Where it US Route 6 Utah?
US Route 6 is an anomaly in Utah. In a state riddled with National Parks, you will touch none of them as you enter Green River, arch up to Price and Spanish Fork, west through Delta and then through the otherworldly realm of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) territory before crossing over into Nevada.
Romancing the Stones and Bones on US Route 6 UT
If you and your honey get gooey-eyed over geologic history, dinosaurs, and million year old fossils, however, US Route 6 in Utah will thrill you to the bone. Or, bones – as it turns out. This area is rich in the skeletons and fossils of ancient land and sea creatures, having at one time been at the bottom of a great inland sea (The Great Basin).
From the air, this is the section of the United States where no life seems to exist on what appears to be endless mounds of brown dirt. On the ground, though, it’s a different story.
Travel with the Getaway Mavens East to West on 373 miles of US Route 6 Utah, and we’ll show you our favorite, mostly romantic, stops – for rock hounds, paleontologist geeks, road trip aficionados, or a just couple of buds seeking thrills on whitewater and sand dunes. Come along.
If you’re game to cross the country on all 3,652 miles of US Route 6 – From Massachusetts to California, check out this Getaway Mavens US Route 6 page.
Most Romantic and Poignant Stops on US Route 6 UT
Welcome to Utah
You enter Utah on I-70 where of course, there’s a huge Welcome to Utah sign. And then, glory be; another huge “ROUTE 6 GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC” sign, too!! Out of Colorado, you’ll finally see paired Route 6 signs once again.
Stop in Green River UT: Tourist Magnet
There is not much in the 82 forsaken miles between Mack, CO and Green River, Utah, which is probably why Green River is an oasis of chain hotels, motels and a couple of worthwhile attractions.
With a population of only 850, there’s no real “downtown” Green River. But, because it’s a crossroads virtually in the middle of nowhere, an hour away from some of the best recreation and natural wonders of the world, and a whitewater rafting hotspot, Green River is a magnet for thousands of tourists from all over the world. Amazingly, the Amtrak train stops here.
Visit John Wesley Powell Museum, Green River UT
The John Wesley Powell Museum showcases the man who first ran and charted “the last blank spot on the map of the USA,” the Colorado River, in the summer of 1869. Highlighting the first successful navigation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – the Museum features historic and full-scale river-running boats, artifacts from the area and lots of information about John Wesley Powell himself.
The explorer was a “one-armed Civil War Vet,” and accomplished Professor of Geology who moved from his home in New York to Illinois to teach at IL Wesleyan University.
At the conclusion of the Civil War, government coffers overflowed with funds to invest in a Westward Expansion, and Powell couldn’t resist exploring the unknown. Making it out of the Canyon alive, Powell pushed for the creation of the US Geological Survey in 1879, and was appointed its Director from 1881 – 1894.
Be a John Wesley Powell and Get Out on the River
Green River is home to two Whitewater Rafting outfitters: Colorado River and Trail Expeditions and Holiday River Expeditions. Multi-day river rafting trips through Desolation Canyon end up here (guests are flown to the put-in-point upriver). Afterwards, everyone seems to end up at Ray’s Tavern, a river rat hangout, known for its perfectly charred burgers.
Munch on Juicy Green River Melons
Calling all foodies! Farmers in this tiny Utah town grow treasured Green River Melons: the sweet, juicy Watermelons, Cantaloupes, and Honeydews that have put this scruffy little place on the culinary map.
See the Golden Ratio Roadside Sculpture, Green River
For some inexplicable reason, Green River was chosen as the site of a strange monolith at the top of a hill overlooking I-70. Designed by an Andrew Rogers, the sculpture is a tangible representation of the Fibonacci Sequence, a mathematical Golden Ratio that occurs in nature. Created of 53 large solid cement blocks topped by one completely gilded in 24 ct. gold leaf, the Ratio is a wonder, an oddity, and lyrical in its own modular way.
Investigate the Densest Concentration of Jurassic Dinosaur Bones Ever Found
If you love fossils and ancient skeletons, you’ll love this portion of US Route 6 Utah.
From Green River, climb back onto I-70W and travel for three miles until you see huge signs for Route 6W/191. Take Exit 157 and you’ll be thrust into ocher, hazy, flat desolate scenery in short order.
This is how it remains for nearly 60 miles. Watch for a brown sign pointing to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry – one of the world’s foremost dinosaur fossil sources. More than 12,000 individual bones and one dinosaur egg have come from this prolific fossil bed and are sent to museums all over the world. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, there’s a self-guided nature walk and Visitor’s Center.
