A state in the western region of United States of America, Utah derives its name from the Ute tribe, who were the earliest settlers in the region, long before Europeans and Mormons claimed their ownership. The state is known to be the only one of its kind to have a majority of its residents belonging to a single church – approximately 62% of the total population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
Neighbored by Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada, Utah is the 13th largest state by area in the nation and has the least income inequality.
Did you know that Utah has 29 counties and that every county in the state contains some part of a national forest? Did you also know that Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken didn’t open his first shop in Kentucky but in Salt Lake City, Utah?
A true western haven, Utah is home to many geological diversities as well as a great range of tourist activities such as snowboarding, hiking, skiing, and rock climbing. Additionally, the state also holds a lot of many secret spots that are yet to be discovered. Let us explore some of the hidden gems in Utah and find out what else the state has in store.
1. Pando the Trembling Giant, Richfield
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Next up in my #toutyourturf series is Pando, the Trembling Giant, located in the Fishlake National Forest in Richfield, Utah. "The Trembling Giant, or Pando, is an enormous grove of quaking aspens that take the 'forest as a single organism' metaphor and literalizes it: 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. While many trees spread through flowering and sexual reproduction, quaking aspens usually reproduce asexually, by sprouting new trees from the expansive lateral root of the parent. The individual trees aren’t individuals, but stems of a massive single clone, and this clone is truly massive. Spanning 107 acres and weighing 6,615 tons, Pando was once thought to be the world’s largest organism (now usurped by thousand-acre fungal mats in Oregon), and is almost certainly the most massive. In terms of other superlatives, the more optimistic estimates of Pando’s age have it as over one million years old, which would easily make it one of the world’s oldest living organisms." This was suggested by @ecowdell, and I'm glad she thought of it, because I'd forgotten about it. Guess I'll have to check it out next time we head to Richfield.
Second only to the giant mushrooms of Oregon, Pando the Trembling Giant in Richfield, Utah is a group of 47,000 quaking aspens which share a single root system and has spread over 107 acres of land. Reportedly, they are over a million years old, hence, Pando is not only one of the largest organisms in the world but is also among the oldest.
Located within the grounds of Fishlake National Forest, the Trembling Giant was first discovered in the 1960s by botanist Burton Barnes. Pando, Latin for “I Spread,” is a forest in itself and is considered among the most picturesque group of trees found anywhere on earth.
Weighing roughly around 6,500 tons, Pando, like other trees of “his” (according to ecologist Paul Rogers) kind, reproduces asexually, thus, making all the other trees stem out of a large clone.
2. Nellie Pucell Unthank Memorial, Cedar City
Nellie (née Ellie) Pucell Unthank was born in England in 1846. At the age of 9, Nellie, along with her entire family, joined the LDS Church and moved to the Salt Lake Valley, the United States to live close to the community they belonged to.
During their journey from England to Utah, they were hit by an untimed snowstorm. The catastrophe claimed her father’s life and five days later, Nellie and her elder sister lost their mother as well. Nellie walked across the snow barefoot and would have eventually died if Brigham Young didn’t send out for her and her sister. By the time the girls reached Utah, Nellie’s legs suffered majorly due to frostbite.
To save her from further ailments, her legs were amputated with a saw and a butcher knife while she lay conscious without anesthesia. Because of the unprofessional standards of surgery, her stumps never healed.
At 24, Nellie married William Unthank and moved to Cedar City to start her new life. Her injury didn’t stop her from being a hardworking and caring mother. Nellie and her children even took the initiative of cleaning the entire LDS meetinghouse once a year.
She died at the age of 69 and a statue of a smiling, brave Nellie with her legs attached was erected at the site of her former family home (present day Southern Utah University campus).
3. Trilobite Quarry, Delta
Going to a museum and appreciating a million-year-old fossil in a glass showcase is one thing, but the feeling of getting your hands dirty and digging for your own fossil is not just fun but extremely rewarding.
Blessed with one of the richest deposits of trilobites on earth, the U-DIG fossil site offers 500 million-year-old trilobite fossils. And, not only can you dig for your own fossils here, you can also keep the rewards of your own excavation adventure.
