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15 Best Things to Do in Hanksville, Utah

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After three visits to Hanksville, Tim and I are still shocked by how much there is to do in this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sized town in southern Utah!

From the Blue Valley to the San Rafael Swell, Hanksville and its vicinity are a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. Dramatic sandstone formations, narrow slot canyons, expansive desert vistas, and rich history characterize this region. It’s a paradise for hikers, campers, and adventurers looking to explore off the beaten path.

We first visited Hanksville somewhat randomly. We just happened to be driving through on our way to Moab from Cedar City when we saw the majestic Factory Butte standing tall over the landscape. This was enough to pique our interest, so we decided to come back for a deeper visit to the area.

We’ve had the chance to explore the best of Hanksville on our Utah travels, and this landscape is truly mindboggling! I’m so excited to share these 15 best things to do in Hanksville with you!

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.

Blue, purple, and pink stripes of the bentonite hills in Utah
Bentonite Hills

Best Things to Do in Hanksville At-A-Glance

  1. Bentonite Hills
  2. Factory Butte
  3. Swing Arm City
  4. Moonscape Overlook
  5. Long Dong Silver
  6. Capitol Reef National Park
  7. Goblin Valley State Park
  8. Hanksville – Burpee Dinosaur Quarry
  9. Little Wild Horse Canyon
  10. Henry Mountains
  11. Caineville Mesa
  12. Hollow Mountain
  13. Leprechaun Canyon
  14. Little Egypt Geologic Site
  15. Horseshoe Canyon

Map of the Best Things to Do in Hanksville

15 Best Things To Do in Hanksville

1. Bentonite Hills

The Bentonite Hills, also known as Utah’s Rainbow Mountains, are vibrant geological formations located near Hanksville, Utah.

These hills are characterized by their striking, multicolored layers of bentonite clay, which is composed primarily of montmorillonite, a mineral formed from volcanic ash deposits over thousands to millions of years.

The hills exhibit a range of colors from reds and purples to blues and grays, creating an otherworldly landscape that is often compared to the surface of Mars.

Tip: Visit during golden and blue hours for the best colors! Avoid going midday when the harsh lighting washes out the rainbow effect.

Fun Fact: The landscape of the Bentonite Hills so strongly mirrors that of Mars that scientists created the Mars Desert Research Station here!

>>> Read More about How to Visit the Bentonite Hills

Tim, Sarah and their van on Cow Dung Road near the Mars Desert Research Station and Bentonite Hills, Utah

2. Factory Butte

Factory Butte, a towering monolith in southern Utah’s Caineville Badlands, is a must-visit destination in Hanksville. In fact, just driving down Highway 24, you literally cannot miss it!

This 6,302-foot peak, often dubbed the “World’s Greatest Sand Castle,” is easily accessible from Highway 24, just 40 minutes east of Capitol Reef National Park.

Comprising mainly of Mancos Shale, Factory Butte showcases a unique landscape of Emery sandstone, Blue Gate shale, and Ferron sandstone remnants, offering a visual feast for explorers.

>>> Read More about Visiting Factory Butte

3. Swing Arm City

Swing Arm City is an OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) open area located near Factory Butte in southern Utah’s Caineville Badlands.

Spanning approximately 2,600 acres, Swing Arm City offers thrilling hill climbs suitable for both beginners and seasoned riders. It’s a popular destination for off-roading enthusiasts, providing opportunities for adrenaline-fueled adventures in a stunning desert landscape.

Factory Butte OHV area
Factory Butte OHV Area and Swing Arm City

4. Moonscape Overlook

Moonscape Overlook, also known as the Skyline Rim Overlook, offers a breathtaking view of Utah’s Blue Valley, resembling a lunar landscape just east of Capitol Reef National Park.

Tim and Sarah at Moonscape Overlook at Sunrise with a pink sky against the rock formations

Accessible via Coal Mine Road off Utah State Route 24, this Instagram-famous spot boasts a unique geological viewpoint akin to the surface of another world.

