One of southern Utah’s truly great drives, the Johnson Canyon Road stretches north from Highway 89 and provides excellent vantage points of the colorful cliffs for which the Grand Staircase region is particularly known. Turn onto Johnason Canyon Road 11 miles east of Kanab on Highway 89. Drive north until the pavement ends and continue on dirt roads to yet more scenic destinations on Skutumpah Road. Or stick around on Johnson Canyon Road and explore some of the two tracks and minor canyons to which it provides access.
What Makes it Great
Find remnants of the Old West on a scenic drive down Johnson Canyon Road. This road is most notable for the old Gunsmoke film set, located some five miles from the Highway 89 turnoff. The set is on private land, but you can see the dilapidated buildings from the road. As you drive down the 18 miles of paved road, you will have an excellent vantage of the colorful cliffs of the Grand Staircase region as well.
To begin, you’ll pass idyllic country farm houses and fields with horses grazing before sandstone walls. The visual stimulus is cranked up a notch at the eight-mile mark, as it climbs through the White Cliffs, which are steep, and stand in contrast to the juniper and sage below. Be sure to get out and take some pictures.
General meandering at pullouts and down two track roads is popular because there is plenty of unspoiled and rarely-visited terrain along Johnson Canyon Road. Mountain bikers might also want to try their tires out on some of the accessible two-track in the area.
Once you reach Skutumpah Road, the paved road turns to dirt, which is generally accessible for passenger vehicles, except when wet. If you continue along Skutumpah Road, you will eventually get to recreational areas such as Lick Wash, Willis Creek, and Bull Valley Gorge.
If hitting the pavement is your thing, other noteworthy and scenic drives in the area include include Paria River Valley Road, Smoky Mountain Road, and Cottonwood Canyon Road.
What You’ll Remember
Seeing the open road and vast expansive of white cliffs, bold and brazen, rising up before you.
Who is Going to Love It
Lovers of a good, long, and beautiful drive. A great scenic diversion for families who are looking to enjoy the wilds of Southern Utah via the comforts of their automobile. Also motorcyclists in particular enjoy this canyon as there is little traffic during most times of the day.
GPS Coordinates, Parking and Regulations
GPS Coordinates: (37.037412, -112.367132)
Park at designated pullouts or along the dirt roads, but out of the way of other potential traffic. No permits or fees are required here. The area is dog friendly.
Difficulty: 1 star