Spread over forty acres of land one mile off of the main highway, Trilobite Quarry preserves the fossils in a near-perfect condition which makes digging for fossils extremely easy.
Carry your own tools or rent some at the quarry and go trilobite hunting with the whole family – about ten to twenty fossils can be unearthed in a few hours.
4. The “Up” House, Herriman
Remember that amazing scene from Up (2009 movie) when Carl, tired of all the goons trying to throw him out of his house, tied a bunch of helium balloons and transformed his home into a makeshift airship, and flew away on an adventure? Well, there is good news and bad news – the “Up” house exists in reality, but, it isn’t flying away anywhere (at least not anytime soon).
With permission from Walt Disney Pictures, Bangerter Homes, a custom construction company, created the near-perfect replica of the wonderful house of Carl and Ellie in 2011.
Owned by Clinton and Lynette Hamblin, self-proclaimed die-hard Disney fans and real-life Carl and Ellie, the Disney dream house has been built to resemble the bright home as is shown in the movie.
A white picket fence, a weathervane, and a mailbox on the outside and the living room, nursery, and of course, the armchairs have been added to make the house look as similar to the “Up” house from the movie.
The Hamblins offer photo shoots (for a fee) inside and outside the house and you can bring in your photographer and props.
5. The Spiral Jetty, Corinne
A part of the 1960s sculptural movement known as “Land Art,” the Spiral Jetty was created by Robert Smithson in April 1970, however, it stayed hidden submerged underwater for over 30 years until it resurfaced in 2004.
Constructed during a drought, the Spiral Jetty is made of mud, basalt rocks, and salt crystals and it spreads 1,500-foot in length in an anti-clockwise coil from the shore till far out in the Great Salt Lake.
Donated to Dia Art Foundation in 1999, the Spiral Jetty’s fate depends majorly on the surrounding level of water. Reportedly, the jetty is in the danger of sinking underwater again if the water level surpasses 4,197 feet.
The pink-hued water and the spiral-like dock makes even the most usual sunsets look surreal.
6. The Wahweap Hoodoos, Kanab
A couple of hours north from Grand Canyon’s southern end, the Wahweap Hoodoos, also known as the “white ghosts,” is unlike any other creek formation that you may have seen in your life. They are massive, they are white, and they are definitely worth the five-hour-long, 9.2-mile out-and-back hike.
Considered as one of the most peculiar geological formations on the continent, the Hoodoos hike takes you through the Coyote Creek followed by the Wahweap Creek and the strangely-dubbed Nipple Creek. At the 0.5-mile mark, the ramshackle “Hanging Garden” welcomes you and by the 3.6th mile, you enter the first Wahweap Hoodoo.
A hoodoo, as explained by geologists, is formed when a thin layer of hard rock covers a hard level of soft rock. Sometimes, a crack in the hard layer allows for the soft rock to erode. But, a small, resistant cap of hard rock protects the inner deposit of soft rock and gradually transforms into a vertical pinnacle.
Research shows that the Hoodoos have been in existence since T-Rex roamed the wild valleys of Utah.
7. Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial, Enterprise
After the death of their founder, Joseph Smith in 1844, the Mormons began fearing for their survival in the hostile environment of Missouri, and hence, the entire community, under the guidance of Brigham Young, Smith’s successor, began traveling west to Utah sometime in 1846-47.
The settlement was just adapting to their new living conditions and surviving the loss of their leader when the Baker-Fancher group of migrants, on their way to California from Arkansas, arrived in Salt Lake City to rest and refill their depleting stocks. However, due to their misplaced fear and irrational xenophobia, the Mormon government acted with despise towards the migrants, who quietly left the area.
Gradually, the emigrant group reached Mountain Meadows, but little did they know of the fate that awaited them. With the help of a few local Paiutes, the militia led an attack on the Baker-Fancher group and after a long struggle, every human being in the group of migrants who were elder than seven years of age was killed.