Dinosaurs Explained at the Prehistoric Museum, Price UT
From the Quarry, Price UT is roughly 30 miles away. Some of those quarried dinosaurs end up at the Prehistoric Museum which has its hands in everything from “discovery to digging to displays….we do it all!”
The area around Price is rich “paleontologically, geologically and archeologically.” Scientists converge on this section of the “Dinosaur Diamond” from all over the world.
In 1988, paleontologists unearthed a Columbian Mammoth (less hairy than it’s wooly cousin), and people from as far away as Japan come to see its re-created skeleton as well as actual bones from the also-locally-discovered Utahraptor; a fierce little creature made famous in the movie Jurassic Park.
Visitors with scientific leanings or more than cursory interest can avail themselves of two observation labs; one for paleontologists, one for archeologists, with sliding windows that open upon dinosaur diggers at work. Or you can just watch them going about their important business.
Grab a Pinnacle Brew at Grogg’s, Price
If you’re in the mood for fresh-brewed beer and awesome pub food, drive a few miles out of town to Grogg’s, a “hidden gem” and outpost of the beer-maker, Pinnacle Brewing Co.
Witness the Western End of Book Cliffs Formation
West of Price, you’re thrust right into the Western end of the Book Cliffs: sandstone hills weathered into blocks and folds, like Mother Nature’s Mount Rushmore. Both imposing and magnificent, the formation runs about 240 miles from Grand Junction CO to Price-Helper UT.
Help Yourself in Helper UT
Helper, UT is 8 miles from Price. Named for the strong engines that “helped” larger train cars up the mountain to Soldier’s Summit, it was all but a ghost town a few years ago when window-only art galleries were trying, trying, like the Little Helper Engine That Could, to make a go of it in this mountain desert town. They succeeded! Helper UT is now considered a bonafide Art Colony, complete with a “First Friday Gallery Stroll.”
See the Wild-West WPA Mural in Helper UT Post Office
If the tiny post office is open, step inside to see a Wild-West WPA mural painted by one of two identical twin artists, Jenne and Ethel Magafan. From Colorado Springs, CO, Jenne won multiple commissions to render these historical portraits in public areas throughout the region.
Check Out the Western Mining and Railroad Museum, Helper
There’s lots of history here, mostly mining and train – and you can get a good taste of it by stopping into the chock-a-block Western Mining and Railroad Museum, situated in the former 1914 Helper Hotel.
Though exhibits seem to be all a’ jumble, it’s cool to wander around four floors of an old mining town hotel, peeking into different rooms, each with its own (mostly local interest) themes. There’s also a fascinating series of photographs of kids, some who don’t look more than 5 years old, donning miner’s hardhats and overalls, prior to the passing of the Child Labor Laws.
Grab a Bite at Balance Rock Eatery, Helper
Plan to have a meal or coffee at the contemporary Balance Rock Eatery, which wins raves for burgers, steaks and BBQ, but according to one testimonial, bent over backwards to please a slew of vegetarians from Hollywood who were in town shooting a movie.
Climb – By Car- to Soldier’s Summit On US Route 6 UT
West on US Route 6 UT out of Helper, the road constricts into a narrow canyon cut. It’s an hour – 60 miles- to Spanish Fork with lots of truck and recreational traffic. And it is indeed a stunning drive: up and up to Soldier’s Summit, elevation 7,477 ft. At the pinnacle, you’ll see one gas station, snow-capped mountains and a prevalent elevation sign.
Stop At One of the Busiest Non-Interstate Rest Areas in Utah
On the way down the hill, pull in to a great rest stop, the Tie Fork Rest Area, in Spanish Fork. According to its website, Tie Fork is “one of the most popular and busiest non-interstate rest areas in the state.” It’s part Train Round House Museum, part Visitor’s Center, part picnic area, and features the best clean toilets on this stretch of US Route 6 UT.
See the Remains of the Thistle Utah Landslide of 1983
Roughly 20 miles northwest, Route 6 joins with Route 89 in the ghost town of Thistle, UT. In April 1983, a hillside slammed into Thistle, taking streets, buildings and railroad tracks with it. This event rendered US Route 6 a non-contiguous transcontinental route from April to December of that year.
Due to the devastating landslide, Route 6 was rerouted and re-built within 8 months, but was not stable enough for officials to declare it safe for another 10 months. The highway now offers a pullout from which to view the aftermath of the disaster and resulting landscape, though nearly 30 years on, it just looks like part of the natural mountainside. Spanish Fork is 16 miles away.
Experience the Shock of Green After All That Brown
Rolling down from the transcendent Spanish Fork Canyon into a vast valley, all of a sudden….it’s Switzerland! Verdant hills surround you: a bit of a shock after all that sandstone and brown, brown, brown. This is the unmistakable approach into Spanish Fork – a “bedroom community” of Provo.
