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I love the Burr Trail. It’s no secret. It’s the best scenic drive in Utah, if not the whole country. I still have a lot of scenic drives left to do, so that’s not an official declaration yet. I always thought I should have made a Burr Trail guide years ago, but now I thought about it and I really just gave myself time to do as much on it as I could. Which is a lot.
So, here I present to you, the best Burr Trail guide ever. From someone who lived at one end of it and would literally drive the whole thing multiple times a year just to eat at Burr Trail Grill.
I’ve done almost every hike on this list (except two), done plenty of (responsible) off trail hiking, driven a ton of the dirt roads (especially on the Bullfrog end), and more.
This is easily one of the things I miss the most about Bullfrog since Page doesn’t really have anything close to this. And if it does and you know about it, I would love to hear!
A few things to know about this guide to Burr Trail:
- It will all be written in order from Bullfrog to Boulder in each section.
- It’s just a general guide but is applicable for a visit any time of year.
- This is all based on my personal experience and opinion.
- I’ve done almost everything in this guide, but if I haven’t, I mention it. Also if I haven’t done it, I will get to it eventually.
Other things to know about Burr Trail:
- I’ll say this again, but DON’T TAKE RVS AND TRAILERS ON HERE AND DON’T DRIVE THROUGH THE WASH IF IT’S FLOODED.
- Make sure to bring lots of water, just in case.
- Get gas before you drive it, also just in case. Just always get gas. You can get gas in Bullfrog, Ticaboo, and Boulder.
- Most of the road is paved (both ends are) but the middle section that does through Capitol Reef is dirt.
- There is no phone service on most of Burr Trail. There is some in Boulder and Bullfrog but not in the middle.
- If you’re not comfortable driving on dirt roads, stick to the main road and save the side roads for later.
- Don’t take the side dirt roads if you don’t have 4WD (4-wheel drive) and high-clearance.
- Any of the dirt roads (main or side) may be impassable during/after rain so proceed with caution.
Where is the Burr Trail road?
The Burr Trail is in southern Utah and connects Bullfrog Marina at the north end of Lake Powell to Boulder, Utah. The road is about 68 miles and passes through Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
It actually forks in Capitol Reef. From Bullfrog, if you go left at the fork you stay on Burr Trail and if you continue straight, it turns into Notom-Bullfrog Road and will take you up near the Fruita district of Capitol Reef.
That is also mostly dirt (some paved at the far end) but I won’t be going into that at all in this guide. Burr Trail is a million times better than Notom-Bullfrog though.
How long does it take to drive the Burr Trail?
If your just driving and not stopping at all I would say 2.5 to 3 hours. If you’re stopping just for pictures, I would say 3-4. If you’re hiking, too, then you could easily spend all day on here. We’ve made it in two hours, but that’s going over the speed limit a bit and no stops (because we’ve done it a million times and have become a bit jaded by the sights out here).
Can any car drive the Burr Trail road?
Yes! I took my Smart Car on it all the time. Motorcycles drive it all the time. You’ll be good. If you’re renting a car, just make sure you’re allowed to take it on dirt roads. Most of the road is paved (both ends are) but the middle section that does through Capitol Reef is dirt and can be very washboardy and rough, but still doable for almost all cars.
RVs and trailers are the only thing that cannot drive this because of the very steep switchbacks.
The only time I wouldn’t drive it is if it’s really rainy or has been recently. Certain parts can get really muddy, rutted, and impassable. I would be cautious in snow, too.
There is also a wash on the Bullfrog end that can (and does) flood. If this happens you either have to turn back to Bullfrog (if thats where you’re coming from), go alllll the way back to Boulder (there are some small washes that can flood in Capitol Reef), spend the night on the Burr Trail (camping or in your car), or just wait it out. DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH IT IF ITS FLOODED!
Hiking on the Burr Trail
While there aren’t tons of official hiking trails on the Burr Trail, there are a few that are pretty good. There is also ample opportunity to just off-trail hike. If you do this, watch out for cryptobiotic soil which is sort of like a brown crust on the sand.
It takes a very long time to grow back and can effect the surrounding plants. So don’t step on it. Try to stay on rock and in washes if you can.
