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Utah Adventures with Maverik: Overlooked treasures where you won't find any crowds

Utah Adventures with Maverik: Overlooked treasures where you won't find any crowds

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Utahns know about the major attractions in our own backyard, like the "Mighty Five" national parks. But with those parks attracting many millions of annual visitors in 2021, you may be wanting to venture off the beaten path and away from the crowds. Think outside the box with four overlooked treasures of the Beehive state.

Before you go, stop at Maverik to fuel up on gasoline, and don't forget your favorite road trip snacks and drinks.

Fantasy Canyon

Tattooine? Nope, just Vernal, Utah.

It may give sand planet vibes, but Fantasy Canyon lies about 40 miles southeast of Vernal. It is made up of fantastically shaped and colored rock formations that protrude up from beds of clay. The area is only about 10 acres in size but has some of the most unique geological features in the world that wouldn't look out of place on a Star Wars set.

Utah Adventures with Maverik: Overlooked treasures where you won't find any crowds
Photo: Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock.com

Early explorer Earl Douglass first brought the site into worldview when he published photographs of it in 1909. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management explains that the sediments that make up these rock formations were deposited roughly 50 million years ago during the Eocene epoch. At that time, the Uinta Basin was entirely covered in water, and loose silt and clay was deposited and hardened over the years into this geological marvel.

Kids will have a ball exploring these desert wonders, while adults can brush up on their geology by reading the self-guided tour signs dotted throughout the attraction. To make a day of it, Fantasy Canyon is the perfect stop after rafting down the nearby White River.

Goblin Valley

Rising from the earth like ancient sentinels, the hoodoos of Goblin Valley will capture your imagination. In fact, they've captured imaginations for millennia, as evidenced by petroglyphs left behind by Native American tribes such as the Fremont, Paiute and Ute. These rock formations—nicknamed goblins—are made of Entrada sandstone deposited during the Jurassic period more than 140 million years ago. In modern history, cowboys searching for cattle first stumbled upon the secluded valley.

Utah Adventures with Maverik: Overlooked treasures where you won't find any crowds
Photo: Bonnie Fink/Shutterstock.com

Goblin Valley is an adventurer's paradise with opportunities to camp, hike, mountain bike, rappel, and stargaze. The hiking is especially family friendly. There are four popular loop trails all under two miles that gain less than about 200 feet of elevation, making it a great option for beginners or hikers carrying children.

The area is designated as a state park and is located south of Interstate-70, about an hour from Capitol Reef National Park. Just don't be surprised if it feels like you're on a different planet!

Horseshoe Canyon

If you've got a hankering to go far off the beaten path to (literally) where the blacktop ends, Horseshoe Canyon might be for you. On a map, it is located smack-dab in between Goblin Valley and Moab but is nearly impossible to get to. The National Park Service warns, "Do not rely on a GPS unit to guide you to Horseshoe Canyon. Use a map instead." Several other warnings in bold describe the complete lack of water at the trailhead and on the trail and the strenuous hike involved.

Utah Adventures with Maverik: Overlooked treasures where you won't find any crowds
Photo: Georgi Baird/Shutterstock.com

However, those who rise to the occasion will be rewarded with the chance to view perhaps the most spectacular existing rock markings in North America.

The "Great Gallery" contains huge, life-size pictographs (painted figures) and petroglyphs (figures etched in the rock with a sharp stone). These date back to somewhere between 2000 and 500 BCE. Archaeological evidence of early mammoth-hunting humans found there dates as early as 9000 BCE.

As if that history wasn't rich enough, outlaws like Butch Cassidy used the canyons as a labyrinthian hideout in the late 1800s. The 1900s brought ranchers who built livestock paths through the canyons and a water pump system to allow the livestock to feed in the desolate area. In 1971, Horseshoe Canyon was added to Canyonlands National Park to offer it protection for future generations, but it is a detached area and not part of the main park.

Devil's Playground

Southern Utah may get all the attention for its red rocks, but Northern Utah boasts a 10-square-mile area of incredibly unique granite rock formations. The best part is, that it's relatively unknown. Skip the neighborhood playground and instead head to Devil's Playground in Box Elder County.

Utah Adventures with Maverik: Overlooked treasures where you won't find any crowds

Scramble up boulders, duck into caves, and wind your way through arches and outcroppings of primeval rock. The formations are a combination of Tertiary-age (about 38 million years old) granitic rock on top of Paleozoic sedimentary rock. Later, coarse-grained magma pushed its way through the surface, resulting in long veins of the harder rock that eerily resemble giant ribs or backbones.

Millions of years of weathering have sculpted the softer parts into arches, spires, and alcoves that invite closer inspection. But be warned, the site doesn't have designated hiking trails or restrooms and is more of a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Visitors can drive OHVs or other motor vehicles on designated routes within the area, and primitive camping is also allowed.

To get there, there are two routes. Drivers can take I-80 West out of Salt Lake City to Wendover, then head northeast on Nevada State Route 233 for about 60 miles. The other option is to head to Tremonton and take I-84, then Highway 30. Whatever you choose, you're almost guaranteed no crowds and panoramic views of the nearby Grouse Creek Mountains.

Start every Utah Adventure with Maverik

Whatever scenic spot you explore in Utah, make sure to fuel up and grab some food at one of the Maverik locations. Right now Maverik's "revved-up Nitro Card saves you 10 cents off every gallon, every day with additional high-value benefits on its huge selection of tasty food, drinks and snacks, including breakfast and lunch burritos like Maverik fan-favorite MOAB, made-to-order tacos, quesadillas and nachos.

Utah Adventures with Maverik: Overlooked treasures where you won't find any crowds

To save on every gallon of gas and get special offers on Maverik's fresh-made BonFire food, drinks, and snacks, download the Maverik app to join the Adventure Club and activate your Nitro Card.

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