Though the militia tried to blame it on Paiutes, the truth came out sooner than later and the militia leader was sentenced to death.
Today, the Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial, established by the Mormons in 1999, stands as a symbol of a giant black patch of shame and disgust in the history of Americans, Westerns, and Mormons.
8. Mystic Hot Springs, Monroe
Mike Ginsburg, a self-proclaimed artist, director and producer, was on his way to Denver in 1995 when he accidentally came across what is now known as Mystic Hot springs.
Though the actual water source that caters to Mystic Hot Springs have been in existence for over a few million years, the modern resort and bathtubs were added around 1996.
Formerly known as the Monroe Hot Springs, the banks of the hot springs were used by the Native American tribes of Ute, Piute, and Shoshone for camping. Mike began with one cabin and soon realized that he needed much more. So, he went on to add more cabins, create designated soaking areas, set up workshops and concerts, and restore many of the pioneer cabins.
The best part – Mystic and its owner allow you to bring your furry friends along, provided they are well-behaved, kept away from the hot tubs, and that you can clean up after them. Also, they are always welcoming new volunteers to help out with restoring and working around the hot springs in exchange for room and board, so go ahead plan your gap year, if you haven’t already!
9. Homestead Caldera, Midway
Homestead Caldera, also known as “The Crater,” is a natural hot spring estimated to be around 10,000 years old. Open year-round, the hot springs are frequently visited by swimmers, divers, and bathers.
The giant hot tub is found nestled within the Homestead Resort, who have taken the initiative of blasting a horizontal tunnel through the area to provide easy access (for a nominal fee, of course).
The 55-feet-high cathedral-like dome that covers the Crater’s brilliantly soothing waters (between 90 to 96-degree Fahrenheit) have been formed naturally over time due to sediment deposit. At 65-feet deep and 400-feet-wide, the Crater is considered the largest mineral dome in the area.
A wooden deck and two designated soaking areas are available for tourists.
10. Museum of Ancient Life, Lehi
Established in 2000, the Museum of Ancient Life is known to house one of the largest collections of mounted dinosaurs in the world, including a 120-foot long Supersaurus specimen – the largest of its kind on earth.
The museum houses approximately sixty complete dinosaur skeletons and more than fifty hands-on exhibitions. A haven for your little scientists, the museum lets your kids dig for their own fossils and serve as a Junior Paleontologist. Alternatively, they can observe the Senior Paleontologists recover a 150-million-year old Barosaurus.
Designed by Cliff Miles, the expert paleontologist and the man behind naming Minotausaurus and Hesperosauras, the Museum of Ancient Life also houses an IMAX 3D movie theatre, correctly known as the Mammoth Screen Theatre, which runs several daily shows educating visitors about various geological and biological spectacles.
11. Victim of the Beast Gravestone, Salt Lake City
Amidst the many graves of Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Utah lies a gravesite with an unusual tombstone that reads: Lilly E. Gray, Victim of the Beast 666. While a solid theory behind the strange inscription and the cause of Lilly’s death remain unsolved, several speculations have been made over the period of time.
Lilly died on November 14th, 1958 at the age of 77. Her obituary stated that she died of natural causes, but the theory seems far from the truth, at least as per the records of her husband, Elmer Gray’s journal. According to Elmer, he was kidnapped by Democrat officials and was held in Utah State Prison and his wife, Lilly, was murdered by the kidnappers.
Another, more viable story comes from Mike Ellerbeck of Salt Lake Monument, a company that has been making headstones for over a century. Ellerbeck recalled that Lilly’s family despised Elmer and wanted both to keep away from each other. The couple had met at a later stage in life and had an unusual chemistry. He further recounts that Elmer was the one to order the tombstone for Lilly and the “beast” he referred to was the Government.
Yet again, these are all speculations, and nothing has been known for sure, but that hasn’t stopped curious souls to pay a visit to this one-of-a-kind grave.
12. Mars Desert Research Station, Hanksville
For as long as we have known, scientists and researchers from all around the world have claimed the possibility of the existence of human life beyond earth. But, how do you know if you could survive and adjust living on a different planet, for instance, Mars?
