The Energy Loop: Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway


Heading out of Huntington to the bottom of the canyon
At the bottom of Huntington Canyon in Huntington
Sign at the edge of Huntington marking the Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway

The Energy Loop: Huntington/Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway is an 86-mile route that passes through the Manti-La Sal National Forest, passing operating coal mines, historic mining towns and at least one large coal-fired electric plant (Utah Power and Light at the foot of Huntington Canyon - you can see the chimneys in the photo above). The route reaches about 10,000 feet in the Wasatch Mountains, giving some great views of Sanpete Valley, one of the first areas settled by the Mormon pioneers in the mid-1850's. The Huntington Canyon Scenic Drive is only that part of the route that extends from the Manti-La Sal National Forest boundary west of Huntington to the junction with Skyline Drive at the wayside of the Sanpete Valley Overlook. All of this section of road is National Forest Scenic Byway within Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Just east of Huntington is the location of the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, site of the densest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur bones ever found. More than 12,000 dinosaur eggs, skeletons and individual bones have been excavated from this site as the archaeologists and paleontologists have tried to discover why there is such a concentration of "dino memorabilia" located here.

To go with all those ancient dinosaur fossils, this area has a concentration of coal mines (most closed due to economic slowdowns in the mid-1900's but Skyline Mine in Eccles Canyon (just south of Scofield) still produces more than 5 million tons of coal annually).

For those folks who are into other, more athletic pursuits, just outside Orangeville (between the Sanpete Valley Overlook and Huntington) on State Route 31 you'll find Joes Valley, one of Utah's prime destinations for rock climbers and boulderers. Joes Valley offers literally hundreds of routes on some of the world's finest sandstone boulders... routes for all skill levels. Best time to climb, though, is in the spring and fall. The summers are hot, shade is scarce and the sandstone gets greasy real quick.

With most of the Energy Loop Scenic Byway passing through the Manti-La Sal National Forest, that means campgrounds, picnic areas and trail heads are scattered all along the route. You'll also find more than a few pullouts with interpretive signage along the way. Scofield State Park is at the north end, Huntington State Park at the south end. In Fairview is where you'll find the Fairview Museum of History and Art with displays of artifacts that reach from the modern era back through Native American artifacts from about the 1300's CE to a full-scale replica of a pre-Colombian mammoth that was found just off SR 31 south of town in 1988.

I drove the route in late May 2017. It was a bit cloudy when I left Huntington and headed uphill but at the top of the hill, it was snowing hard and visibility was very limited. I saw almost no vehicles on the road but the campgrounds and fishing areas close to the foot of the canyon were packed.

A view upstream through the forest above the rapidly flowing waters of Huntington Creek
Huntington Creek
Looking across a partilly ice-covered Huntington Reservoir with low hanging clouds, snow falling and forest in the distance
Huntington Reservoir
Looking downhill through the canyon on the slope down to Fairview
Headed down to Fairview
Photos courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License