A steep, high-elevation road offering a wide spectrum of mountain and red-rock scenery is the Beehive State's newest national scenic byway.
The Federal Highway Administration announced Friday that state Route 143, nicknamed "Utah's Patchwork Parkway," running from Parowan through Brian Head to Panguitch, now has that designation.
"The title of national scenic byway is very difficult to attain," said Nancy Dalton, Byway 143 coordinator, adding the road was one of 63 applicants for the status.
State Route 143 is the state's eighth federal byway and one of 37 new scenic routes in 26 states. There are now 151 nationwide.
The designation recognized the historic value of the road. An annual quilt walk in Panguitch commemorates a time when pioneer travelers laid quilts over the snow to protect their feet from the bitter cold. In addition to its history, the byway has a notable diversity of scenery, color and never-ending vistas.
"There are several overlooks and pullouts where one can view Cedar Breaks National Monument, Brian Head Peak, Markagunt Plateau, Vermillion Castle, Panguitch Lake, lava fields, historic sites, meadows of summer wild flowers and, during autumn, aspen groves of brilliant fall colors," Dalton said. There also are trails, side roads and petroglyphs. The highway also offers excellent star-gazing opportunities.
One narrow side road offers glimpses of dramatic, lesser-known southern Utah scenery, including Noah's Ark, Free Thought Canyon, Valentine Peak, Squaw Hollow and Billy West Canyon.
State Route 143 is Utah's second-highest paved road, topping out at an elevation of 10,567 feet at Cedar Breaks. (Only the Mirror Lake Highway is higher.) It is also the steepest paved state road, with a maximum grade of 13 percent. It climbs 4,600 feet in about 18 miles from Parowan to Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell will mark the new scenic byway designation at a community event Monday at 2:30 p.m. at Heritage Park in Parowan. The program will feature several guest speakers, Paiute Indian dancers, dignitaries, quilts and displays. In case of bad weather, it will be held in the Iron County Fairgrounds building.