Utah has to offer. There are information and interpretive facilities at Vernal in the Northeastern Utah Visitor's Center, at the Flaming Gorge dam itself, at the Forest Service office in Manila and at 14 other interpretive sites along the Byway.

A bridge across Flaming Gorge Reservoir

The "theme" of the Byway is "Wildlife Through the Ages." As this area is one of the richest areas for modern wildlife and for ancient fossils in America, the "theme" is very apt: throughout this drive you'll be going through 250 million years of exposed geology, seeing places where today's elk and deer are walking on ancient seashores embedded with the fossilized remains of the earliest dinosaurs. From the Frontier, Morrison and Chinle formations to the Mancos and Hilliard shales, you'll come across bighorn sheep wandering among the fallen logs of a petrified forest, there'll be golden eagles, goshawks and red flicker woodpeckers flying in skies that were once the domain of pterodactyls and archaeopteryx. The ancient sands and limestones that give so much color to the countryside, that's where the rabbits and pronghorn wandered through the seashells left on the bottom of an ancient ocean.

Vernal is home to the Utah Field House of Natural History, a place where you'll find one of Earth's most extensive collections of dinosaur fossils and other artifacts. Just north of town is Steinaker State Park. Just north of that is Red Fleet State Park. At the north end of the byway is Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area: Sheep Creek Bay
Looking down on the red cliffs and blue waters of Red Canyon
Red Canyon
Looking far downhill from above Red Fleet Reservoir
Looking south from above Red Fleet Reservoir
Looking at an exposed ridge composed of layers of brightly colored sandstones
Typical sandstone formation along the route
Looking across the expanse of Steinaker Reservoir
Steinaker Reservoir
Photos courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License