Located somewhere in the middle of the desert lands of southern Utah is the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), one of four projects planned by Mars Analogues Research Station (MARS) as a simulation of life on the mentioned planet. Funded by NASA, the idea behind the project is to study the planet as best as possible and look for designs, technologies and knowledge that would help us humans survive in mars if the day ever came.
A crew of six scientists (most of the times) live around the simulation where they perform the required tests. Visitors, such as you, can observe the Mars simulation via one of the many live webcams set up within what they refer to as the “Hab.”
13. Gilgal Sculpture Garden, Salt Lake City
Located in Salt Lake City, Utah Gilgal Sculpture Garden is a small but interesting public park filled with intriguing figurines and engravings representing Mormonism and its influence on this part of the nation.
Established in the mid-twentieth century by Thomas Battersby Child, Jr., the garden comprises 12 original sculptures and over 70 rock formations engraved with scriptures, poems, and texts honoring the Mormons. The only entitled “visionary art environment” in Utah, the Gilgal Sculpture Garden belonged to Child from 1947 until his death 1963.
Among the many statues such as disembodied heads, grasshoppers, and a sacrificial altar, what stands out the most is a sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism.
There is a life-like statue of Child within the park which is now managed by a group of citizens who call themselves “The Friends of Gilgal Gardens.”
14. Hell’s Backbone Scenic Road, Escalante
Known by its creators as The Poison Road on a craggy terrain called the desert slick rock surrounded by the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness area around the town of Salt Gulch lies Hell’s Backbone Scenic Road!
The towns of Boulder and Escalante are joined by two separate routes – a nice, paved scenic route over Scenic Byway 12 and another, a gravel road which was built before the paved route and is still gravel today. But, the views around the gravel pathway that take you through a winding road that is 9,000 feet above the ground is unsurpassable.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC) in 1933, Hell’s Backbone may not be the last road on earth, but it is definitely one whose construction is extremely hard to imagine.
Equally beautiful in terms of scenery and landscape, the two roads make for a great drive, but only of the two offers a heart-thumping view of how life looks thousands of feet below.
15. Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Spanish Fork
The religious side of Utah is not unknown to the world, after all, it has the largest (62% of the total state population) community of believers belonging to a single church (LDS). However, the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple believers are slightly different than the usual 62%.
Established in 1998, the Temple was built by a group of Hindu devotees who belong to the special religious group known as the Hare Krishnas, worshippers of Hindu Gods, Radha and Krishna. The architecture, unlike the gothic and utilitarian styles of Mormon churches, includes a domed hilltop temple and a large amphitheater where hundreds of worshippers can gather and pray at the same time.
Take a walk among llamas and cows at the natural park, enjoy the Sunday Love Feast, admire the architectural beauty, or simply get involved in the festival of colors aka Holi, one of the largest festivals in the world.
16. Burr Trail Switchbacks, Garfield County
If you think you are a professional hiker and can drive around through the toughest trails in the world, think again! The Burr Trail Switchbacks, since it was first established by John Atlantic Burr in 1876, have challenged the most adventurous travelers from around the world.
John Atlantic Burr was born aboard the SS Brooklyn in 1846, His family lived in Salt Lake City and later established the town of Burrville. Burr established the trail as a cattle trail through the valleys of Waterpocket Fold, Burr Canyon, and lower and upper Muley Twist Canyon trail. The same challenging yet picturesque pathway came to be known as the Burr Trail.
The trail passes through the striking landscapes of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Check the weather conditions before you make your way there since the roads are known to get tougher even for 4WDs during winters.
17. Parowan Gap Petroglyphs, Parowan
Located near the Little Salt Lake in the small town of Parowan is a natural gap in the mountains that hides in its belly hundreds of ancient petroglyphs and pictographs.
Assumed to be over a few thousand years old, the Petroglyphs, formally known as the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs, have been interpreted in a lot of different ways. While some researchers argue that the engravings depict a complex calendar system, Hopi and Paiute people state that the inscriptions display different animals and geographic shapes.