Taste Some of the Best Tart Cherries in the Country in Santaquin UT
Continue on US Route 6 Utah and it merges onto I-15. There’s no Route 6 sign indicating that you must go South on 15, but yes, you must; for 14 miles, anyway.
Bypassing Payson you peel off the thruway at Exit 244 in Santaquin-known as the second largest producer of tart cherries in the nation. For a taste and much more, take a 1 ½ mile detour to Rowley’s Red Barn. In addition to amazing tart cherry pies, some say it has the best ice cream in the state.
Instagram A 100 Year Old Sinclair Gas Station
From Santaquin, it’s a scenic 72 miles to Delta, UT through the fertile, green, farming towns of Goshen, the half-blink ghost town of Elberta (where an old Sinclair Station built in 1917 still stands), then up again into the old dusty mining hills where air and traffic thin considerably.
Learn All About Local Mining Riches at the Tintic Mining Museum, Eureka
Stop at the 20-mile point in the almost-ghost-town of Eureka, and into the Tintic Mining Museum. A king’s ransom of gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc was extracted from the surrounding hills. Over $600 million dollars worth.
No longer, as evidenced by the ruins of many mines and mills along your way. The museum showcases powerful photographs of miners beside thigh-wide veins of gold in rich strikes, as well as a dynamic bronze statue of a toiling miner that ought to be in the Smithsonian.
Hike or ATV on Thousands of Acres of Sand Dunes
Drive 18 miles further, and you’ll see a sign for “Little Sahara Sand Dunes” – which gives you an idea of the landscape here. If you’re into ATVing – this part of our country is a top destination for dune and desert riding. Little Sahara Recreation Area contains 60,000 acres of sagebrush, juniper covered hills and moving sand dunes. If you’re so inclined, you can ATV there or just hike the dunes.
Discover Valuable Minerals at the Great Basin Museum in Delta UT
Delta is in the “basin” portion of the West – formerly covered by water – and so rock-hounds from all over the world come to dig for trilobites and other ancient sea animals found in profusion around here.
Visit the Great Basin Museum, which houses a goodly number of these rocks, minerals and a nice grouping of fossils found in the area. You’re in the only area in the world that contains mineable quantities of Berylium – stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum – so be sure to ask to see a nugget of the stuff.
See the Remains of A Japanese Internment Camp at the Topaz Museum, Delta
The Topaz Museum, established 2015, reveals a dark era in our nation’s past. “Camp Topaz,” a WWII “Relocation” Center, imprisoned about 8,000-10,000 US Citizens of Japanese Ancestry from the San Francisco area. This dreary place, one of many such Internment Camps in the west, was located about 15 miles from Delta, and the museum provides maps to get there.
Cool Off in the Nicest Swimming Pool in Utah at Days Inn Delta
You’ll want to stay at the Days Inn Delta if only for the sublimely landscaped crystal-clear pool. Rooms are dated and spartan, but the hotel offers complimentary breakfast and it is truly bliss to take a dip on a glorious hot evening after a day on the dusty trail.
For dinner, walk next door to the Mi Rancherito Mexican Restaurant. The food is good – served by friendly wait staff in a cheerful diner-like room.
Hunt for Million Year Old Trilobites 56 Miles From Delta UT
Ely NV, the next town of any significance, is 151 miles west on US Route 6. If you assume this drive to be sandy desert, lots of rocks, bleached animal skulls by the road – you know – the big bad Western Desert, you’ll be surprised.
First of all, there’s lots of green. Of course, the green is mostly sagebrush, but some is farmland. Once a sea floor during the Cambrian Period, the Antelope Springs area is so rich in rocks and fossils, they’re just lying around for you to find. If you know where to look.
About 36 miles west of Delta on US Route 6, you’ll see a sign for the “U-Dig Fossils, 20 miles.” If you’d like to spend a few hours hunting for one million year old arthropod fossils called trilobites, by all means take the cutoff.
Enjoy the Hypnotic Drive Through Basin and Range on US Route 6 UT
Route 6 from Delta to Ely, NV runs through a succession of valleys and mountains (basins and ranges). On this relentless stretch of the highway, it can seem as if you’re the only person on earth; that is until you see a pumpkin-orange garbage can near a gravel pullout.
Curling up, around and down through the mountains – you can almost feel the geologic energy responsible for much of the rock outcroppings here. US Route 6 Utah snakes around boulders and through chiseled road cuts – excellent spurts of driving. As soon as you crest the first hill, you’ll view snowcapped mountains ahead. From this vantage point, it seems that the mountains go on to infinity.