What makes it distinctive is an emphasis on industry amid that beauty.
"The Energy Loop" is the nickname of the three-pronged byway, a moniker that reflects the pride felt by residents of the counties at the base of each prong - Emery, Carbon and Sanpete - for their contributions to keeping lights on in people's homes across the West.
"We're so proud of the energy produced along that byway, the gas that's extracted, the coal," said Kathy Hanna-Smith, Castle Country Travel Region executive director. "The road gives the visitor an idea of the energy industry and how important it is to our economy and our lifestyle. So much is produced in Carbon and Emery counties - and we like to tout it."
It shows through clearly on the 86 miles of byway.
A central stretch of the route runs side by side for two miles with a covered conveyor belt delivering coal cut in the Skyline mine - 2.4 million tons annually - to a massive loadout silo. The 15,000 tons of coal the silo can store produces enough energy to power 4,784 American homes for a year, said Kim Link, spokesman for the mine owner, Arch Coal Inc.
Near the mouth of Huntington Canyon is Rocky Mountain Power's coal-fired Huntington power plant, source of much of the Wasatch Front's electricity.
And on two ends of the byway there is testimony to the dangers of mining: a cemetery in Scofield, where more than half of the 200 victims of the 1900 Winter Quarters explosion are buried, and a new monument in Huntington, where the faces of nine miners killed last year in the Crandall Canyon mine are memorialized in bronze.
"We're the only byway like that in the country," said Mike McCandless, who doubles as Emery County's Travel Bureau chairman and its economic development director. "In my research, I've not found a byway so industry focused. Everything else is really cool roads or really pretty scenery, and we have both of those."
Not to mention recreation. Fishing in rippling Huntington Creek or in the calmer depths of Scofield Reservoir or - here comes that energy reference again - Electric Lake. Hunting in the high plateau's woods and gullies. Snowmobiling and snowkiting on wide-open meadows near the byway's plateau-top intersection with Skyline Drive.
The direct economic impact of a byway such as this is hard to quantify, said McCandless.
It's not as much as he would like, figuring most Wasatch Front visitors just take the loop between Colton and Fairview and skip the longer leg to Huntington. He would love to get more traffic down that canyon and, after a stop in town for supplies, to disperse the visitors into the San Rafael Desert.
Jim Levanger's experience is similar as owner of the Snack and Pack, a convenience store with gas pumps in Scofield. "I remember when they put the Scenic Byway in. But looking over the records through the years, I don't see a big bounce from it."
Still, he and McCandless praise the designation for the ancillary benefits it brings.
"Over the life of the project we've received huge benefits," said McCandÂless, citing grants obtained through the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Byways program that were paired with other funding to develop two parking lots on the plateau's summit. Many winter weekends, those lots will fill with snowmobilers and the people who fly behind them, lifted airborne by kites on their backs.
Before the lots, he said, "There would be a line of cars parked on the road two miles long. So it was a public safety issue. It was a tourism issue. It was a big deal partnering with Scenic Byways [and others] to put together two nice parking lots."
Byways grant money also helped build a visitor center where a 10,600-year-old mammoth skeleton, 95 percent intact, was unearthed in 1988 by a crew repairing an irrigation dam. In addition, free publicity on national and state Scenic Byways Web sites boosts local tourism efforts.
"It gives you more national exposure. There are people who just travel around and see byways," McCandless added.
Cemeteries, such as Scofield's, are a big attraction, too.
"I've had a lot of people looking specifically for the Winter Quarters disaster. I can't believe the impact that has had 108 years later," said Levanger. "They come from all over the world. A lot of Finnish people come in to see where their ancestors died, people of all nationalities, because it was such a melting pot up here."
Salt Lake resident Burke Priest is developing the 40-unit Scofield Shores condominiums overlooking the reservoir and also organizes a triathlon along the byway each July. He finds the national designation an asset in promoting real estate and recreation.
"It's definitely one of our claims to fame," Priest said. "We're the only triathlon on a National Scenic Byway, which is very attractive to athletes" because of the 3,000-foot gain in elevation with grades up to 9 percent.
This mixture of mammoths, miners and history buffs, snowkiters and triathletes - sharing the road with active coal miners and gas well drillers - is one of the beauties of the National Scenic Byways program, said Gael Duffy Hill, who coordinates the state's system through the Utah Office of Tourism. That system includes seven National Scenic Byways and 22 state byways, including the new Legacy Highway along the Great Salt Lake.
"The cool thing is that each community determines its own tourism strategy, what it wants to promote," she said. "The whole program is based on grass-roots efforts of communities to say what's special about their roads."
To secure a national designation is rigorous, Duffy Hill said, requiring advocates to develop a corridor-management plan to protect the "natural intrinsic quality" of the archaeological, historic, cultural, natural, scenic and recreational assets.
But once they succeed, she added, "it's a gold star, a blue ribbon. It's recognition that they're special."
* Scenic Byway 12, which circuitously links Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks, is an "All-American Road," the highest designation.
* Six other roads are national Scenic Byways: Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway; The Energy Loop: Huntington/Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway; Flaming Gorge-Uintas Scenic Byway; Logan Canyon Scenic Byway; Nebo Loop Scenic Byway; Trail of the Ancients.
* Utah has 22 State Scenic Byways
* Nationally, there are 27 All-American Roads and 98 national Scenic Byways in 44 states
Source: Utah Scenic Byways Program