The Nebo Loop is a stunning scenic drive between Payson and Nephi that features beautiful mountains, trees, and a few sections of red rock. This canyon is amazing in the summer or fall!
Watch for wildlife. We saw this deer on the side of the road around midday.
The Nebo Loop is 38 miles. Plan on about two hours to drive it with only viewpoint stops. Of course you could stay all day in such a beautiful area and with such great hikes!
I’m going to describe it starting on the Payson side. I had to keep pulling over to enjoy the beautiful views!
Payson Canyon Kuwanis Park
Right near the Payson entrance of the Nebo Loop is the Payson Canyon Kuwanis Park. It’s a nice place to have a picnic.
One of the most popular hikes along the Nebo Loop is Grotto Falls (0.6 easy miles). It is a great one for most since it’s easy with a big reward.
This is also an awesome winter hike. Because of the winter gate it’s 3.6 miles round trip.
In late August and early September 2018, the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek Wildfires were started by lightning. Together they burned over 120,000 acres. You can see some of the damage as you drive though the Nebo Loop.
Another popular stop along the Nebo Loop is Payson Lakes. There is a great campground and some beautiful reservoirs. The first entrance you come to has the smallest like, Lake McClellan right near the entrance.
Just beyond is Box Lake and the large group camping sites.
This is the north side of the lake you come to first.
Box Lake is really long and narrow, so this is the middle section and then the south end nearest to the group camping spots.
In the fall McClellan and Box Lakes are nearly drained. The aspens are gorgeous though!
You can then get to the north side of Big East Reservoir, which is the largest of the Payson Lakes. Here are some views from this end.
The Payson Lake Loop (1.0 easy miles) is a paved walking path that circumnavigates this lake, so you could take that to get to the other side.
To drive your car on the other side you have to backtrack a short distance back to the main road and go into the second Payson Lakes entrance. This is where the single and double campsites are and a bigger parking lot for day use of the lakes.
There is great fishing here in Payson Lakes. These photos were taken in September 2020 when the water was a bit murky.
Beaver Dam Overlook and nearby Nebo Loop
Returning to the Nebo Loop, I had to pull over again because I just couldn’t get over the beauty!
Utah Valley Overlook
If there weren’t lingering wildfire smoke from the California fires we’d have a better view of Utah Lake from this viewpoint. We watched turkey vultures swoop overhead and saw lots of choke cherries. Choke cherries aren’t poisonous like their name sounds. They make delicious jam, but they are an astringent, so they suck the moisture out of your mouth.
Monument Trailhead / Mount Nebo North Trailhead
This is the trailhead for hiking Mount Nebo, the highest peak in the Wasatch Mountains.
Mount Nebo Overlook
One of the most amazing viewpoints is this one of Mount Nebo. At 11,929 feet, Mount Nebo is the tallest peak in this range, 177 feet higher than Mount Timpanogos.
Cool red rock formations are common in Southern Utah, but rare in Northern Utah. One of the coolest in the north is Devil’s Kitchen (0.2 easy miles) in the Nebo Loop.
Devil’s Kitchen Viewpoint is a very short, paved trail to this stunning view. You also see this amazing mountain and tree view on the Devil’s Kitchen trail.
Keep your eyes open for lizards and other small animals and insects. We’ve found a few right next to the paved path.
Shortly after, you can look over and see Devil’s Kitchen from the other side.
FR 48 to Salt Creek Trailhead
Take the FR 48 side road even just to see the stunning beauty! It is a little offshoot from the main loop to head to some camping spots and hikes.
This road goes to the Ponderosa, Cottonwood or Bear Canyon Campgrounds. It’s also the way to the Salt Creek trailhead.
The Salt Creek Waterfall (2.6 easy miles) is hike through a beautiful forest to a nice waterfall.
If you go in the summer, you will probably see hundreds of butterflies!
Follow the Nebo Loop Byway the short few minutes to come out the canyon near Nephi, Utah. You can either turn around and enjoy it all in reverse, or take the faster way back along I-15. It’s a two lane highway throughout, so you can actually turn around anywhere.
Stats: Distance – 38 mile loop
Approximate driving time – 1.5-3 hours (longer if including hikes)
Permits needed – None (except campgrounds)
Pets allowed – Yes
Other scenic drives are the Alpine Loop, Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Mirror Lake Scenic Byway.