Undiscovered Southern Utah: Orderville, Torrey, Boulder, Elephant and more
Written by Becky
I’m an adventurer at heart. I thrive in sketchy, unfamiliar places situations and unexplored territories. I recently took a road trip with my husband and some of our closest friends to some of the more remote areas of Southern Utah in hopes of an adventure and returned with plenty of memories and blog-worthy stories.
Our friends, being Utah locals for a few decades, knew of some great small towns and lesser-known state parks for us to visit. We planned little for the trip with just a few goals in mind: find a ghost town, run along pink sand dunes, catch a good hike, enjoy a dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grille, and visit Orderville (a long standing joke between all four of us to visit this random small town that originated as an area designed for communal living established by Brigham Young, leader of the Latter-day Saints Religion).
Here is how our trip itinerary unfolded: Day 1 leave SLC around 2pm I15 to Cove Fort (got the royal tour as well as insider secrets about this old Mormon Fort) Exit 95 to Panguitch Dinner at Henrie’s Drive In, home of the Chubby Hwy 20 to Hwy 89 Check out small towns- Hatch, Glendale, and Orderville, home of the Ho-Made Pies (stop at Valley High School in Orderville to check out the spray painted mountain-side) Hwy 89 to Coral Pink Sandunes, arrive at dusk and camp ($16)
Day 3 Enter Capital Reef National Park (free) Tour Fruita, technically a ghost town although now run by the state Grab a scone and fresh jam at Fruita Museum Stop at orchards to pick your own fruit Daring drive past Capital Reef towards Caineville, stop in Elephant, for fresh bread and fromage blanc cheese plus interesting conversation about Utah outlaws with the store owner of Luna Mesa Oasis Turn around to Torry for lunch, Slacker’s Burger Joint Head back to SLC
I can’t speak enough of how beautiful this trip was. We arrived at the sand dunes just before sunset when the rays of the sun created a bright and almost unnatural pink color across the landscape. It was breathtaking. The other stunningly gorgeous moment was our drive from Boulder to Torrey along Hwy 12. As we drove, we had no idea that this was rated as one of the top ten highways in America. And I can’t forget to mention our hike at Calf Creek, ending at the most stunning waterfall encircled in a small cove, totally isolated from everything but the natural beauty of the falls.
Our most random moment occurred in Elephant, Utah. What? You’ve never heard of Elephant? Well that’s probably because it’s not on the maps and probably only occupied by two people and a few goats. This was as close as we got to a ghost town on our trip. We were thirsty and lost trying to find Caineville, UT (listed on ghosttowns.com) until we found a little café. Literally, miles of nothing, then all of the sudden a little café with a sign outside which said, “espresso, fresh salad and bread.” We stopped in to find out we weren’t in Cainville. We were in Elephant, a town of outlaws and goat’s milk.
The owner of the Café and longtime resident of Elephant, told us that even the strongest of Pioneers didn’t survive this part of the state. Only the outlaws remain. He explained that the area of Caineville and Elephant is not really ghost town worthy because most of the buildings and homes were no longer standing. He and his wife were pretty much the only thing standing in the area. We enjoyed a strong cup of coffee and a rustic rye bread, which we dipped into his goat cheese mixed with homemade cherry jam – probably the best and most unexpected treat of the trip.
Some noteworthy food experiences of our trip:
Burgers at Slackers, Torrey, UT
Homemade biscuits and dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill, Boulder, UT
Caramel shakes at Henrie’s Drive In, Panguitch, UT Fromage blanc cheese and homemade rye bread in Elephant, UT
Foodie Recommendations for the Southern Area of Utah: