Help me be a busy bee in the Beehive State
February 4, 2013 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Looking for fun places to go on and off the beaten path in Utah and the Arizona Strip.

I crowdsourced my last big road trip (link) and was thrilled with the results. So I turn to you again, o wise hivemind, to help me plan a drive through Utah and the strip of Arizona north of the Colorado. I'll be driving from greater L.A. as far as Salt Lake City, but I want to take my time and explore the area. Monument Valley is the only thing that's a non-negotiable stop on the way (but I am eager to hear opinions on the best way to experience it). Basically, I want to conform my route to what's amazing and unique, rather than limit what I see because it's not "on the way."

I know about the many amazing national parks, but if you have an insider tip for me on a unique way of experiencing one of them, I'd love to hear it. I realize some suggestions could be affected by when I go, but I haven't figured that part out yet. It won't be for a few months, so probably summer or early fall.

I'd like to hear about great restaurants, museums, art, natural beauty, history and anything that I wouldn't be able to experience elsewhere. Bonus points for stuff involving John Wesley Powell, Western films (especially John Ford) or interesting Mormon history. Thanks!
posted by dunadan17 to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Dinosaur Museum, Price UT
Monument Valley -- you want western film? Some films covered two weeks of 'travel' with nothing but shots of MV, from diff angles
The Spiral Jetty, SLC ... art in the lake
Can't recall the name, but I think it's a state park not far from Price, where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hid out after robbing the payroll from Castle Gate mine. They were not the popular heroes later portrayed, esp among the miners.
posted by LonnieK at 2:02 PM on February 4, 2013

The slot canyons (and other hiking) in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are miles and miles from anywhere but ridiculously cool. The middle of the summer is very hot, but manageable if you are an experienced hiker with lots of water and you are at the trailhead at sunrise. You'll probably want a 4WD vehicle, though.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:26 PM on February 4, 2013

If you end up in SLC you have to go to Gilgal Gardens. It's downtown, won't take long to visit and definitely qualifies as weird/interesting Mormon history.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:29 PM on February 4, 2013

We were in Monument Valley this last fall, for certain values of "in".... because we did a small plane tour out of Moab and saw it (and everything between Moab and Monument Valley) from the air, except for the brief pit stop in MV before heading back to Moab. I don't have all my pictures sorted yet but here are a few from the flight: 1, 2, 3. It was not cheap, and it was worth every penny.

Kodachrome Basin State Park
is a little off the beaten path, but it packs a ton of gorgeousness into itself.

I'll probably be back as I think of more.
posted by rtha at 2:30 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Other totally unappreciated natural Utah landmarks: Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument (like a mini-Bryce), Kodachrome State Park, and the totally striking Red Canyon (in the Dixie National Forest).

On non-preview: jinx, rtha!
posted by charmedimsure at 2:30 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oscar's Cafe, Springdale Utah (right outside Zion NP.
posted by Xurando at 2:57 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Grand Staircase is incredible, and we only saw a tiny portion of it. We drove the 49 mile Cottonwood Canyon Road South to North (ends at Kodachrome Basin SP), hiking the Cottonwood Narrows along the way. We took a side trip to Devil's Garden as well (be sure to google for pictures). Our intention was to also hike some slot canyons on that list, but there were storms in the area, so we skipped this activity.

A must try is a hike at The Wave. There is a lottery for 20 permits per day, so it's not guaranteed, but you get four entries per person and we managed to get a spot. You have to at least try, it's an amazing hike.

The route we took was Zion from Vegas, then we stayed in Kanab for two nights after visiting Zion. We did the Wave after the first night, and then headed up the Cottonwood Canyon Road the next day, ending up staying outside of Bryce Canyon.

We also took a quick drive through Colorado City onthe way to Kanab. This is the former home of Warren Jeffs. It's still an active FLDS polygamous community. There is a restaurant in the town, but we did not stop in.
posted by smalls at 3:21 PM on February 4, 2013

Sorry, I got a little confused above. Devil's Garden was done by driving the hole in the rock road outside of Escalante, UT. We also drove the Hells Backbone Road that day... Incredible views, really the most scenic road I've ever been on, and I am a huge road-tripper type.
posted by smalls at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2013

Here is a fantastic place to stay in Moab, UT. My friends are the owners of that particular Airbnb rental, and I stayed there the week of New Year's and helped them break it in; it is about 5 minutes' drive to Arches park, 20 minutes' drive to the visitors center in Canyonlands, and about 10 minutes' drive north of Hole ''N The Rock.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:47 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

(Also, the hot tub is hella awesome even when it's only ten degrees out)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:38 AM on February 5, 2013

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