This is a nice, easy hike on the Burr Trail. It follows a wash before opening up into a valley (I guess?) full of toadstools and rock formations similar to Goblin Valley, but with less of them. It’s about three miles round-trip, pretty much flat, and wide open, so there is almost no shade. If you want something easy, this is a good one close to Bullfrog.
This is a great hike if you want an overlook. You have a couple options for this. First, they’re is the official Halls Creek Overlook but you may (probably will) need a high-clearance vehicle for this one. It’s good, but I like the one in my post linked above a lot more.
It’s a relatively short hike, and pretty easy. It’s not totally flat but it’s not crazy either. It’s one of the best views of the Capitol Reef Water Pocket Fold and Halls Creek. I love this hike.
If you want a long hike on Burr Traill then this is for you. I guess it’s not that long, but it is 4.6 miles round-trip and strenuous. It starts at the Halls Creek Overlook (the official one) and drops over 800 feet into the canyon.
So if you do this, make sure you’re confident in your abilities to get back up and out. Brimhall Arch is the only one of these I haven’t done yet because 800 feet haha.
I much prefer Headquarters Canyon over Surprise, but both are great. This one is a little under three miles round-trip and has a pretty cool narrows section. Instead of the glowing sandstone, it’s a more dark rock and just looks really cool. This is one of my favorite hikes in the area. If you only do one of the Capitol Reef slot canyons, do this one.
Surprise Canyon will take you through southern part of Capitol Reef National Park and away from all the crowds of the main area of the park. It’s not the most magnificent slot canyon out there, by far, but it’s still a great short hike and is even better paired with the more impressive Headquarters Canyon just down the road.
This is primarily a backpacking trip, which I would love to do someday, but can also be done as a really long day hike. It’s somewhere between 15 and 17 miles round trip, but if you want to just do part, you can and it’s super cool! I’ve done part twice and started at the top of the Burr Trail switchbacks.
It’s mostly flat (at the top section) but is in deep sand. There is more elevation change if you do the whole thing. This is a great option for a partial hike on Burr Trail.
Upper Muley Twist
If you want to hike this, it’s a 10-14 mile strenuous hike. AllTrails says 10.3, NPS says 14.8. I would only do part of this if you’re just passing through, unless you’re camping in the area, but if you do the whole thing you’ll be able to see some arches and a wonderful view of the Waterpocket Fold.
I would personally skip this unless you’re experienced with hiking in the desert and getting over some desert obstacles.
This is a short slot canyon (very short) and not really a hike but more of a very short walk. It’s about 11 miles from Boulder and has an unmarked pull off on the left side of the road (from Boulder. The pull off is on the right from Bullfrog.) This is a 15ish minute stop and the coordinates for it are 37.864849, -111.30048.
Other things to do on the Burr Trail
There isn’t much as far as other activities go on the Burr Trail. It can be a pretty wild and remote place, so if you like that and want to get away from people, perfect!
Drive Wolverine Loop
This is an, I guess, scenic drive in the Circle Cliffs area of Burr Trail. We’ve done this twice and I think it’s just ok. There is the Wolverine Petrified Forest hike out here though, so if you have 4WD high-clearance and like petrified wood, this is a good option. The road is dirt and rocky and may be impassible during/after rain.
There are other roads branching off of this one, also dirt, and you can hike pretty much anywhere. If you find a wilderness study area though, don’t hike there. I’m not sure if these are in this area, but just to be safe.
Drive any of the dirt roads
There are about a million dirt roads in this area, you could stay busy for years. I really love the ones closer to Bullfrog, but haven’t spent really any time on the ones at the top of the switchbacks yet.
I would recommend high-clearance 4WD for almost all of these and if you don’t feel comfortable driving on them, don’t! There is most likely no phone service and a tow would be veeeeeery expensive.
I love Geocaching and there are actually a few on here! I think they’re on the Boulder end but they’re good short stops to stretch your legs and log another find.
So this isn’t technically on the Burr Trail, but it’s in Boulder and if you like archaeology and human history, this is a great stop. It has a museum to see tons of artifacts (not as many as Edge of the Cedars) and can even see ruins outside of it.
What to bring on the Burr Trail
If you’re just driving the Burr Trail and not hiking, you don’t need to bring much. Do make sure you have lots of water (like more than you think you need) and food of some sort, just in case. It’s a busy enough road that you probably wouldn’t have to wait for help too long in the summer if something happened.