Visitors can camp overnight for an immersive experience, capturing stunning sunrise and sunset views amidst the rugged desert terrain, providing an unforgettable adventure in Utah’s mesmerizing landscape.

>>> Read More about How to Visit Moonscape Overlook

5. Hike to Long Dong Silver (The Dark Spire)

Yes, it’s really called that! Long Dong Silver, also called the Dark Spire, is a needle-like tower standing tall over the Blue Valley. Hiking here feels like walking on another planet. There isn’t an official parking lot for the hike, but the best place to start is 7 miles west of Hanksville on Highway 24. It can be a bit tricky to find, but lucky for you, we have a post with everything you need to know about hiking to Long Dong Silver.

Because it is so difficult to find, it’s unlikely you’ll see many other hikers there during your visit. Exploring this vast landscape with not another soul in sight had us wondering if we really were walking on the moon.

There is absolutely zero shade on this hike, so be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen. Also, I don’t recommend hiking here in the summer – it’s crazy hot!

>>>Read more about hiking to Long Dong Silver here.

6. Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is Utah’s least visited and most underrated national park. And, it’s only 45 minutes west of Hanksville.

The park’s most striking feature is the Waterpocket Fold, a nearly 100-mile-long monocline—a type of fold in the Earth’s crust—that formed between 50 and 70 million years ago.

The Waterpocket Fold is essentially a wrinkle in the Earth’s crust, where layers of rock have been pushed up on one side and dropped on the other. This geological feature creates a dramatic and rugged landscape that includes cliffs, canyons, domes, and natural bridges. The term “waterpocket” refers to the many depressions in the rock that collect water, which is a distinctive characteristic of the Fold.

Here are some of our favorite adventures in Capitol Reef National Park:

>>> Here are 35 more things to see and do in Capitol Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef National Park charges an entrance fee of $20 per vehicle. If you plan on visiting 3 or more national parks in a 12 month period, we recommend buying an America the Beautiful Pass (aka National Parks Pass).

 >>> Buy your National Parks Pass from REI here

Save Money at National Parks

Get a National Parks Pass

Entry to all US national parks at no additional cost for 12 months

America The Beautiful National Parks Pass at REI

7. Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park, part of the San Rafeal Swell, is one of the most surreal landscapes we’ve ever seen. The valley is dotted with thousands of short and stout hoodoos, making it look like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.

You can hike as much or as little as you want here. If you want a longer hike, we recommend the Goblin’s Lair, but you don’t need to hike at all to enjoy Goblin Valley. The main overlook in the park, Observation Point, is located right in the parking lot.

We recommend visiting for sunrise and exploring Valley 1, which is the immediate valley down the stairs from Observation Point.

Goblin Valley State Park charges an entrance fee of $20 per vehicle.

8. Hanksville – Burpee Dinosaur Quarry

The Burpee Dinosaur Quarry is a dinosaur lover’s dream come true, because you have the opportunity to observe and even participate in a real-life excavation at the dig site near Hanksville.

Participating in an excavation starts at $300 per day. We recommend calling the Burpee Museum of Natural History, which manages the quarry, to plan your visit.

Note that the Museum itself is NOT in Hanksville. The Burpee Museum is actually located in Rockford, Illinois.

9. Little Wild Horse Canyon

Another cool spot in the San Rafael Swell is Little Wild Horse Canyon. This hike leads through one of the most popular and accessible slot canyons in the San Rafael Swell.

Slot canyons are narrow, winding canyons, and there’s something about squeezing your way through small spaces that makes a hike feel extra fun and adventurous.

This particular hike is also a great choice for families with kids since it’s suitable for hikers of all ages and experience levels.

Note: The AllTrails for this hike features a full 8-mile loop, but you can hike just into Little Wild Horse Canyon and turn around back the way you came for an easy hike.

IMPORTANT: If there is even the slightest hint of rain in the forecast, do not go in this slot canyon or any other due to risk of deadly flash floods!

