Editor’s note: Trucks.com wanted to see how different vehicles fared on a typical winter sports vacation. At an altitude of 9,800 feet, Brian Head, Utah, was the ideal destination for vehicle testing on icy roads in subfreezing weather. Here’s a description of the route from Las Vegas. Find information about the vehicles tested and the full report here.
The drive from Las Vegas to Brian Head, Utah, stretches 215 miles primarily along Interstate 15. It also crosses three state lines and offers spectacular scenery. The route is a generous mix of highway and mountain driving.
It is the typical commute for travelers headed to the small mountain city, which is 9,800 feet above sea level. Most visitors to the Brian Head ski resort come from Southern California and Las Vegas.
North of the Las Vegas Strip, where Interstate 15 and U.S. 95 meet, there is a long-running highway improvement project and a heavily congested corridor. Traffic often is an issue.
Driving out of Las Vegas toward the northwest tip of Arizona, you find mostly straight roads and hills in the distance. Once through Mesquite, a Nevada town adjacent to the Arizona border, the road enters the narrow walls of the Virgin River Gorge. The gorge has reddish brown cliffs that jut straight out of the ground and showcase millions of years of erosion caused by the Virgin River.
This is one of the most expensive segments of the national highway system. Construction started in 1973 and included re-channeling the Virgin River 12 times. The river is 162 miles long and starts in the mountains of Zion National Park. It eventually dumps into the Overton Arm of Nevada's Lake Mead.
A high mountain valley sits at the exit of the gorge and gradually descends toward St. George, a Utah city near the Arizona border. St. George offers distinct landscape views such as the red hills that surround the city’s center. Soil and rock formations appear red in the southwestern part of the state because they contain iron oxide.
St. George also has one of Tesla’s 500 supercharger stations. This is a viable stopping point for those traveling in Tesla electric vehicles. Though the station is not directly off the interstate and required a bit of surface street driving, it’s conveniently location next to a Starbucks.
The drive from St. George to Brian Head is about 110 miles. Heading toward Cedar City, I-15 passes through a section known as the Black Ridge, where the eastern Great Basin, Colorado Plateau and Mojave Desert converge. Along this stretch is the most notable change in elevation and climate.
Travelers can get to Brian Head by connecting to Utah State Route 143 via Highway 14. This route offers more dramatic scenery but is closed in winter.
Interstate 15 also connects directly to SR-143 in Parowan. That stretch of highway— which provides access to Brian Head, Cedar Breaks Monuments and Panguitch Lake – is 51 miles long and is the second-highest paved road in the state at 10,626 feet.
Brian Head is about 15 miles along on SR-143. Parowan is a little over 6,000 feet in elevation, so the home stretch of the drive climbs about 3,800 feet. There also is a section of steep switchback before arriving in town.