Utah's Hidden Gems Road Trip
I found some of these on different social media sites, and they inspired John and I to get out and find them. We were so worried that since we had found these cool spots, others would have too, especially since we chose to go out Memorial Day Weekend, one of the most popular travel weekends in The United States.
See more from our entire Utah Road Trip in my video below!
Our road trip didn’t quite go as planned partially because we found some off-our-radar places that were unbelievable to explore and also because of some things that caused us to cut it a day or two short. We still went to some remarkable places, saw some jaw-dropping things, flew our drone a whole bunch, and managed to get away from the masses on a popular weekend.
Here is how we did it:
First Stop: Hanksville, Utah
We drove the long, rocky road up through the strange, barren, desert landscape and arrived at our first spot. We saw another car, so we decided to keep driving. We did a lot of driving, then some more driving and searching, before eventually circling back and parking near the other car we’d seen earlier.
See my blog post “The Blue Bentonite Hills of Utah” to read the EXACT location we photographed and flew our drone.
We were lucky and arrived right before what photographers call “the blue hours”. The blue hours are the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset. During these times the blue and purple hues really pop on these stratified hills. We spent some time on the hills during both the sunset Thursday night and sunrise Friday morning.
See more from these unreal, rainbow hills in my YouTube Video below!
Second stop: Burpee Dinosaur Quarry
As I mentioned earlier, some stops we made were planned and we just stumbled upon others. The Burpee Dinosaur Quarry was one we found but had heard of through geology podcasts and YouTube videos.
This was at the end of the dirt road where we saw The Bentonite Hills. When we pulled up, we were greeted by a nice but slightly confused man. He explained that this is an active dinosaur excavation site and that he was waiting on the rest of his crew. He showed us a few things that they had recently dug up including a dinosaur joint and a petrified tree. Then, he let us know we were free to walk around, because this is all public lands.
With the very limited knowledge we had of digging dinosaur bones, we walked around this massive, dried up river for hours hoping to luckily find something. Sadly, we did not, but it was still really cool.
Third Stop: Factory Butte
Still near Hanksville, we drove over to another spot I had seen a lot on Instagram and have seen even more since we visited. Yet, there was pretty much no one here when we went exploring.
We drove as close as we could to Factory Butte and flew our drone where we couldn’t drive. This place featured a bizarre and barren pit at the foot of the Butte. It was actually a big motocross track! It was super cool.
We didn’t have a dirt bike with us to ride, but check out our drone footage from Factory Butte below!
Next Stop: The Wild Horse Area
Another place we found just by driving around was The Muddy Creek and Middle Wild Horse Wilderness Area. We continued driving past Factory Butte just staring at the white, pink, and red cliffs in front of us. We kept driving toward them and found a hidden gem.
We found even more rainbow colored cliffs, a nice beach area along a shallow creek, and trails upon trails heading into the canyons.
We were not prepared to spend days and days exploring here like some people who passed on dune buggies and ATVs were. Instead, we just flew our drone for a little bit and cooled off in the creek with our dog.
Stop Number Five: The Cosmic Ashtray
The Cosmic Ashtray was our next planned stop. This had been recommended to us by friends and again, I had seen it a bunch on social media. Yet, this was one of the most difficult places for us to find.
We tried our hardest to follow the All Trails app directions, but I put what I thought was the wrong trailhead in my GPS, and the trail itself was virtually non-existent. The “path” was pretty much walking along smooth, rolling rock hills leaving us to scramble along the hot and exposed rock for miles. Keeping an eye on the map, we eventually made it to the Cosmic Ashtray, and it was well worth it!
We were hoping to get to fly our drone at this scenic spot, but we were welcomed by a massive wind and sand storm upon arrival. We took turns going down into the sand pit and holding back our dog. Afterward, we scooted out as quickly as we could to get away from the pelting grains of sand.
What Would Be our Final Stop: Arizona
John and I left Utah and drove right to the border of Arizona. We had every intention to spend the last few days of our trip in The White Pocket / Vermillion Cliffs area. Unfortunately, our trip did not go as planned from here on out.
Getting to White Pocket required a long drive down a sandy and windy road. There were multiple signs warning about vehicles needing 4X4 and high-clearance. We thought my Jeep Cherokee was built for it, but the clearance just wasn’t enough.
Next Attempted Stop: The Wave
We didn’t really attempt The Wave, because the permit system seemed like a pain, but we were right nearby it. We actually drove right past the trailhead, so we definitely contemplated it.
Learn more about what is required to see The Wave on the recreation.gov website, here!
Next Failed Stop: White Ghost Hoodoo
After the White Pocket setback, I quickly looked for things to do in the area. Several things and places came up, and we wanted to go to The White Ghost / Wahweap Hoodoos outside of Paria.
This was another place whose Google Maps location in the GPS was different from the trailhead, and they were over an hour apart from one another.
Once we reached a dead end, we turned around and decided to end our trip.
We drove through the night back to Denver feeling slightly defeated about how the second half of our trip ended up, but looking back, we realized we had done and accomplished so much in such a short amount of time and neither of us could be too disappointed.
When we awoke the next morning back in the city, we both had the weird feeling in our stomachs that we were back in the “real world” and how special our time alone in the desert had been.
Hopefully, our next trip will be just as secluded and even more successful than this one.
Watch my entire vlog from our trip highlighting each spot, campsite, and our complications on our Memorial Day Weekend trip.
Read my other Utah road trip guides here:
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Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read.