Life is fine on US 89
You’ve heard of Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway. You may have heard of the Overseas Highway in Florida. But have you heard of US 89? No? Well, are you ready for a road trip? Pack some snacks and wear your comfy pants, because we’re going on an epic drive through some of the most scenic views in the west!
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Or at least, where it begins these days. Highway 89 begins in Flagstaff, Arizona—though it used to go to Nogales, on the Mexico border. These days, the highway no longer extends quite from Mexico to Canada, but we think you’ll get over it when the highway takes you past the South and North Rims of the Grand Canyon.
From Grand Canyon National Park, the route goes through the Navajo Nation. Say Yá’át’ééh (“yah-teh-hay”) to the locals and ask if they know anywhere good to get some frybread. They will. If you’re really lucky, that frybread will come in the form of authentic Navajo tacos—heaping piles of beans, cheese, tomatoes, and whatever delectables you crave on top of the bread.
Near the Utah state line, Highway 89 has a bit of an identity crisis and splits into two different routes—US 89 and US 89A. (The alternate is actually the original, while today’s “main” highway was built to serve nearby Glen Canyon Dam.) You’ll pass over the Colorado River just south of the dam, past Lake Tahoe, and finally you’ll enter Utah.
The two highways reunite near Kanab, a little town with a natural history museum with Native American artifacts, the largest collection of dinosaur tracks in southern Utah (there’s actually some competition for this), and the Little Hollywood Movie Museum, a display of western movie sets and film memorabilia. (Countless Westerns have been filmed in southern Utah. You’ll know them when you see them.)
US 89 then passes by Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, and Bryce Canyon National Park. With a short detour, you’ll see magnificent hoodoos and majestic crags. If you choose to hike Angel’s Landing in Zion, you’re in for a vista you’ll never forget, but be careful. Look it up and you’ll know what we’re talking about.
After entering Sevier County and Sanpete Valley, the highway goes past Thistle, a ghost town destroyed in what government officials say is the most costly landslide in American history. You can see the remains from a viewport area or the California Zephyr passenger train. (There’s a passenger train that runs from Chicago to the Bay Area in California, something we had no idea until we started writing this blog. You don’t see that much these days.)
Now you’re entering the Wasatch Front, the corridor that houses roughly 80 percent of Utah’s population. Highway 89 becomes the main street for several major cities. You’ll exit the Wasatch Front at Brigham City and veer off to Cache Valley, where you’ll cruise scenic Logan Canyon and pass by Utah’s third-best university, Utah State. (We kid, USU, but go Cougars!)
Your stay in Idaho will be brief, so don’t get attached. You exit Utah at Bear Lake (be sure and stop at one of several restaurants on the main drag selling World Famous Raspberry Shakes; everyone has their own opinion about which is best). Better enjoy it, because that’s all of Idaho you get to see. Unless you count nearby Paris, Idaho (population 513), which is unlikely to be mistaken for the other Paris.
Now you’re in Wyoming! We have a particular fondness for Wyoming here at Flat Creek, for obvious reasons. You’ll pass through Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole (come stay with us if you need a pit stop! Just be sure to book in advance!), the Snake River Canyon, and Star Valley. Take a moment to stop near the famous “Mormon Barn,” the most photographed barn in the world, which sits against the mighty Tetons.
You’ll soon come to the south end of Yellowstone National Park. If you keep going, an unnamed park road will spit you out on the other side. Do not approach any bison you see, please. They’re big on personal space. Yellowstone’s natural wonders need no introduction, but if you’ve got time, it’d be a shame to miss the many hotspots, geysers, and colorful mud pools that put this famous national park on the map.
You’ve come a long way! We hope you took a few bathroom breaks by now, or this last stretch is going to get increasingly uncomfortable. You’ll leave Wyoming at the north end of Yellowstone and cross the width of the state. Then you’ll approach Glacier National Park. US 89 is actually the access highway to the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, a scenic highway so gorgeous it looks like it was transplanted from some remote northern wilderness in Canada or Norway.
You’ll take the Kings Hill Scenic Byway through the Little Belt Mountains in the Lewis and Clark National Forest (be prepared for a lot of things to be named after Lewis and Clark here in Montana; they love those guys). If you’re crossing during the winter season, thank snow removal crews for keeping the road open.
If you keep going, you’ll hit Canada. That’s where our tour ends, but the road keeps going as Alberta Highway 2, which you can take to Calgary and beyond.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. And we hope you get a chance to experience US 89 beyond this blog post someday, too. It’s a lot cooler in person.