10. Explore the Henry Mountains

The Henry Mountains, located about an hour south of Hanksville, are one of the most remote and least explored mountain ranges in the continental United States. Known for their rugged beauty, rich history, and unique geology, these mountains offer hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and off-roading.

NOTE: We recommend high-clearance, 4WD vehiclesfor many of the unpaved roads.

One of the highlights of a trip to the Henry Mountains is seeing Mount Ellen. The highest peak in the Henry Mountains, Mount Ellen rises to 11,522 feet. The challenging 5.6 mile hike to the summit offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding desert and other mountain ranges.

11. Caineville Mesa

Caineville Mesa, located near the small town of Caineville 18 miles west of Hanksville, is a striking geological feature known for its dramatic, otherworldly landscapes.

The mesa is visible from the highway, and various dirt roads provide access to its base and surrounding areas. High-clearance, 4WD vehicles are recommended for exploring the mesa itself.

To be honest, there’s not much to do at the mesa itself, but it is technically possible to hike to the top of Caineville Mesa on the South Caineville Mesa trail. However, this isn’t an official trail, and some hikers have said this trail goes onto private property. We haven’t done it ourselves, so if you end up doing this, let us know what you thought!

12. Shop in a Rock at Hollow Mountain

Quite possibly the world’s most unique gas station and convenience shop, Hollow Mountain is a quirky roadside minimart built into the rock!

This convenience store is carved directly into the sandstone cliff, offering visitors a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Fun fact: It took 100 cases of dynamite to carve out space in the rock for the store in 1984.

Hollow Mountain is conveniently situated on State Route 24 in Hanksville, making it an easy stop for anyone passing through the area. From Hanksville, simply follow SR-24, and you’ll see the store carved into the cliff on the north side of the road. It’s hard to miss!

13. Leprechaun Canyon

A mere 30 minutes south of Hanksville is Leprechaun Canyon, a beautiful slot canyon with hiking options for casual hikers and technical climbers alike.

If you don’t have technical climbing gear and experience, just hike as far as the fork in the canyon. You’ll be walking on sandy terrain in a narrow slot canyon and won’t need any technical equipment up to that point.

If you are an experienced canyoneer with technical gear, you can explore deeper into Leprechaun Canyon.

14. Little Egypt Geologic Site

Little Egypt Geologic Site, just 20 miles south of Hanksville, is a captivating area filled with whimsical rock formations reminiscent of the famous Goblin Valley State Park but with fewer visitors. This hidden gem offers a unique landscape of eroded sandstone hoodoos, balanced rocks, and intriguing geological features that make for excellent exploration and photography.

Tip: Look for the Torch, a tall spire-like hoodoo that resembles an Olympic torch!

15. Horseshoe Canyon

An hour and 15 minutes east of Hanksville leads to Horseshoe Canyon, one of the least-visited and most fascinating areas of Canyonlands National Park. Horseshoe Canyon is renowned for its stunning rock art panels, including the famous Great Gallery.

A high-clearance, 4WD vehicle is recommended, especially in wet weather conditions, as the roads can become muddy and difficult to navigate.

The main attraction of Horseshoe Canyon is the Great Gallery, one of the most impressive and well-preserved rock art panels in North America. It features life-sized, ghostly human figures, some over 7 feet tall, and various intricate designs believed to be created by the Archaic people around 2000-1000 BC.

How to Get to Hanksville Utah

In order to get to Hanksville, Utah, I recommend flying into Salt Lake City, Grand Junction, St. George, or Las Vegas. Search flights below or click here!

You will need to rent a car from the airport and drive to Hanksville, since it’s in a remote location in Southern Utah’s vast badlands! Search Rental Cars below!

Driving Directions to Hanksville

From Salt Lake City, Utah

  1. By Car:
    • Head south on I-15 S.
    • Take exit 188 for US-6 E toward Price.
    • Merge onto US-6 E and continue to follow US-6 E.
    • Merge onto I-70 E.
    • Take exit 149 for UT-24 toward Hanksville.
    • Turn right onto UT-24 E and follow it to Hanksville.
    • Total Distance: Approximately 220 miles
    • Total Time: About 3.5 to 4 hours
  2. By Air:
    • Fly into Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).
    • Rent a car and follow the driving directions above.

