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Family vacations: Highway 89 versus 89A near Arizona-Utah border

The wide open road of 89A
The wide open road of 89A
Angele Sionna

When planning out your family vacation this summer, you need to know the best route. But sometimes you question which is best when the map app says two different routes are about the same distance and time. That is the case with Highway 89 and 89A in northern Arizona near the Utah border.

This is a well traveled route for all the travelers trying to get to the Grand Canyon from the north and for folks in Arizona to get up north to Zion and Bryce and other natural wonders in Utah. My family just traveled both routes on our way from Flagstaff, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah (July 2014). (We stopped at lots of great places on the way. Stay tuned for those stories too!) We've gone both the routes many times before, but this was the first where we used 89T.

Highway 89 is currently replaced by 89T in part. 89 proper is closed because of a giant sink hole in the road near Page. 89T still gets you up to Page and Lake Powell but most of the route is 55mph. You turn on to 89T near The Gap if you're going north bound. If you're not looking carefully it is easy to miss. It's not a bad road but there is absolutely no rest stops or services once you turn on to 89T until you get to Page, where you get back on the normal 89 route passed Lake Powell and it is easy going to Kanab, Utah at 65mph. There are very limited places to stop on that part of the route so I'd take a bathroom break and get gas in Page if you're in need.

Highway 89A takes you from the still open and in fine shape part of 89 and rejoins 89 in Kanab. This route takes you passed the Vermillion Cliffs and through a winding road from a flat mesa up to tall pines near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (you can get to the North Rim by getting off 89A in Jacob's Lake and taking 67). The views are spectacular and there are some services, though limited. Through the windy parts, the speed reduces down to 45mph and 55mph for a few miles. Otherwise it is 65mph. This is the route I prefer.

If you don't like switchbacks or are driving an RV or other vehicle with problems getting up steep inclines, you'll want to take 89 with the 89T detour to Page. Both routes have limited services so if you're looking for bathroom breaks and gas the choices I'd opt for are Flagstaff, Cameron, Page, Jacob's Lake in Arizona or Kanab, Utah.