For day hiking on the Burr Trail
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.
Light Jacket – Because you just never know. Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season. I usually use my rain jacket for this.
For Camping on the Burr Trail
Sleeping pad – Gotta make the tent comfy! The one I have isn’t available anymore but this one is similar. It’s self-inflating and just needs a little help filling all the way. Buy the sleeping pad here.
Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow. This is a good non-inflatible option. Here is a good inflatable option.
Lantern – I love having a lantern for in the tent at night, reading in the dark, or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The LuminAID is my favorite and you can charge your phone on it. Buy the LuminAID lantern here.
Camping on the Burr Trail road
There is one campground on the Burr Trail, the Deer Creek Campground. It’s just a few miles from Boulder. But don’t worry, you can camp almost anywhere on Burr Trail. There are tons of pullouts where you can set up shop or, if you have the proper vehicle, you can venture down one of the side roads a little bit or a lot.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you pack out whatever you pack in. Take your trash. You can find out more about campsites on Burr Trail here. And here is a guide to free camping in Utah that may also help.
Hotels on the Burr Trail
There aren’t any hotels on the Burr Trail itself, but there are at each end. You have two hotel options for staying in (or near) Bullfrog Marina. One in Bullfrog, one in Ticaboo, and the next closest is in Hanksville about an hour away.
If you’re staying at the other end, there are a few hotels in Boulder and some in Escalante and Torrey as well, which are both about 45 minutes from Boulder.
This is the lodge in Bullfrog with a wonderful view of the lake. It’s not the most budget friendly, but if you want to be close to the lake, this is the best (and only) option. It is not right by the lake shore because that changes due to water level all the time, but it’s not far from it either.
You can see the lake from the lodge. This is about seven miles from the start of Burr Trail and has food available in the summer. You can book it here.
Ticaboo is a little more budget friendly than the Defiance House, but it’s about a fifteen minute drive from the lake. You cannot see the lake from here. It’s probably just as far from the start of Burr Trail as the Defiance House Lodge. You can book it here.
If you want to stay somewhere cute and unique in Boulder, this is a great option! I haven’t stayed here yet, but I really want to. You can stay in little cabins, in the main lodge, or in glamping tents! It’s also a little out of town, not that its much of a town anyway, but still. You can book it here.
Where to eat on the Burr Trail
There is nowhere to eat on the Burr Trail itself so bring snacks for that if you’ll be on it for a while, but there are options in Bullfrog/Ticaboo and Boulder. I would personally hold out for Burr Trail Grill or Hells Backbone in Boulder because they’re SO GOOD.
This is the restaurant in Bullfrog Marina attached to the lodge. It’s not super fine dining, but it’s more fine than Offshore, if that makes sense. They are usually open for breakfast lunch, and dinner, but close for a few hours between lunch and dinner, so keep that in mind when you go. Prices are pretty average compared to chain sit-down restaurants. It’s the only option in Bullfrog.
This is about ten-fifteen minutes from Bullfrog. It’s in the Sinclair gas station in Ticaboo where all of the houseboats are parked. If you didn’t take the ferry over from Halls Crossing, you would have passed it on your way in. From Bullfrog it will be on the right when you’re going out. They have pizza, burgers, sandwiches, stuff like that. It’s a good option that’s usually pretty quick.
This is the best. Literally. We drive from Bullfrog to Boulder just to eat here at least twice a summer. Personal favorites: risotto cakes (SO GOOD), fried green tomatoes (THE BEST EVER), and the trout (I think it’s trout) with the rice and pepitas. *chefs kiss*.
The Red Rock Burger is also one of the best burgers ever. And it’s pretty much all local and they use local beef and lamb, too. Not super cheap, but more budget friendly than Hells Backbone Grill.
We’ve eaten here a couple of times and it’s also delicious, but pretty expensive. This is also super locally sourced and delicious though. If you go for lunch it will be cheaper than dinner. The BLT was delicious as were the duck meatballs. The atmosphere is also just really great here.
I haven’t eaten here yet, but everyone in Boulder always recommends it, so we’ll try it eventually. If you want delicious burritos and something a little less expensive than the other restaurants, this is the stop for you. It’s in the parking lot of the Anasazi Museum.