From Grand Junction, Colorado

  1. By Car:
    • Head west on I-70 W.
    • Take exit 149 for UT-24 toward Hanksville.
    • Turn left onto UT-24 E and follow it to Hanksville.
    • Total Distance: Approximately 150 miles
    • Total Time: About 2.5 to 3 hours

From Las Vegas, Nevada

  1. By Car:
    • Head north on I-15 N.
    • Take exit 132 for UT-20 E.
    • Continue on UT-20 E to US-89 N.
    • Follow US-89 N to UT-62 E, then to UT-24 E.
    • Continue on UT-24 E to Hanksville.
    • Total Distance: Approximately 350 miles
    • Total Time: About 5.5 to 6 hours

From St. George, Utah

  1. By Car:
    • Head north on I-15 N.
    • Take exit 132 for UT-20 E.
    • Continue on UT-20 E to US-89 N.
    • Follow US-89 N to UT-62 E, then to UT-24 E.
    • Continue on UT-24 E to Hanksville.
    • Total Distance: Approximately 300 miles
    • Total Time: About 5 to 5.5 hours

From Moab, Utah

  1. By Car:
    • Head west on US-191 N.
    • Turn left onto UT-24 W and follow it to Hanksville.
    • Total Distance: Approximately 110 miles
    • Total Time: About 2 to 2.5 hours

The Best Time to Visit Hanksville

The best time to visit Hanksville, Utah, is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October). During these periods, the weather is mild, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploration. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect each season:

Spring (April to June)

Weather: Springtime in Hanksville features pleasant temperatures, typically ranging from 60°F to 80°F during the day and cooler nights. Spring also sees blooming wildflowers, adding a splash of color to the desert landscape.


  • Comfortable temperatures for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
  • Fewer tourists compared to the peak summer season.
  • Wildflower blooms enhance the natural beauty of the area.


  • Spring rains can sometimes affect road conditions, especially dirt roads leading to remote sites like Horseshoe Canyon and Little Egypt Geologic Site.

Fall (September to October)

Weather: Fall offers similarly mild temperatures to spring, with daytime highs usually between 65°F and 75°F. The nights start to get cooler, making it comfortable for camping.


  • Ideal temperatures for exploring the region’s numerous natural attractions.
  • Clear skies and vibrant autumn colors in certain areas.
  • Less crowded than summer months, providing a more serene experience.


  • Shorter daylight hours as the season progresses.
  • Potential for sudden weather changes, so always check the forecast before heading out.

Summer (June to August)

Weather: Summer in Hanksville can be extremely hot, with daytime temperatures often exceeding 90°F and occasionally reaching over 100°F. Nights remain warm but can be more bearable.


  • Long daylight hours for extended exploration.
  • Popular time for family vacations and road trips.


  • Intense heat can make outdoor activities challenging and potentially dangerous without proper precautions.
  • Higher number of tourists, particularly in popular national parks and attractions.
  • Monsoon season (late July to August) can bring sudden thunderstorms and flash floods, particularly in slot canyons and washes.

Winter (November to March)

Weather: Winters are cold, with daytime highs ranging from 30°F to 50°F and nighttime lows often dropping below freezing. Snow is possible but not common.


  • Solitude and fewer visitors, offering a peaceful experience.
  • Cool weather can be perfect for those who prefer brisk conditions.


  • Cold temperatures and shorter days can limit some activities.
  • Some roads and trails may be inaccessible due to snow or mud.

Where to Stay In and Near Hanksville


Hanksville has limited accommodations, but there is a unique dome VRBO, located just 10 minutes away.


Caineville is another town near Hanksville.

The Cathedral Valley Inn is a great value, features views of the North Caineville Mesa, and is conveniently located between Long Dong Silver 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 about 45 minutes from Hanksville. 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!

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