A short stroll from the parking area across Highway 89, the manmade Moki Cavern can be seen from the road. While I’m not usually one for manmade attractions, the Moqui Cavern has a certain appeal (cool views inside and out) with great photo-ops. Definitely worth a quick stop if you’re driving by. These sandstone caves date back to the ’70’s and are the result of sand mining for glass production. If you can look beyond the eyesore of all the recent graffiti, you may find yourself fascinated by the subtle colors and patterns in the sandstone and rewarded by the cave-framed vistas. Go early or late for a chance to have the experience to yourself.
Distance: .A Half Mile RT
Difficulty: Easy, but highly advisable to wear shoes with good traction for the short slip rock traverse where there’s some exposure.
Getting there: From Kanab, the caverns are located 5.7 miles north on Highway 89.
Too many wedding guests, but if you’re up for the scramble to the bride, you’ll lose the crowds.* Since this lovely 607-foot-tall, double cataract waterfall is just off US189 within close reach of a metropolis (SLC), it’s heavily trafficked (overrun). More of an attraction than an excursion, this 1.4 mile stroll is on a paved and dirt path. It is literally a walk in the park with the added scenic bonus of the Provo River running alongside the trail.
A small, relatively untraveled, roadside attraction, miniature Fantasy Canyon contains some of the most unusual geologic features in the world. Here, 3 types of rocks (mudstone, claystone, and sandstone) eroded at different paces, creating wild formations that rise from the barren badland topography like a sci-fi city.
A short 0.6-mile loop trail will transport you into a bizarre world. You’ll walk by dragons, intricate gates, and alcoves. It’s a stone Rorschach experience—a place to let your imagination run free.
Speaking of running free, if you’re lucky, you might see some of Utah’s wild horses and pronghorn frolicking around this remote area. It’s quite a treat!
(What’s not a treat, is seeing all the oil drilling on BLM land.)
Getting there: From Vernal take UT 45 for 25 miles southeast, then go south on the oil company service road. Follow the signs for Fantasy Canyon.
Distance: You choose: 1.7 to Buckskin Gulch, 6 miles to Buckskin Gulch Trailhead, 13 miles to Paria Canyon
At over 13 miles long, Buckskin Gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwestern United States. It’s speculated that it may be the longest slot canyon in the world.
The first section from the parking lot at Wire Pass is 1.7 miles through a sandy, exposed wash to entrance of Buckskin Gulch. Entering the Gulch is like entering a cathedral, you’ll be engulfed and awed by its massive scale. You may find yourself whispering in reverence as you would in a church or a library. Experiencing this amazing slot canyon in silent solitude is superb. (Unfortunately, only possible for the earliest of birds.) Petroglyph and hand print panels are a highlight as well.
I explored 5.5 miles out. You’ll lose the crowds a couple of miles in, but there’s no avoiding them on the way back.
Notes: Go early to avoid the crowds and the heat. Be weather aware- this is a flash flood area.Permit and $6 fee per adult required. Click here to obtain your required permit. Dogs are allowed, but not encouraged. There is a ladder inside the gulch that dogs must be carried up and down. Slot canyon passageways are narrow, close quarters—not the place for pets or people to relieve themselves or dogs to encounter each other. If you’re claustrophobic there are a couple spots that may trigger you.
Soapbox: So very disappointing to see petroglyph areas defaced and to see children in the act of it under the approving gaze of their parents. I reprimanded both sets of parents and children that I saw. I don’t understand it. Also, and always, disappointing, people not picking up after their pets. There should be fines for them as well. If fines were enforced, we could solve two problems–end the defacing (and the remains of defecating) and fund our park and wilderness areas. There need to be more signs up so that people can’t plead ignorance. Perhaps setting aside an “artificial” area for children to create their own petroglyphs would be an idea, but how likely is it that they will stay within those boundaries?
Getting there: Take UT-59S, AZ-389 E and US-89 S to House Rock Valley Road for 8.4 off road, rocky miles to the Wire Pass parking lot and trailhead
Getting there: I-15N from St. George, Exit 10 to Washington. Left onto Green Springs Drive, immediate right onto Buena Vista Blvd. Follow. In about 1 mile, turn left onto the dirt road immediately after the fire station. Follow it for about 1.2 miles to the intersection of another dirt road and turn left onto this dirt road. In about a half mile you’ll see the parking area, gate and trailhead. (Directions are a bit tricky & terrain is variable–high clearance / 4-wheel drive vehicle helpful.) Took me 3x until I finally found it.