With the warm (read: blazing hot) days of summer waning, we can all look forward to some outdoor activities that are a tad more temperate. And while our COLLECTIVE fingers are crossed for a healthy, happy winter, we may all be relegated to the indoors more than we'd like this coming cold season. So before that happens, we have a few suggestions in the way of getting out and appreciating our great state in the safest of ways. This isn't likely the first time you've heard of the spots below, but perhaps you've not taken the time to actually see them for yourself just yet. To that we say pack up some sandos and drinks, friends. Hop in your 2003 Buick LeSabre, put on the "Driving Gloves & Desert Dreams" playlist you just finished, and just take in the passing landscape...
Let's hit a few of our state's weird, wonderful landmarks.
1. Grafton: Located in Zion Canyon, this well-preserved ghost town provides an idyllic, just-spooky-enough window into Utah's historical past. Keep an eye out for familiar-looking structures--parts of the much-beloved classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed here. Oh, and for maximum effect, go during sunset and end your visit at the cemetery. Drive time, 5 hours
2. Sun Tunnels: In a remote area near the Utah/Nevada border lies artist Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels. At first glance, the four concrete pipes splayed out in an X formation may seem like the last vestiges of an abandoned construction site, but each was laid with intention and together make up an astrological observation station. Worth noting: on summer and winter solstices, the pairings of pipes align perfectly with the sunset. Drive time, 3 hours
3. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park: These striking orange and pink sand dunes sit in the southernmost region of the state and are certainly worth the road trip. For those looking to simply take in the views or snap a few photos, the smooth, rolling shapes are particularly stunning at sunset. Given that they're located just an hour or so southeast of Grafton, you've already killed two birds on this list. Drive time, 5 hours
4. Metaphor: the Tree of Utah: The Tree of Utah is a colorul, imposing sculpture that flanks I-80 on an otherwise barren stretch of road between Salt Lake and Wendover. An 87-foot high "tree" created by Swedish artist Karl Momen, the piece's soft lines and bold hues both contrast with the severe environment surrounding it and reflect Momen's reputed romantic bent and love of cosmic space. Drive time, 1.5 hours
5. Four Corners Monument: As the name implies, this site is the only point in the U.S. at which the boundaries of four separate states intersect. It can easily be combined with a trip to Monument Valley, and depending on your levels of both commitment and flexibility, during your visit it's possible to simultaneiously have a foot (or hand) in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, AND Utah. Pretty cool. Drive time, 6.5 hours.
6. Bonneville Salt Flats: The Salt Flats are a desolate, striking, and altogether otherworldly landscape that is certainly worth seeing (and more than once). They've got a rich racing history, yes, but the 30,000-acre expanse on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake Basin has also garnered plenty of attention from movie makers, and rightfully so. Bonus: the Tree of Utah just happens to be en route to the Salt Flats off of I-80, and the Sun Tunnels are just an hour or so to the north of Wendover. Win, win, win. Drive time, 1.5 hours