Apr 28, 2023 - Things to Do

Utah's best pit stops for desert trips

A convenience store entryway with a sign that reads "Hollow Mountain," with the store built into a red cliff.

Hollow Mountain convenience store in Hanksville. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

Spring is the perfect time for a trip to southern Utah, but it can be a long haul.

  • Fortunately, there are lots of fun stops on the way.

👋 Erin here! My family is heading south to go camping this weekend. These are some of our favorite stops:

Interstate 15

Scipio Flying J petting zoo

The truck stop hosts a free petting zoo with a camel, peacocks, ducks, mini-cows, goats and other critters on weekends until Memorial Day, when it opens all week for summer.

  • If a goat shows particular interest in you, enjoy the cuteness but mind your belongings; they are intrepid snack-finders.

Meadow hot springs and lava tubes

The hot springs have gotten busy in recent years, but the sapphire water makes for a fun and surreal swim in a remote cow pasture.

  • The lava tubes take longer than the springs to explore but are amazing if you have an extra couple of hours and a high-clearance vehicle.

To eat: The Creamery, Beaver

Treat yourself to ice cream, cheese and fresh milk.

U.S. Highways 6 and 191 toward Moab

Prehistoric Museum

USU's Price Campus has dino fossils, ancient art, children's activities and a full-scale replica cliff dwelling.

  • Admission: $6 with discounts for kids and others.

John Wesley Powell Museum

Stop in Green River to check out the clunky lil' boats Powell and others used to navigate the mighty rivers of the west.

  • Admission: $7 with discounts for kids and others.

To eat: Cowboy's Kitchen, Wellington

Go back in time to this old-school steakhouse with good eats, thick plates and a covered wagon out front.

On to Lake Powell


Gas up at Hollow Mountain for the novelty of a convenience store in a cave, admire the sculptures at Carl's Critter Garden, and grab a massive shake at Stan's Burger Shak.

Goblin Valley State Park

When people say Utah's state parks would be national parks anywhere else, they're talking about this surreal mushroom-scape off S.R. 24.

  • It's busy in spring, so midweek visits are better if you can swing it.
  • Admission: $25 per car on weekends in spring and fall, down to $20 on weekdays and during summer and winter months.

Tell us: What are your favorite side trips, sights and pit stops when you travel to our southern deserts?


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