This week’s One Tank Trip takes us to the small remote town of Hanksville Utah of 225 residents in south central Utah located at the junction of scenic routes 24 and 95. State Route 95, aka, Bicentennial Highway, is the main route to North Lake Powell, where Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Hite Outpost, Ticaboo, and Bullfrog Marina are located. Twenty-eight miles to the east on SR-24 is Capitol Reef National Park. The drive between Hanksville and Capitol Reef takes you through some of the most unusual and interesting landscapes in Utah. Some say it resembles Mars! To the north is the San Rafael Swell, Goblin Valley State Park, and Little Wild Horse Canyon. To the east is Robbers Roost, Horseshoe Canyon, and the east rim of Canyonlands National Park. This is the short list, there are many more places to visit, many more!
Hanksville is in one of the most remote areas of the Grand Circle and Mighty 5, and in the continental U.S. It’s no wonder Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch spent so much time in this region hiding from the law.
We think base camping is the best way to experience an area. This means choosing a central location where you can unpack and take day trips to surrounding recreation areas and scenic attractions. Hanksville is just such a place. You can do this from hotels, glamping, camping, or by RV. There are a number of places to stay in Hanksville from motels to campgrounds. Click here to see a list of area options.
If you’re going to Hanksville there are a few businesses, we highly recommend visiting.
For adventure >Hanksville Tours< offers UTV rentals and guided tours, watersports rental, horseback trail rides, shuttle service, and hunting guide services. We recently experienced a UTV tour with them to multiple locations including Poison Spring (see the video below). These folks know where to take you for great excursions that will leave you wanting more.
If you’re more of a human powered adventurer, Get in the Wild offers canyoneering, hiking, and backpacking services to the many surrounding canyons and trails near Hanksville, and beyond.
For rock collectors, visiting the Rockin Riddle Rock Shop is a must stop. Here you’ll find a large selection of the infamous Coprolite, gastrolith, petrified wood, dinosaur fossils, handmade jewelry and other specialty items. A visit to Hanksville isn’t complete without stopping at Hollow Mountain. This unique hollowed out rock is a convenience store and gift shop. The rock was once closer to the highway before a crew from a nearby uranium mine was hired to clear space away from the road and hollow out a cavity in the rock. This is the story we’ve been told.
Places to Eat
There are three places to eat that we highly recommend and frequent when visiting Hanksville. If you get a hankerin’ for a burger while on the road like we do, we recommend Stan’s Burger Shak located on the south end of town on Hwy 95. Order the Duke Burger, but be very hungry if you do. For breakfast our go-to place is Duke’s Slickrock Grill, located next to Duke’s RV Park. For excellent Mexican food using fresh ingredients, Outlaws Roost next to Hollow Mountain has become a regular stop on all trips to Hanksville and when traveling to Lake Powell.
Places to Stay
For camping and RV travelers, Duke’s RV Park offers campsites, RV spaces and comfortable small cabins. We love the beds in the cabins! Wispering Sands Motel offers comfortable rooms located on the south end of town near Stan’s Burger Shak and a short distance from Outlaws Roost.
Please Note: This route is for four-wheel drive high clearance off-highway vehicles, and can be washed out in spots from possible recent weather conditions.
The road named Poison Spring is accessible from Highway 95 approximately 17 miles south of Hanksville, Utah. The Poison Spring Road is a challenging, and often narrow pathway that winds through an ever deepening canyon as it approaches the Dirty Devil River. Along the way are spots to view petroglyphs, a side canyon where you’ll find an ancient pit-house dwelling inside a cave, and even a spot where outlaws left their personal inscriptions and rock art.
Via the Poison Spring it is possible to cross through the Dirty Devil River, in good weather conditions, and then to continue to the east side of the Dirty Devil River toward such destinations as Big Ridge in North Hatch Canyon, Happy Canyon, and past Fiddler Butte toward the boundary of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
From the Poison Spring Trail and from Highway 95 it is possible to find your way east across the plateau to the dramatic scenic overlook of Burr Point.
The high desert region between Hanksville and Capitol Reef National Park offers some of Utah’s most whimsical and otherworldly landscapes. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear that you landed on an alien planet. Known as Mars and Moonscape, Hollywood found this area ideal for replicating alien surfaces that might resemble another planet. John Carter and Galaxy Quest are a couple of Sci-Fi movies to be filmed in this area.
Landforms of Wingate, Navajo Sandstone, Mancos Shale, Morrison and Chinle formations have formed this convoluted landscape that has attracted the interest of the Mars Desert Research Center that considers the region ideal for simulating the red planet. The barren slopes located here are the result of bentonitic clay in the shale that make an inhospitable environment for plants.
Dirt Bikes and Dinosaurs
Swing Arm City’s bentonite clay hills 12 miles west of Hanksville offer adrenaline junkies one of the country’s premier playgrounds for off-road adventure. This ATV/OHV motorized recreation area is located on the north side of Hwy 24 between Factory Butte and the Caineville Mesas. Steeply angled hills of Bentonite Clay create an exhilarating off-road playground for recreational vehicles. On any given day, riders will find ATVs, motocross, OHVs and more flying across the landscape.
Burpee Dinosaur Quarry
Also located in this alien landscape known as Morrison Formation, which formed during the Jurassic period, are the remains of the mammoth creatures that roamed in this area. Located a few miles north of the Mars Desert Research Center on BLM land is the Burpee Dinosaur Quarry discovered in 2007 by a small crew from the Burpee Dinosaur Museum located in Rockford IL. The quarry is the site of hundreds of dinosaur bones and considered one of the largest dinosaur quarries in the world.
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