Updated: Aug 11
There are plenty of neat places to check out on Route 9 and beyond in Utah, Route 9 is just 2 hours away from Vegas, and easy to get to. Most of the drive is on Interstate Here 15. Here are some things I thought were great to do, Some are just roadside stops, free things, some hiking and some you pay for.
+Sinclair Dinosaurs, look for that cute little Brontosaurus, they are everywhere out west. It's just a neat statue of a dinosaurs outside the SInclair gas station. There are over 2,000 of these gas stations out west. So, you don't have to stop at just the one on route 9. They are a cute attraction so you should stop and get your picture with the dinosaurs.
*Hurricane Mesa Test Propulsion Site and Historical marker. The first roadside stop after passing through the town of La Verkin. Check out the historical marker, it is real neat piece of American history, The landscape starts to turn absolutely beautiful from here on out. This place is definitely worth the roadside stop to learn about it and take in the views.
*Fort Zion in Virgin Utah, A fake old west town. *******Note Please continue to read, but shops and petting zoo are currently closed. (Still stop and take pictures for free)******** You can stop and take pictures for free but for a dollar you can enter main street and take pictures of the building close up. Bank, hotel and prison and the sheriffs office. There is a gift shop that would remind you of a old time trading post.
A saloon restaurant where you can buy some burgers made from jackalope and rattlesnake. But if you are looking for something less exotic, its there also. The favorite site in the saloon is an old self playing piano. There is also a petting zoo on the premise, feed the llamas, donkeys and other animal's carrots that are 3 for a $1.
Kolob and Mesa Roads
Near Fort Zion, actually right before it is Mesa road. This is something I have not done but have heard that its beautiful and gives you an amazing look at Zion from the outside. One of the main reasons I have not done it is anxiety. At times some of the 4 roads I mention are dirt but maintained, narrow and steep and don't have guardrails, especially the farther up you go and turn onto other roads. I feel like since part of Route 9 in Zion raises my anxiety, these roads will put me over the limit. (Read below about Zion-Mount Caramel road) So if you are anything like me find someone you can trust to drive, and check it out. I am hoping to on my next Vegas trip, where I will be spending several days up here in Utah.
Mesa Rd turns into Smith Mesa Rd., then turns into Kolob Terrace Rd which will bring you right back out to Virgin Utah, just up the road by about a mile or 2. Now instead of going back down the mountain when you leave Smith Mesa Rd to Kolob Terrace, if you turn left and go North Kolob Terrace Rd, will take you deeper into Zion area where you will have access to Lava Point road where there is a lookout and will lead you in the direction of the Zion West Rim Trail (difficult only b/c its 16 miles long and descends 1,700 feet as you go). Hike part of it and turn back when ready. If you are anything like you have no business hiking 16 miles. lol. Here is picture of one of the views from the trail.
If you don't turn off onto Lava Point you will stay on Kolob Terrace road, it will eventually take you to Kolob Reservoir. Be aware Lava Point tends to be closed in the winter, so please double check before trying to go.
Are you interested in a real Ghost town, that has been abandoned twice. After you leave Fort Zion or finished the dirt road drive of Mesa and Kolob, keep traveling on route 9 look for Bridge Rd after you pass the town of Rockville. This road is actually at the beginning edge of Springdale. Take a right, you will cross a bridge over the Virgin River and look for a sign that says Grafton. There is only 1 fork in the road so if you see the sign, you know you are going the right way. All in all it is less then 2 miles from Route 9. There isn't a visitor center or an entrance fee, but there are buildings still there where 6 have been restored. Be sure to look at the cemetery that is located on this site, it is interesting to see of these old graves from the 1800's, that are mostly Mormon or Native American Graves. Why did it become a ghost town? Not only once but twice? It was abandoned in 1866 because of the Massacre of Mormons by the Navajo Bandits. Just a few years later people started moving back into the area for farming, but as Springdale, Rockville, and Virgin towns grew it lured the people away from Grafton and it became a Ghost town again.
*Field of Dreams house, about a half mile past Bridge Rd on route 9. Take a quick glance, it looks like a doll house. lol. You can stay there it is a Bed and Breakfast. There are several Bed and Breakfasts in the area, just be sure to book in advance b/c things get booked early.
*Springdale UT, the beginning of Zion. This is where in the summer you will have to park and take shuttles into Zion, but since we are not touring Zion in this post, we will be paying out entrance fee to Zion, and continuing our drive on Route 9. The entrance to Zion is at the far edge of Springdale. There are plenty of shops and places to stay in Springdale, just be aware that if planning spring or summer trips, make reservations well in advance to this area b/c places get booked up early.
*Drive the Zion-Mount Caramel Highway. The beginning of this drive is a bit overwhelming, climbing the mountain with lots of sharp turns. It definitely had my anxiety going. Once you get to the top and start going it gets better, but if it is snowing, I would avoid at all costs. Keep a watch on the weather and website to make sure there isn't any road closures. There are neat things to see on this road and it is very scenic, so it is a must. This road will take you to Kanab, Bryce Mountain, and Grand Canyon North Rim (which usually can't be accessed in winter).
*Drive through the Mount Caramel Tunnel and immediately on right is the parking lot that gives you access to a trail called Canyon Overlook, which is breathtaking. No shuttle service here, you must drive, and parking is limited. The trail is considered moderate and has some elevation gain. There are uneven surfaces and exposed ledges, but railing is up for safety in some areas. You will even get to walk through a tiny cave. It will take about an hour to do this 1 mile hike. From the parking lot for Canyon Overlook, you can also access the upper end of a slot canyon, by walking down the sandy banks at the far side of the parking lot. Check it out, so you can see the canyon, but to actually do the whole hike, you must be experienced b/c it is extremely difficult with rope climbs and repelling that will have to be done. In another post called route 9, I will be giving you more things to see and do in the area, and not all hiking related.
+Fat Mans Misery, trail accessed from parking at Checkboard Mesa. This trail will also lead you to slot canyons, and parts of trail are easy, and you can see water features, canyons, frogs, and a waterfall, it just gets more difficult as you go. Turn back when it starts to get more difficult, unless you are prepared for the difficult adventure with rope climbs,
*After you have done all this, you will have definitely used up all day or maybe 2 days depending on how much you hike. But Route 9 continues on for a little bit longer, although the views will not be as striking. One last spot to see something amazing tis the Ponderosa Ranch and Resort on North Fork Country Road, there is a trail that will take you to Zion Observation Point, which will give you an entire view of Zion.
*Zion Observation Point. After you have done all this, you will have definitely used up all day or maybe 2 days depending on how much you hike. But Route 9 continues on for a little bit longer, although the views will not be as striking. One last spot to see something amazing is the Ponderosa Ranch and Resort on North Fork Country Road, there is a trail that will take you to Zion Observation Point, which will give you an entire view of Zion. It is a little over a mile long and considered moderate.
*Continue to the end of Route 9 to Mount Caramel Junction, This is when you decide where your journey will go from here. North on Route 89 to Orderville, (which has neat slot canyons to hike) and then continue on to Bryce National Park. After spending another day or 2 in this area and Bryce, jump on Interstate 15 South and head back to Vegas to get your gambling fix. Or go south on Route 89 to Kanab to jump on route 89A to the Northern Rim of Grand Canyon, You could also stay on 89 past Kanab and go on to Page AZ to tour the rest of the Southwest.
Hope you have enjoyed this little road trip on route 9 in Utah. If you decide you would like more info on this little section of the word reach out to me and I can help you out.