Utah Back-Road Adventures

Theresa Husarik, author of Backroads of Utah shares a few of her favorite road trips.


Five backroad adventures perfect for the family:

1. Old Pony Express Road

The Utah desert at its best! Travel through sagebrush land, climb up and over a mountain pass, visit remnants of Pony Express stations, an old homestead complete with a pet cemetery, go hunting for geodes and visit the oasis of Fish Springs Wildlife refuge for some birding.

2. Dinosaur Diamond Section – Vernal area

A diamond-shaped route that covers eastern Utah and into Western Colorado, this byway contains sites rich in dinosaur artifacts-fossilized bones and tracks. One of the sites along this trail is Dinosaur National Monument. The quarry is not available at this time, but there are a lot of hiking trails and back roads that are never crowded. See the remains of Josie Bassett’s cabin (she was once wooed by Butch Cassidy), visit a great petroglyph panel, or you could take a float on either the Green or Yampa River.

3. Beaver Canyon

A beautiful canyon with trout-filled mountain lakes, a cool switchback that gives you some wonderful scenery, the highly rated Paiute ATV trail (Dirt Wheels Magazine), a side jaunt to see the childhood home of Butch Cassidy and an interesting rock formation called Big Rock Candy Mountain.

4. Joshua Tree Forest

Starting in St. George, this trip passes things like the Jacob Hamblin home (he was an important figure in Native American relations in the late 1800s, the only place on the planet where the Dwarf Bearclaw poppy lives and a very interesting desert “forest” of Joshua trees where there is a preserve where the desert tortoise is being managed and studied.

5. Trail of the Ancients

Most people go to Moab and stop there for the thousands of things you can see there. But if you head south on Hwy 191, you can see some more amazing and less crowded things. Like Wilson arch, a 90 foot long arch rich off the road, the Hole in the Rock house, an interesting rock called Church Rock, a few state parks, a great petroglyph panel, Mexican Hat, Monument Valley and an incredible set of switchbacks at the Valley of the Gods.

Tips for planning a successful road trip:
People have different ideas of how to approach a road trip. Some plan everything ahead and bring detailed maps, others just head the car in a certain direction and enjoy the journey. Whatever you decide, you should do a little preparation, especially if you are heading out into the wilderness where things beyond your control could get in your way.

1. Preparing the Vehicle:

a. Make sure the car is in good working order—give it a checkup before venturing out.

b. Fill up the tank before heading out and, if you are heading into wilderness, you may also want to consider bringing along extra (approved) cans of gas.

c. Try to pack light. Having so much stuff in the car that you can’t find it or sit comfortably will make the time in the car less enjoyable.

d. Keep your valuables to a minimum and those you have to take (ID, money, credit cards, etc), be sure they are either on your person or out of sight (locked in a trunk, for instance) when you leave the car to visit a site or take a hike

e. When you stop for gas, be sure to wash the windshield, too.

2. Food and water:

a. Bring plenty of water, especially if you are going to desert country. The dry heat of our deserts can suck the moisture out of you fast. Drink a lot of water to keep from getting dehydrated.

b. Bring food-the best kind is food that is easy to prepare and clean up after. Things like fruit, bagels, power bars, string cheese, peanut butter and crackers are easy and somewhat nutritious. Consider packing a little more for those instances where you may need to spend more time out there than originally planned.

3. Emergency Preparedness:

a. Have some sort of first aid kit along, this should include any meds you need, sunscreen, itch relief (sometimes the bugs can be relentless).

b. Let somebody who stays behind know of your plans. If something happens and you don’t get back when you are expected, it will help efforts to find you.

c. Bring a cell phone for emergencies (but be aware that you may not have reception in the wilderness).

d. Bring a good map. Nothing is more frustrating than taking a wrong turn and not having a clue how to get yourself back on the right trail.

4. Comfort and Safety While Traveling:

a. Keep a couple of trash bags handy—one to put trash in (power bar wrappers, apple cores…) and one to collect recyclables.

b. Have a pen and paper handy for those things you want to remember later—such as something you want to buy or something you want to look up later.

c. Consider bringing something as a background “noise”—your favorite CD’s, or my favorite, a book on tape.

d. If you are taking kids, be sure to have things for them to do during the driving part of the trip.

e. To amuse both kids and adults, make up games. Alphabet games (find something—a sign, license plate, etc that contains an A, then a B, etc) license plate game (see how many different state’s plates you can spot during the trip, Madlibs (a game where words are taken out of a story and the people in the car, without knowing the story are asked to fill in the missing words) or maybe what we call “The Movie Game” (we pick a letter and then come up with as many movie titles as we can that start with that letter).

f. Make frequent stops and switch drivers if possible so the driver stays alert.

5. Miscellaneous

a. Keep track of all expenses, if you are splitting these costs with your traveling companion.


Theresa Husarik is a wildlife, nature photographer and is the author of “Backroads of Utah: Your Guide to Utah’s Most Scenic Backroad Adventures”.

You can see more of her work at www.WildThingsPhoto.com

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