Hell's Backbone Road

Hell's Backbone Road is a scenic drive in Utah

Hell's Backbone Road is the name of a very scenic unpaved road in Garfield County, in southern Utah, USA. This one-way road is closed in winters. The drive offers heavenly day tripping.

How long is Hell's Backbone Road?

The road, part of the Forest Road 153, is 61km (38 mile) long, running from Boulder to Escalante, in Garfield County. The road is totally unpaved, graded occasionally, and suitable for family cars during dry weather. Halfway along the road is Hell's Backbone Bridge, which is 109 feet (33 m) long, and 14 feet (4.3 m) wide. A 1,500-foot (460 m) drop is on either side. Hell’s Backbone Bridge, a must-stop for taking photographs, allows travelers to pass above Sand Creek with views of the spectacular Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area. It is a high-country alternative to the paved Utah Scenic Byway 12, which also connects Boulder and Escalante.

Is Hell's Backbone Road worth it?

It is a great drive that provides access to spectacular country. The journey is famous for its scenery and history. The drive offers unforgettable views into canyons far below. It’s a slow drive but well worth taking if you have the time.

Is Hell's Backbone Road dangerous?

This is a high mountain road, topping out at 2.814m (9,232ft) above the sea level. It’s closed in winters. From late spring to autumn, the road, which climbs to more than 9,000 feet (2,750 m) elevation, is easily passable by ordinary passenger vehicles, but it is very narrow and winding, and not for the faint of heart. The road becomes impassable after the first major snowfall. It follows a narrow hogsback with sheer drops to both the right and the left. It is steep in spots and can be treacherous during stormy weather. The ride is rather remote, so you need to be prepared. This is not a road you should take alone if you are not in good health as it is remote. It can be treacherous travel in the wrong weather or under the wrong road conditions. There is no cell phone coverage.

When was Hell's Backbone Road built?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 2 and 3 hours. The road was constructed by CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Great Depression era in 1933 as the first ever automobile route between the towns of Escalante and Boulder. Given the sheer drop along some stretches, it was the CCC crews who dubbed it the Poison Road – one false step, and down you go.
Pic: James Hatton

 

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