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    Road trip on the UT-24 Scenic Byway: lunar landscapes from Torrey to Green River

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    Especially for those coming from Bryce Canyon and heading to the Moab, la area Scenic Byway UT-24 it is the natural continuation of the equally scenic and unmissable UT-12. The road is longer than the piece we are considering, but we are particularly interested in it the section that goes from Torrey towards the entrance to the I-70, which then will lead us to Green River and then the detour to Moab.


    • UT-24 Scenic Byway: length and travel times
    • The stages along the route
      • Capitol Reef
      • Dal Waterpocket Fold a Caineville
      • Factory Butte Recreational Area
      • Moonscape Overlook
      • The Mars Desert Research Station
      • Hanksville
      • Goblin Valley
    • Where to sleep?

    UT-24 Scenic Byway: length and travel times

    The panorama of Ut 24 after Capitol Reef

    The length of the illustrated path is 130 km to be covered in a minimum of 1.30 hours without stops. On the other hand, the western segment, which connects Torrey to Salina, is less traveled and you will hardly find yourself walking it, if not to reach a remote section of Capitol Reef (Cathedral Valley) or the Fish lake.

    The stages along the route

    Here is a map to guide you:

    So let's start with the first stage of our journey, which is also the most important: Capitol Reef, which is located right along the course of the UT-24 Scenic Byway. Then, to follow, all the stages.

    Capitol Reef

    Capitol Reef, one of the most underrated parks in the Utah Mighty Five, triumphantly inaugurates this first stretch of road. The most striking feature of this beautiful national park is the presence of Fruit, for an Mormon settlement with orchard in the typical setting of red rock canyons. There are numerous trails, off-roads and observation points that can be reached: some of these itineraries require a lot of time and considerable energy, so I suggest you read up a little with our in-depth article on how to visit Capitol Reef.

    Find accommodation on Capitol Reef

    Dal Waterpocket Fold a Caineville

    Leaving Fruita in a north-easterly direction, you will be amazed: you will literally pass in the middle of the vertiginous red wall of the Waterpocket Fold, which is the backbone of Capitol Reef, a good way to make an already impressive visit unforgettable.

    After a few km, especially at the height of Caineville and beyond, UT-24 changes its skin suddenly becoming an arid and inhospitable alien territory with the most disparate colors: gray, pale yellow, purplish and above all blue. Already at the height of Caineville, you will find yourself driving in an infinite panorama along a desert expanse of multicolored rock (slickrock): all around, rare mesas with bizarre shapes, called Upper Blue Hills and framed to the south by the Henry Mountains and the San Rafael Swell to the north.

    All accommodations available in Caineville

    Factory Butte Recreational Area

    Factory Butte it is perhaps the most representative "natural monument" of this portion of the road: you will see it from afar along the UT-24 and it will strike you for its grandeur and for the kaleidoscope of cold colors that innervate the top and the streaked gullies at its base.

    Recently, a recreation area called Factory Butte Special Recreation Management Area, mainly intended for off-road vehicles (4 × 4, dune buggy, dirt bike) but open to all vehicles. The easiest area to reach is called Swing Arm City and you will find it right along the UT-24, more precisely here, ten km from Caineville: you will notice on the left a sign with the name of the area written on it (Factory Butte SRMA), just turn and enter the dirt road.

    I absolutely recommend that you spend some of your time here, because you will have the opportunity to drive your car for a few hundred meters (at least as long as you feel like it, there is no marked road). absolutely surreal, almost lunar context, with Factory Butte and North Caineville Mesa looming on the horizon. If you don't have a 4 × 4 car, drive carefully and turn back as soon as you don't feel safe: if the ground is dry there shouldn't be any problems, but caution is never too much.

    If you want to get closer to Factory Butte instead, you'll have to get there somewhere else by turning left up Coal Mine road (click here to see the point on Google Maps), a road that can be traveled by any vehicle for the first 10-15 km. Coal Mine Road runs parallel to the east of Factory Butte and there are no secondary roads leading to it: unless you are an off road expert and have adequate means, I do not recommend leaving the main track.

    Moonscape Overlook

    There is another reason to take the Coal Mine road: the Moonscape Overlook. Here, if you want to see a vast and virtually unknown alien landscape, I recommend that you turn right after about 10 km (therefore leaving Factory Butte behind) at this point. Follow the road for 1.6 km to the ridge and enjoy the view (preferably in the late afternoon when the sun is behind).

    The Mars Desert Research Station

    You still won't understand how the landscape around you could have become so alien. And speaking of aliens, did you know that not far from UT-24 there is a branch of the planet Mars? Just 28 km from Caineville you can make another interesting detour to an absurd "space site": the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah it was built by the Mars Society in this particular desert scenario in order to simulate the possible habitability of the surface of Mars… well, we said it all! It takes about a quarter of an hour of dirt road to reach the research area, which includes an observatory, a greenhouse and other scientific equipment.


    After the Factory Butte area, you will find yourself at Hanksville, a town a little lost with a hippie soul that acts as an important crossroads: to the south, along the UT-95 S you go towards the northern section of Lake Powell (Bullfrog), to the north the UT-24 the journey continues towards Green River. When you are in Hanksville I recommend two pit stops:

    • Carl’s Critter Garden: at number 864 there is an exhibit of memorabilia, disused and unlikely vehicles metal sculptures in the open air, where a motel once stood. Stop by to take some pictures of these funny and slightly bizarre rusty creations in hippie sauce.
    • Hollow Mountain: at 40 N UT-95 in Hanksville, at a Sinclair gas station, you will find Hollow Mountain, nothing more than a souvenir and grocery shop carved into the rock. Given the proper proportions, it can recall Hole n 'the Rock in Moab, also for the presence of assorted oddities in a kitschy sauce, such as fake petroglyphs and vintage vehicles outside.

    Goblin Valley

    A few kilometers separate you from the last stage of our on the road on the UT-24 scenic byway: Goblin Valley! Along the way from Hanksville, in absolute nothingness, you will also see some impressive rock formations on the side of the road, which will force you to stop to take some photos: for example at this point.

    Goblin Valley is a stunning state park that is home to some of the strangest rock shapes in the area - you will be amazed at Molly's Castle, the Three Sisters and especially the army of rock goblins lined up in front of you in the Valley of the Goblins. We talked about this park in the article on what to see in Goblin Valley.

    Our on the road itinerary along the UT-24 ends with the intersection with I-70 W, a less charming road that will take you to Moab in about 1.40 hours (with a detour on US-191 N). If you are heading north (Salt Lake City), you will find after a few miles the detour to US-6 E.

    Where to sleep?

    Compared to UT-12, there are fewer towns along UT-24 in which to find accommodation. My advice is therefore to look for a hotel, depending on your itinerary, in torrey and Green River: the first is closer to Capitol Reef, while the second is more convenient for those who want to stay overnight not far from the Goblin Valley and Moab itself.

    • All accommodations available in Torrey
    • All accommodations available in Green River
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