Most of the petroglyphs are intact and have been preserved well, but some have been vandalized since the arrival of Anglos. Among the conserved are a few footprints that resemble that of dinosaurs.
A small cave that is believed to be occupied by shamans and used for ritualistic practices hides inside and a well-paved trail takes you along the natural gap.
18. Tintic Standard Reduction Mill, Genola
An ore refinery which once served the nearby gold, silver, lead and copper recovered from Eureka, Tintic Standard Reduction Mill in Genola, Utah is one of the shortest-lived reduction mills in the history of United States.
Surprisingly, the construction of the mill began in 1921 and even though the building was completed and opened for operation, it closed for business by 1925. At the time of its operation, the mill used the “Augustine Process,” an acid-based procedure of ore refinement. However, the technology was deemed inefficient and so, the mill was shut down.
Today, the strong construction still remains where it stood almost a century ago and is now a graffiti-covered hillside fortress. Listed as a National Historic Site, the Tintic Standard Reduction Mill still emits a glow of ruinous beauty.
19. 17 Room Ruin, Bluff
Located right outside the city of Bluff, Utah is a gigantic 100-foot-deep hollow that overlooks the San Juan River. Within the natural alcove lays the 17 Room Ruin, an alleged settlement that was created sometime in the 1200s, and has since remained preserved by the hollow.
The Ruin is known to have between 14 to 18 rooms, though most researchers claim there are 17 and that these single-filed spaces were inhabited by a few Ute families. Access is through a narrow rooftop passageway which connects to one another via a number of internal passages.
Graffiti art covers the back wall of the ruins while handprints of several original residents of the settlement surround the vicinity. Also known as the 16 Room Ruins at times, the site is as great for hiking as it is for catching an insight into the lives of Southwestern Native Americans.
20. Grafton Ghost Town, Rockville
Settled by Mormons under the guidance and supervision of Brigham Young, the town of Grafton was established with an intention to serve as a base for cotton plantation. Located a few miles from the Zion National Park, the town was formed in 1859 by five Mormon families who soon realized it was better to grow food crops here than cotton. Unfortunately, in 1862, the surrounding Virgin River flooded and washed away the entire town.
In 1866, local conflicts led to the abandonment of Grafton (resettled a mile from the original site) but farmers still kept coming back to take care of their crops. A couple of years later, a bunch of settlers returned to the town and established a schoolhouse, which stands to date.
By the 20th century, the town was left abandoned again and today, it stands as a ghost town with a history of on and off settlements.
An annual reunion of the town’s descendants is organized to honor the spirit of the village which has featured in popular movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and In Old Arizona.
21. 109-Year-Old Fruitcake and 70-Year-Old Bacon, Hurricane
In Hurricane, Utah is a small museum known by the name of Pioneer Heritage Museum which has some of the most unique (and old) collection one can ever find, for instance, the remaining slices of a 109-year-old fruitcake and a 70-year-old slab of bacon.
In 1907, Emily Wood and Joe Scow got married, and Mrs. Ballard presented them with a Grafton-baked fruit cake covered in pink flower with dew drops on them. At the time, there was a trend of preserving such cakes as a keepsake and so their family held onto some. While most of the frosting and the dewy pink flowers were consumed over time by the family of the newlyweds, some of the fruitcake was kept on the original mantle for the next 83 years. The mantle, along with the remains of the cake, was donated in 1990 to the museum by the couple’s granddaughter.
The bacon slab, however, belongs to Grace Wright Jepson, a different, unrelated pioneer of the Hurricane Valley, who was known for her a great many talents. She served as a nurse, a midwife, and a cured meat magician. A mother of seven, Grace put away a slab of bacon wrapped in a sackcloth in the family shed sometime in 1945. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1958 and everybody forgot about the bacon lady’s master craft that still remained in the shed. In 1996, Woodrow, one of Grace’s son, rediscovered the slab and donated it to the museum.
The bacon slab still looks really well-preserved, though it most likely isn’t healthy to try anymore.
