Cool and unusual things to do in Utah

I recently read an Atlas Obscura article entitled “91 cool, hidden and unusual things to do in Utah.” Sounds right up my alley, right? I decided that this was something that I needed to go check out myself. So I did, and will continue to do so, until all 91 have been experienced. Here’s what I found thus far.

#2: The Narrows

Atlas Obscura got this one right. The Narrows are beautiful. Walking down the slot canyon, through a river, with walls towering above you is something that you must experience. No real hiking expertise is required, but be aware that there are places where you may need to swim. Pack (and dress) accordingly. And visit the rest of Zion park while you’re at it.

Worth the time? Yes. Get this one on your to do list. I know I plan on returning.

#3: Pando, the Trembling Giant

Pando. The Trembling Giant. A gigantic grove of quaking aspens. Whatever you want to call it. The more important thing to recognize is that this entire grove (or clone) is one single organism that stems from a single root system and that boasts 47,000 “organisms” (aka, trees). That, is, insane.

Worth the time? Research the time of year to go – or heed my advice that mid-March maybe isn’t the “right” time – but yes, absolutely worth the time investment.

#5: Bryce Canyon

I visited Bryce Canyon on my way to Salt Lake City at the end of March, so the road was closed half way through the park. Still, it’s an incredible place. The hoodoos, and the story about their formations, are enough to make this trek worthwhile. The red rocks are icing on the cake.

Worth the time? Again, yes. Absolutely. I can’t wait to get back to this park to experience some of the hiking trails and get closer to the miraculous beauty.

Bryce Canyon

#11: The Spiral Jetty

The Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture built by Robert Smithson in 1970 using a bulldozer and a lot of excess time. It was submerged in the Great Salt Lake for 30 years before finally being discovered during a drought in 2004. From South Salt Lake, it takes about 2 hours to drive to the sculpture.

Worth the time? It’s definitely interesting to see. I don’t know that I feel the need to return again, but the experience is worth the drive.

#18: Four Corners Monument

I’ll cut the Four Corners Monument a little bit of slack since I was there during the government shut down a year ago, but it was closed 3 hours before it was supposed to be, and it was in the middle of nowhere.

Worth the time? Given the location, I would skip this one. If you happen to be driving by for some wildly unknown reason, then do it up.

Four Corners National Monument

#19: Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah are a pretty incredible sight . A 30,000 acre expanse of hard, white salt crust as far as the eye can see. The potential to observe some mad racing skills if you’re there at the right time. A like-glass effect in your highly necessary photo. But not in my photo since crutches and water don’t mix.

Worth the time? Absolutely. If you don’t plan on driving to the Bonneville Raceway, make sure you stop at the rest stop on the north side of the road. The one on the south side is worthless. At least from a tourist perspective, Though the south rest stop is a great place if your dog needs to pee.

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

#22: Antelope Island

I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I drove out to Antelope island. Was it going to be flat? People say there are a lot of flies. Are there a lot of flies? Do you really get to see wild bison? The answers, in order, are: not flat at all, it depends on when you go, and so, so many.

Worth the time? Yes. This is definitely a place that you should visit if you’re in the Salt Lake area and you like the outdoors at all.

#28: Gigal Sculpture Garden

The Gigal Sculpture garden. What else can I say? I took some time out of my day to visit and it’s time that I’ll never get back. Okay, it’s not that bad, but it’s really just a small garden with a few sculptures built on what probably used to be a lot for a house.

Worth the time? Honest opinion? This was mediocre at best. I would skip it.

Gigal sculpture garden

#39: Salt Lake City Public Library

I don’t have a picture of this one, but I went for a viewing of a Sundance film. It’s a beautiful building, surrounded by a homeless tent camp.

Worth the time? I mean, it’s a library… If you’re into architecture or if you need a book, then you might find it worthwhile.

#44: Iosepa Ghost Town

Iosepa is pronounced Yo-see-pa. Like Joseph, kind of. Named after, you guessed it: Joseph Smith. The town was established when a group of Polynesian Mormons moved from Hawaii to Salt Lake City, Utah so they could be closer to the religious mecca. Once a church opened in Hawaii, they moved back and the town is now abandoned. What remains is a sign, a grave site (where an annual memorial celebration is held), and a gate blocking you from visiting what was probably the actual town.

Worth the time? Nah, not really. If you’re driving by or really into ghost towns, maybe, but it wasn’t worth the extra 28 miles (14 each way).

Iosepa, Utah

#46: Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch, located in Arches National Park in Moab, is the 5th longest natural arch in the world – the longest outside of China (which has the top 4). Drive to the back of the park and hike an easy mile to get there.

Worth the time? Yep, absolutely. Visiting the Arches National Park is worthwhile in general. Go out of your way to get to this one. It’s worth it. Not to mention, it may not be there forever.

Landscape Arch

#54: The Tree of Utah

The Tree of Utah is a roadside sculpture that was created in the early 80’s. It’s a 90-foot-tall psychedelic spire made mostly of concrete with tennis ball looking things at the top and what look like canoes (they’re “fallen leaves”) surrounding the base.

Worth the time? If you’re driving by already, then take a look as you pass, but there’s nothing really worth stopping for.

Tree of Utah

#69: This is the Place Monument

This Is The Place Monument honors the moment when Brigham Young found his refugee religion a new home in Utah. After being driven across the US, the group got to Salt Lake City, apparently actually uttered the words, “This is the place,” and the settling began.

There is also a small dedication to the Donner Party – a group of non-LDS pioneers headed to California – who were forced to resort to cannibalism when trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains. In fact, the Donner Party made the wagon trail to the Salt Lake Valley, which Young’s group followed the next year to find “the place.” Interesting…

Worth the time? Sure. If you’re into history at all, or find the Mormon religion interesting, then it’s probably worth a stop.

This is the Place monument

#74: Snelgrove Ice Cream Cone

At site of what used to be the Snelgrove ice cream factory now stands only the double scoop ice cream cone statue in front of what’s now a Dreyer’s factory. A somewhat confusing site if you don’t know the history and are looking for an ice cream shop.

Worth the time? You’ll see it if you’re driving through Sugarhouse, but I wouldn’t go out of my way.

#77: I-80 Wildlife Overpass

In December 2018, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) unveiled the largest wildlife overpass in the state. You’ll notice it if you’re driving on the I-80 through Parley’s Canyon going to (or away from) Park City. It was built for moose, elk, raccoons, and deer to have a safe place to cross the 6 lane highway.

Worth the time? I’m honestly not sure why this is even on this list. While it’s a great thing to have, it looks like another bridge. Definitely don’t go out of your way on this one.

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