One of the most beautiful stretches of asphalt on the planet.
So many motorcyclists have stories of their favorite roads. Often they begin with “there’s this road…” and then go on to explain every corner and twisty and view while sitting behind the bars. Favorite roads are a thing with bike riders, and we all have our favorites.
The ones we want to ride again and again. And again.
I am no exception. I have a litany of favorite asphalt trails all over the west and southwest. These are the roads and places that make me happy to be on this little rock in the cosmos.
And on two wheels.
There’s this road in southern Utah. Highway 12 it’s called. It runs from just south of Panguitch, Utah, east through Bryce Canyon, the Escalante, and ends in Torrey, Utah. It goes across slickrock formations that are older than we can imagine, beautiful little towns, mountains covered in Pine and Aspen, and all the way there are spectacular views.
It is not a very long road. In fact, it is quite short as far as roads are concerned. A mini road. 88 incredible miles. Same number as keys on a piano, and we know how the right music from them can make us feel all kinds of emotions.
Same on these 88 miles.
No matter which way you twist your head, there is something nearly unbelievable in front of you.
From the top of Bryce Canyon down to the town of Escalante, the road delivers curves to make any biker happy, whether on a sports bike or cruiser.
I could write a book on these 88 miles. Maybe I will someday, but this story is about one little section about 2 miles long called “The Hogback”.
It’s called the Hogback because it sits right on a ridge with steep canyons on both sides. Not a knuckle biter, but definitely a road where you want to keep your wits about you. Don’t get mesmerized by the scenery and be pulled to the edge.
There is no margin for error. The speed limit is 25MPH here, and I rarely see anyone going any faster. This is a slow road. A contemplative road. A road where you can be even more mindful of the sheer beauty of the land. A road for paying attention to your life.
My favorite way to go is from west to east. Figure that as from Bryce Canyon toward Torrey. This way the road is uphill to the entrance to the Hogback. It seems more dramatic, although I perhaps just love the slickrock so much that I simply prefer those dramatic overlooks.
Once there you will find numerous paved pull-offs to park and stare. The folks who built the road surely knew this was either going to be a problem up there or they would address it with clean and easy places to park.
One time during a winter workshop in Bryce Canyon, we took the whole entourage up for lunch at one of the pull-offs. It was about 25 degrees and there was snow all over the Escalante. An incredible experience for all of us.
Looking west you can see the canyon where Lower Calf Creek Falls lives. It isn’t visible from here because it is deep in the crevasse although you can see the effects of the creek in the upper middle left where the trees and greenery are in full spring wardrobe.
This ride was full of weather. And weather makes for better photographs so it is super good for me. I had rain again as I went through the town of Escalante and then again near Panguitch. I thought about leaving the rain gear on but it gets really warm when there is no moisture.
The bike runs well in the rain. It is a liquid-cooled engine but the wet roads just help it catch a breather now and then. I ride a lot of miles so that big V-Twin gets pretty hot in the summer. Rain is its best friend.
Both sides of the road are spectacular. I have stopped at every pull-off and been happy to record the shots even if there were no clouds or the light was not particularly good. There is always something to create through the viewfinder. Above is the view looking east from about halfway on the Hogback. Believe me, the views change dramatically within those two miles, so keep the camera at the ready.
If you want to take a spectacular little road and see some truly unique landscape, Highway 12 should be on your list. If you are a motorcyclist, it simply MUST be on your list. Take your time to enjoy every mile, as the land seems to change about that fast as well.
I live in the southwest USA, and believe it is the most beautiful place on the planet. Wouldn’t trade it for anywhere. As a professional photographer for half a decade, I am still enamored with this land every time I venture out the door with a camera.
These photographs were shot on a Nikon Df, or an iPhone XSMax.
Thanks for reading.
I am a photographer, designer, and photo editor. You can find me at my self-named website or at Project 52 Pro System where I teach commercial photography online. This is our tenth year of teaching, and it is the most unique online class you will find anywhere.