22. The Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City
Between 1846 and 1868, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) traveled across 1,300 miles of land from Illinois to Utah, covering the states of Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming on their way.
The Mormons who participated in the trail carried with them all sorts of daily survival necessities – clothes, bedrolls, quilts, tools, and guns, etc. The Pioneer Memorial Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah is the final resting place of most of those objects that were carried by Mormons during their grand hike through America.
Maintained by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, the display claims that it has the largest collection dedicated to a specific subject in the world. True or not, the exhibition at the museum definitely throws a bright light into the domestic living habits of Mormon migrants.
Though most of the compilations are quite intriguing, some of the more bizarre-natured objects on display are a petrified potato, an alleged magic-cured bloodstone, and a collection of rattles from the rattlesnakes killed by a woman named “Hilda.”
23. Sun Tunnels, Wendover
Completed in 1976, the Sun Tunnels is a unique art installation by Nancy Holt, the late American artist known for her art installations and art related media work.
Set in an open X configuration, the four eighteen-foot-long and nine-foot diameter tunnels have holes of varying sizes pierced through them. It may seem like nothing to the untrained eye, but, in fact, the holes imitate the constellation of Capricorn, Draco, Columbia, and Perseus.
Located in a remote valley 45 miles north of Wendover, Utah in the Great Basin Desert, the Sun Tunnels have been divided into pairs to align with the setting and rising of the sun during the summer and winter solstice, respectively.
The best way to enjoy the tunnels – fill up your gas tank, charge your camera, pack a picnic lunch, blanket, sunscreen, and a sketchbook if you’d like and make a full day out of it.
24. Metaphor: The Tree of Utah, Wendover
Installed in the 1980s by Karl Momen, a European artist, the Metaphor, often dubbed as the Tree of Utah as well as the Tree of Life, is a psychedelic artwork that has intrigued the interest of passing tourists ever since it was first put in its place.
As the story goes, Karl was on his tour of the Bonneville Salt Flats when he had an epiphany. The result – a 90-foot tall, square-trunk concrete tree with multicolored orbs that looks like the rendition of a user on an acid trip!
In total contrast of the salt lands underneath its feet, the Metaphor is surrounded by spherical objects made of concrete, looking like as if they fell from the tree.
A plaque sits on the bottom that reads: Ode to Joy by Friedrich Schiller – who’s Joy and what’s the connection, you ask? Well, we are hoping you could tell us because we have absolutely no idea.
25. The Cassidy Trail, Panguitch
Within the boundaries of Dixie National Forest, Utah lies the bewitching red sandstone hoodoos of the Red Canyon, formed over a period of a few thousand years of erosion, frost, and rain. Also known as tent rocks and earth pyramids, the red hoodoos comprise Pine trees that adds more flavor to an already-intriguing bunch of rock formations. But, this isn’t all that lies hidden within the geological formations of Red Canyon.
The area, aside from its magnificent beauty, is also known to be related to the famous American robber, Butch Cassidy. It is believed that Cassidy was born close to the area and hence, it’s no surprise that the trail is named after him.
As the story goes, Cassidy got into a fight with another man over a woman in Panguitch. Enraged, the famous outlaw tried to kill his competitor with his bare hands. Believing that he had killed his opponent, Cassidy went into hiding amidst the vast terrain of Rock Canyon. Little did he know that the man survived and chased after him with a gang of his own. Cassidy got word of it and spent the next few days hiding out along the trail until the gang left.
Reportedly, a lot of modern-day criminals (perhaps a fan of Cassidy’s) have followed the same hiding trail to escape conviction after committing crimes out of Utah.
26. Gravesite of Utah’s First Jedi Priest, West Valley City
Within the grounds of Valley View Memorial Park and Funeral Home lies a hidden gravesite marked by an onyx-colored craft that states, “Steven Allan Ford, May The Force Be With You – Always.” You may think of it as a grave of a diehard fan or even a prank, but the grave is as real as graves can be.
