Hell's Backbone Road

Hell's Backbone Road, a scenic drive in Utah

Hell's Backbone Road is a very scenic gravel road located 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 is 61km (38 mile) long and links the towns of Boulder and Escalante, in Garfield County. This road is closed in winter. Avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Hells Backbone Road is gravel, graded occasionally, and suitable for family cars during dry weather. Mainly gravel and offering unforgettable views into canyons far below, it's slow drive but well worth taking if you have the time. 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 very narrow and winding.

Is Hell's Backbone Road dangerous?

This is a maintained road where a high clearance 2WD vehicle is able to travel safely at low speeds on long dry straight-of-ways, without losing control due to wash boarding, ruts, or dips. 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 it can be treacherous during stormy weather.

When was Hell's Backbone Road built?

The road does get busier at weekends and in the main holiday season. The road is not easy, though. Up, down, right, left all the time. 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 is a great drive that provides access to spectacular country. It can be treacherous travel in the wrong weather or under the wrong road conditions. The drive is famous for its scenery and history. 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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