Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway
Are you interested in getting the best views right off the highway? You can do it in Wyoming! This is an article about the 150 mile round-trip route around the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. This is technically not a scenic byway in Wyoming, but it is on the Utah portion of the road!
If you are interested in more, check out our other easily accessible scenic tours in our blog categories.
Where is it?
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is sandwiched between Wyoming and Utah and it was carved by the Green River. Now the river is part of a reservoir, created by a dam on the southern side.
The towns of Green River and Rock Springs, Wyoming sit at the top of the gorge along Interstate 80. If you are planning a trip along I-80 or to Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado you should take a slight detour to fit this scenic byway into your travel itinerary. If you are planning to do more than take the route we did, you may have to pay day use fees at trail heads and boat launches. On our tour you won't have to pay any fees!
What is really cool about the location is since Utah and Wyoming share the recreation area, fishing licenses are valid in both states (it's just easier on everyone this way). Not only that, but you can access the water and various overlooks on either side of the gorge. The very first one you will come to is called Firehole Overlook.
Starting in Rock Springs
We started from this town though you can start from Green River because the route is literally a loop. From Rock Springs, south on Hwy 191, you will get vast views of the Red Desert (yes, the Wyoming climate is considered a high desert) and you'll see wildlife along the way if you start your trip early. Keep an eye out for horses along this road because they are wild horses! Just north of Rock Springs is the ranch headquarters and where you can view the horses up close.
There are other roads off of Hwy 191 which you can take if you are comfortable with dirt roads. We would recommend making a small detour to Antelope Flat or Mustang Ridge if you want to get closer to the edge. The roads to these campgrounds and boat launch points are paved. If not, stay along the highway and keep heading south to the town of Dutch John, Utah.
Here you can fill up with gas and snacks if you are getting low (but it will be expensive!). The dam to the gorge is another mile or two down Hwy 191 from Dutch John where there is an information center and an overlook.
What's so cool about a dam?
When reading over this article I'm sure visiting a dam wasn't on your mind. Once you are here you will see how impressive a 502 foot tall dam really is. The Hoover Dam is over 200 feet taller than the Flaming Gorge Dam, but both are breath-taking!
This hydroelectric dam holds back roughly 3,800,000 acre feet of water and sits at an elevation of 6,040 feet above sea level. The energy harvested from the dam can support over 50,000 homes - we think that is pretty amazing! You can take a tour of the dam in the summer months if you are interested.
Looping back around!
Back to the Interstate
From here Hwy 44 will take you through the Uinta Mountains which will take you further away from where the water carves the gorge to the town of Manila, Utah. We decided to take an alternate route called Sheep Creek National Geological Area Loop. On this paved route, you will miss the Flaming Gorge Overlook (stay on Hwy 44 to see this), but you will pass through more than a billion years of geologic history on this alternate road!
You will see the rocks change color as you pass fault lines and crevasses created over 70 to 40 million years ago when the Uinta Mountains flexed upward. This area has some great camp sites as well, but be cautious when camping in the spring when thunderstorms are prevalent - the canyon is very narrow at points and severe flooding can occur.
You will also see locals along the route as the national forest and national recreation area boundaries share borders with rancher's land. We were so jealous that we didn't get to homestead here first! The Sheep Creek National Geological Area Loop will bring you back to Hwy 44 at Navajo Cliffs Picnic Area. The next turn will be at Manila where you will turn right onto Hwy 530 north, back to Green River.
The windy mountain roads will start to smooth out as you head back towards the interstate. This road takes you much closer to the west side of the gorge so there are a few more overlooks and marinas you can stop at. Lucerne Valley was a nice stop on the edge of a small peninsula - you are almost completely surrounded by water here!
We hope that you take our advice and visit the Flaming Gorge on your next vacation! It seems to have every activity imaginable and you can see it all right from the highway. We love this place y'all, so let us know if you want to know more about the gorge and the activities available :)
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