Utah's Patchwork Parkway
A switchback along Utah's Patchwork Parkway between Parowan and Brian Head
Utah's Patchwork Parkway is a 51-mile route along U-143 across Dixie National Forest from Parowan to Panguitch. Parowan is along Interstate 15, Panguitch on US Highway 89. In between are some of the highest mountains in Utah and Brian Head Ski Resort.
The road's name came from an incident in the early days of Mormon settlement. During a particularly hard winter, a group of starving pioneers made their way across the mountains by laying quilts on top of the deep snow to help them cross to settlements in the valley to the west.
Most of the settlements along this route were founded in the 1850's by Mormon pioneers and the area is filled with historic sites and well-preserved examples of Victorian architecture. The entire historic area of Panguitch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Panguitch and Parowan were both founded on sites previously occupied by the prehistoric Fremont people. The areas around both towns show an abundance of petroglyphs and pictographs.
Utah's Patchwork Parkway is also a singular route in that it offers a 4,500' change in elevation and crosses six major life zones in its 51 miles. The rise from Parowan to Brian Head is fast, with several large switchbacks in the road. You'll rise from southwestern desert into sub-alpine forest. Then you pass by North View at Cedar Breaks National Monument and the intersection with the Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway. From there, the route runs along the side of Mammoth Creek into the mountains before skirting a recent lava flow to arrive at Panguitch Lake.
Panguitch Lake these days is a mecca for fishermen with its cold, blue, trout-filled waters. Then you're skirting the edge of more lava flows to Panguitch Creek where you'll slowly descend in the canyon for a few miles. When Panguitch Creek Canyon starts to narrow, the road strikes out east and heads down the hill to end in Panguitch.
There aren't many people in this countryside and there's no industry to speak of. When it gets dark at night, the stars come out. Stars like you've probably never seen. As nearly the entire scenic byway is in Dixie National Forest, there are plenty of trailheads and campgrounds along the way. Parts of the road are closed in winter. The northern end of the Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway is usually gated shut in the winter, but that's the time when you want to be hanging out at Brian Head Ski Resort anyway...
Utah's Patchwork Parkway used to be known as the Parowan/Brian Head to Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway.
Fields of purple penstemons line the road
Utah's Patchwork Parkway area map