Steven Allan Ford, born in 1980, was many things – a father, a brother, a son, an FX artist and a minister. He was also known to cheer people around him with his gifted sense of humor. And, he was also the first ordained Jedi priest of the Temple of the Jedi Order.
Jediism, for those who haven’t watched a single episode of Star Wars (seriously?), is not a strict, separate religion but a combination of one or more religions combined with Code of Chivalry and practice of martial arts. Needless to say, Ford was a true believer, follower, and preacher.
Ford died on September 7th, 2010 of a broken heart and was buried at the Park underneath a plaque that best describes his true self.
27. Fantasy Canyon, Vernal
Canyons, craters, rock formations, and other such natural phenomena are usual in the state of Utah, especially in the northeast. However, no other region is as ethereal as the pertinently named Fantasy Canyon.
Spread over a short stretch of 10 acres of land, Fantasy Canyon has some of the most unusual and intriguing rock formations to be found anywhere in the world. Officially documented for the first time in 1909 by Earl Douglas, a notable paleontologist and explorer, the site comprises rock formations made of quartzose sandstones which are believed to be from Eocene Epoch (about 50 million years ago that is).
While most of the formations look abstractly beautiful, a few distinctively resemble animals such as bears and dinosaurs – maybe that’s why it is called Fantasy Land – a place where you can let your fantasy run wild!
28. First Lady Dolls, Vernal
Uintah County Western Heritage Museum, at first glance, looks like just another usual collection of prehistoric artefacts, objects signifying the state’s history and geography, and tools that represent a part of Vernal’s medical history, but take a closer look and you will be amazed to find three glass cabinets full of doll replicas of every American First Lady till Nancy Reagan.
Situated on the second floor of the museum, the dolls have been arranged chronologically, starting from Martha Washington (1789-1797) to Mary Ann Todd Lincoln (1861-1865) to Eleanor Roosevelt (1933-1945) to Nancy Reagan (1981-1989).
Created by Salt Lake City-based sculptor Phyllis Juhlin Park, the set of 43 porcelain dolls are slightly larger than your usual Barbie and were unveiled to the public on the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. Unfortunately, Park retired after creating the doll replica of Nancy Reagan, so she is the museum’s last First Lady (so far).
While Park has passed away since then, the museum awaits a magician-sculptor to add the remaining five First Ladies since Nancy. Until then, the current collection holds an exquisite display for you to enjoy.
29. This Is The Place Monument, Salt Lake City
Brigham Young, the successor of Joseph Smith after he was killed in 1844, was the second president of the LDS Church who served the Mormon settlers and the Church for three decades until his death in 1877. He is most noted for his outstanding role as a leader during the forced exodus of Mormons from Illinois to the present-day land of Mormons, Utah.
Young arrived at the Salt Lake Valley (then part of Mexico) on July 24th, 1847 and as he stood overlooking the vast basin, he realized that he had found just the place. Reportedly, Young actually uttered the words, “This is the place.”
Located in the eastern region of the city, This Is The Place Monument seizes the day Young decided to establish a new Mormon colony in the heart of Utah. Crafted between 1939 and 1947 by Young’s grandson, Mahonri M. Young, the monument is a historical monument not only dedicated to Mormonism and its great leader but also to the explorers of the American West.
30. Nine Mile Canyon, Carbon County
It’s unsure why they are called the Nine Mile Canyons considering they spread over forty miles, but, there is no doubt that it is the largest art gallery in the world!
Known for its extensive ancient pictographs and petroglyphs, the Canyon dates back to Fremont and Ute people, and the engravings surrounding the canyon were reportedly created between 400 and 1400 CE. Equally popular among tourists and archaeologists, the canyon served as a major transport route during the 1880s.
Many of the rock art creations depict hunting processes and rituals of the tribes as well as animal life such as bison and birds.
Relics of a short-lived town named Harper, a stagecoach stop at the time and a ghost town now, can be found near the Canyon. Though threatened by natural as well as man-made erosion, 63 archaeological sites of the Nine Mile Canyon are listed in the National Register for Historic Places.