Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Utah ~ 12 Hidden Gems to Explore

If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Off The Beaten Path series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, however, there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different. Our goals are to find the most unexplored places, and take those roads less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, so we’d love you to share your own off the beaten path stories with us. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking / free camping area, with GPS coordinates.


Utah is one of our top favorite states. There are so many amazing slot canyons, rivers, mountains, lakes and over-looks. I’ve saved this blog for a while. We’ve been to Utah a few times. Even with our kids when they were young. Last year we spent over a month in Utah, and we are here again as this is being released. We haven’t even scratched the surface, so there may end up being a “Utah 2.0” at some point. Aside from the 5 National Parks in Utah (which you all should absolutely visit every single one) there are just some unbelievable geological mysteries here. I think most are considered pretty popular, and we encourage all of you, go check them out.

Mirror Lake Scenic Byway

This is yet another one of those places we hadn’t even heard of until we were visiting a friend from the area who told us this drive was a must. Named for the iconic and large Mirror Lake, State Route 150 is one of the premiere destinations in Utah when the colors change for Fall. Some of its most scenic spots include the Provo River Falls, Christmas Meadows (see our boondocking location below for this area), Lofty Lake Loop Hike and Ruth Lake, just to name a few! Below is a short video which gives a little information and some epic scenery. There are endless opportunities for adventure along this road. Camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, waterfall chasing, moose spotting, rock climbing, mountaineering, birdwatching and backcountry skiing in the winter can all be accessed from this road. At Bald Mountain Pass, the road sets the record for highest paved road in Utah at 10,715 feet.

Moab

Oh Moab! We pretty much have a Moab love affair going on! Ha! The surrounding areas are some of the most amazing, fun and incredible places we’ve ever been. There are lots of off road riding, beautiful hiking areas, and even the actual town of Moab is fun, hip and you just HAVE to eat at the Quesadilla Mobilla truck. Best quesadillas EVER! They even have vegan and gluten free options. You won’t be sorry! It’s right across the street from the laundromat. Win-Win!

Hurrah Pass

You really need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to get here! But if you can get here, GET HERE! I mean just look at this view we experienced! Need I say more? Bring a lunch, and just enjoy.

Nancy Holt Sun Tunnels

If you’re willing to take a long road trip, you’ll be rewarded with the Nancy Holt Sun Tunnels. Four massive, concrete tunnels on the salt flats. The tunnels each have holes drilled in them and are lined up to interact in interesting ways with the rays of sun from above. Ideally, you’ll time your visit to coincide with the winter or summer solstice, when two of the tubes align perfectly with the rising and setting sun. They’re located 45 miles from Wendover. From I-80, take Exit 4 (Bonneville Speedway exit), then follow the TL Bar Ranch Road. Make sure you have a full tank of gas – this is remote.

Hell’s Backbone Road

This 32-mile long loop takes you from Escalante to Boulder and offers views of some of south-central Utah’s most stunning scenery. If you’re looking for an interesting scenic drive that takes you off the beaten path, Hell’s Backbone is perfect. If you’re taking Hell’s Backbone from Escalante to Boulder, make sure you stop at Hell’s Backbone Grill. You might not expect to find a restaurant of this caliber in such a remote spot, but the food is amazing!! The restaurant focuses on fresh, local ingredients.

Have you heard of Kanarraville Falls? It’s a slot canyon just outside of Zion. A very rewarding hike that takes you up a canyon just east of the town of Kanarraville, UT. This is a water hike and cannot be completed without getting wet. The trail crosses Kanarra Creek many times and eventually enters a slot canyon where you have no choice to to enter the 3-8 inches of water so you can see the falls. Not so great for small kids, unless you enjoy carrying them. 

Thistle Ghost Town

It doesn’t get any more old-west than this. A railroad company opened for business in the early 20th century, and a town was created. Families settle in, and tourists visit by rail. Unfortunately, disaster hit this little town in 1983 when mudslides came through after very heavy, continuous rains. The town never recovered. Homes were devastated, and you can still see one house submerged in a permanent mud pile. It’s always interesting to us to see parts of history, even if the end result is not the best outcome. 

Heber City

We loved Heber City! You can take a ride on the historic Heber Creeper and see some amazing sights!! We share some of those sights here in a video!

The Trembling Giant, or Pando, is an enormous grove of aspens that take the “forest as a single organism”. The grove really is a single organism. Each of the approximately 47,000 or so trees in the grove is genetically identical and all the trees share a single root system. How crazy is this? In the Fishlake National Forest a giant has lived quietly for the past 80,000 years. It’s just amazing to drive through in the Fall. But either way, get there! It’s a beautiful drive! Located one mile southwest of Fish Lake on SR-25. 

We have not been here, and it’s really remote! But if you’ve been to the Spiral Jetty in Rozel Point, let us know what you think. Worth a trip? It’s man made, so ??? We’re more into the things that aren’t, but we’d love to hear your thoughts. Should we go?

Devils slide

You may have passed this and not even known it. Devil’s Slide is located in Morgan County along Interstate 84 northwest of Henefer. It’s just a really strange geological formation. Stop if you remember to. 

Fantasy Canyon

Did you happen to see our blog about the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico? If not, check it out here! This Fantasy Canyon is just another one of those unexplained formations we love so much! But unlike Bisti Badlands, this is a quick and done place to see. Fantasy Canyon is a small roadside attraction of highly weathered rock formations in very strange shapes. Though not a destination, this makes a great, short, quick stop. Travel east out of Vernal to Naples. On the south end of Naples, take UT45 south for about 20 miles. You will cross the Green River en route. 20 miles from Naples, a gravel road comes in on the right. This is the Glen Bench Road. Follow it for 12.6 miles. Turn left here, and go an additional 4.4 miles to Fantasy Canyon. As of 2011, the junctions were well signed.

Boondocking:

If you want to boondock, you will not have a problem finding a place in Utah. We really enjoyed the vast boondocking available in Utah. I could probably list 100 places or more. Here are our favorites

Strawberry Reservoir Boondocking – Check out our video below

Christmas Meadows – GPS: 40.8742527, -110.8302598 If you’re traveling the Mirror Lake Highway, there are several places to stay. This was our favorite in the area. Verizon cell service was very minimal, probably not enough if you need it for work. ATT had no service when we were there. 

Willow Springs (just outside of Moab) GPS: 38.697360, -109.685253. Cell service can be spotty depending on carrier, and spot location. As I type this today my service with both ATT and Verizon is really good. 50 yards away sits some friends who are having a hard time connecting. Because of the dips and hills, if you need service for work, make sure you check your actual spot. 

We hope you enjoyed this list of places to see. As I’m finishing this up, I thought of a few more places, but if I keep going, this blog will never end. Enjoy Utah! There is so much to see and do!

What have you seen in Utah that is “off the beaten path” and unique? Let us know by posting a message below.

Live Simply ~ Give More ~ Expect Less

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