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How to Visit Factory Butte

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Last Updated on May 18, 2024 by Sarah Puckett

If you’re planning a Utah road trip, you need to visit Factory Butte! This monolith stands 1,000 feet over the desert floor of the Upper Blue Hills just an hour east of Capitol Reef National Park.

If you are driving between Capitol Reef National Park and Moab, you will literally drive right by Factory Butte. Given its proximity to Utah Highway 24, it’s worth a visit whether you are interested in adrenaline-inducing OHV adventures or more soothing photography opportunities.

Tim and I have visited Factory Butte several times on our southwest road trips, usually on our way to and from Utah’s national parks. This guide to covers everything you need to know, whether you are stopping for a quick visit or looking for an all-day adventure!

Factory Butte in Hanksville, Utah

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

What is Factory Butte?

Factory Butte is a 6,302-foot peak in southern Utah standing prominently above the Caineville Badlands along Utah Highway 24, just 40 minutes east of Capitol Reef National Park.

The towering monolith has been described as the “World’s Greatest Sand Castle” and looking at it, the formation really does resemble a giant sand castle!

Factory Butte, Utah
Factory Butte, Utah

Factory Butte Geology

How did Factory Butte form? I wondered the same thing!

You might think at first glance that this massive formation is manmade, but nope, this monolith is all natural! Like many rock formations, we have erosion to thank!

Factory Butte, nestled within the Upper Blue Hills, boasts a fascinating geological makeup that sets it apart. Unlike many parts of the Colorado Plateau, the rocks here mainly belong to the relatively newer Mancos Shale formation.

Picture this: atop the buttes and mesas, sturdy Emery sandstone stands tall, shielding the underlying Blue Gate shale. This shale, known for its barrenness, creates those striking bluish badlands you see along the highways near Hanksville.

But it’s not just about the big picture. As you explore closer, you’ll encounter a landscape sculpted by time, with eroded sandstone and shale formations revealing hoodoos and small arches. These are remnants of the underlying Ferron sandstone, which also holds pockets of coal, some thick enough to catch your eye.

Factory Butte, Utah
Factory Butte, Utah

How to Get to Factory Butte

To reach Factory Butte, start your journey by taking Highway 24 from Hanksville towards Capitol Reef.

You can access Highway 24 from Salt Lake City or Moab via I-70. From Moab, the drive is a mere two hours, but if you’re coming from SLC, expect it to take about four hours.

After traveling approximately eleven miles on Highway 24, make a right turn onto Coal Mine Road. This unpaved dirt road winds its way around the Butte and leads northward, and it’s easily accessible by any vehicle in dry conditions.

Map of Factory Butte

Map via BLM

What to Do at Factory Butte


Explore the exhilarating terrain of three OHV open areas in the Factory Butte Recreation Area – Swing Arm City, Factory Butte, and Caineville Cove – spanning approximately 8,000 acres, ideal for motorized cross-country adventures. While these areas offer thrilling opportunities for off-road enthusiasts, all other motorized activities in the vicinity are confined to designated routes, ensuring the preservation of the natural landscape while still providing ample opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Swing Arm City

The Swing Arm City OHV Open Area spans 2,600 acres, boasting thrilling hill-climbs suitable for both beginners and seasoned riders. This accessible area offers an adrenaline-fueled adventure for all levels of expertise.

Factory Butte OHV Open Area

For those craving wide-open spaces and long-distance riding opportunities, the expansive 5,300-acre Factory Butte OHV Open Area beckons. Accessible from Factory Bench Road on the eastern boundary, riders can enjoy the freedom of motorized cross-country travel. While the area remains open, visitors may stumble upon developed trails frequently used by fellow adventurers, adding an element of exploration to their journey around the Butte.

Caineville Cove

Caineville Cove OHV Open Area, spanning approximately 100 acres, provides a more relaxed atmosphere behind the Motel, catering primarily to low-adrenaline youth riding and bike warm-ups.

Need to rent an off-road vehicle or want to explore by OHV tour? Check out Hanksville Tours.

Factory Butte OHV area


Camp freely wherever your truck stops in the OHV areas for an immersive boondocking experience. Dispersed camping is allowed within 150 feet of designated routes outside the open areas. Plus, there’s a vault toilet facility on Factory Bench Road for added convenience.


Factory Butte is a photographer’s dream subject. Not only does it have an array of shapes and textures, but its appearance changes dramatically throughout the day as the sun casts its light at different angles.

The best time to photograph the Butte is undoubtedly sunrise or sunset, as this is when the light is ideal. Whether it’s capturing the morning glow or the sun setting behind the Butte, both sunrise and sunset offer incredible photo opportunities.

That said, the formation is also a beautiful site to photograph in midday. Because of the ever-changing constellation of shadows and colors, your photos will look completely different every time.

Wildflower Viewing

Experience a mesmerizing spectacle of nature at Factory Butte in the spring, where vibrant wildflowers burst into bloom. Tourists flock to this picturesque spot to capture the beauty of desert flowers and blooming cacti, turning the landscape into a canvas of colors and textures.

Factory Butte with spring wildflowers
Photo Credit: Mark Cromwell via BLM

Important: It is a federal crime to remove or damage endangered plant species! Violaters are subject to a $50,000 fine and a year in prison.


After parking, you can hike freely across the badlands to get closer to Factory Butte and explore. That said, this is not a great hiking destination, as there are no hiking trails here per se.

It’s also worth noting that you can drive to the base of the butte. Still, a hike across the badlands can be an exciting adventure! Just be sure to wear a hat, bring sunscreen, and carry plenty of water.

One last note: do NOT attempt to hike up Factory Butte. The route is for serious rock climbers only!


While it is technically possible to climb to the top of Factory Butte, you should only try it if you are an experienced rock climber and boulderer. The challenging terrain and steep drop-offs make Factory Butte a dangerous climb.

Places to Stay Near Factory Butte


Hanksville is the closest town, but has limited accommodations.

Check out this unique dome VRBO, located just 25 minutes from away.


Caineville is another town nearby, and like Hanksville, it is quite small and has few options. But, it’s only 30 minutes away.

The Cathedral Valley Inn is a great value, features views of the North Caineville Mesa, and is conveniently located between Factory Butte and Capitol Reef National Park.


Torrey has the most options for accommodations and is a great base if your Utah trip includes Capitol Reef National Park. On the downside, it is an hour from Factory Butte. Still, it will have the most amenities and is a great base for exploring Capitol Reef and other destinations along Utah Route 24 like Lower Calf Creek Falls and Escalante.

Use the map below to search for hotels in Torrey, Utah!

Best Time to Visit Factory Butte

The prime times to explore Factory Butte are late spring and fall, roughly April to May and late September to early November. The weather’s just right then, usually in the 70s (low 20s C). Keep an eye out for wildflowers in spring, although they’re not guaranteed—it all depends on the rainfall from the year before.

Summers, from June to August, can get scorching hot, with temperatures climbing into the upper 90s (35 C). It’s bone-dry and sunny most of the time, with thunderstorms rolling in during the afternoons.

Winters in Hanksville are fairly mild.

For the best views, aim for sunrise or sunset. The way the sunlight hits the formations creates dramatic shadows and effects, especially for photos.

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