fantasy canyon utah

Fantasy Canyon, Utah: A Surreal Natural Landscape… Under the Wide Open Sky!

August 18, 2022 /

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

We at Travel-USA know well that a month would not be enough to explore all the beautiful places in Utah! Today I want to tell you about Fantasy Canyon, a special place that is rarely featured on itineraries of the Southwest. Perhaps you have already fallen in love with this place after seeing the cover picture, and you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of it. Just like a fantastic place, this canyon is a little far from the main tourist routes.

The problem is that its geographical position puts it in a location that is not at all strategic for those who want to do a classic tour of the parks, even for those who have decided to focus on the fantastic Utah Mighty Five. But let’s take a closer look at Fantasy Canyon, so that you can see where it is located on a map and have a basic understanding of how to get there and what to expect.

What is Fantasy Canyon?

fantasy canyon Vernal Fantasy Canyon covers a small area of the Uinta Basin, a semi-arid territory located between Colorado and Utah that is generally devoid of other nature attractions. The sandstone in Fantasy Canyon is mostly gray and brown. Sure, the canyon may not have the vivid red colors of other Southwest parks, but it does have some truly unique rock shapes that we would expect in a painting by Dali or in a sculpture by Boccioni. Here you’ll find strange clusters of soft or sharp rocks stacked one on top of the other, almost as if they were shoulder blades and other sandstone bones stacked horizontally in a creative and very irregular way.

Some “rock monuments” have amorphous and surreal profiles (one of them is the so-called Teapot but recently it has been damaged), others stick out vertically like pinnacles and unstable columns. One of the few U.S. landscapes that resemble this canyon is Bisti De-Na-Zin in New Mexico. Walking inside this canyon is a surprising and very unique experience. However, one should take great caution in order to protect this landscape, since the rocks are extremely fragile.

Where is Fantasy Canyon?

where is fantasy canyon Fantasy Canyon is located in Northeastern Utah, one hour south of Vernal, a reference point also for those visiting Flaming Gorge and Dinosaur National Monument. When you look at a map, you can see that we are not far from the border with Wyoming. In fact, it is very likely that you will pass through here if you are on a road trip in the West that includes Yellowstone If you’re coming from the north and you’re going from Vernal to Moab – whether you’re coming from Colorado (via CO-139 S and I-70 W) or Utah (via US-191 S) – you’ll have to plan at least 2 additional hours to take the detour to see Fantasy Canyon (including the visit to the canyon).

How Do You Get There?

Starting in Vernal, follow UT-45 S for 25 miles, leaving behind the city of Naples (which, for the record, has nothing to do with Naples, Italy). At this junction, turn right and drive on Glen Bench Rd for 12 miles. At the next junction, turn left onto a dirt road and continue for 3 miles to this point. Then turn right and, after half a mile, take another right. After 0.43 miles, you will find the large parking area for Fantasy Canyon on the right.

Along Glen Bench Road, there may also be trucks, because the hydrocarbon industry is prominent in the area. You will find many side roads leading to extraction sites on the stretch of dirt road, but you will easily find the entrance to the canyon if you follow the BLM signs and our GPS map itinerary.

Visiting Fantasy Canyon

fantasy canyon vernal

The canyon can be visited freely in just under an hour. The area is under the protection of the BLM. There is a picnic table on site but there is no visitor center. You will not have to pay any entrance fees. After parking the car, you can start exploring immediately. There is a short loop trail that is about one mile long marked with stones and information signs, but in some places is not well-marked. However, there is no reason to worry.

The elevation is minimal, the area is small, so it is really impossible to get lost. Rather, as in the case of Goblin Valley, I recommend wandering freely among the strange rock formations, going to the bottom of the canyon, or climbing on the highest hills to get a different perspective of the rock formations also observing the surrounding landscape made of gullies and mountains streaked with pastel colors pink, orange, gray and blue. The hike is also fun for children, so if you’re traveling with your family and you’re in the area, know that the detour to Fantasy Canyon is definitely worth it.

Where to Stay Near the Canyon

The Fantasy Canyon is the classic intermediate stop to include on a road trip. In order to understand what may be the most strategic place to stay overnight. Undoubtedly, as anticipated, you should take Vernal as a reference point. This city offers some interesting accommodations. Click on the link below to read more about them.

Accommodations in Vernal

Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

bernardo pacini
Bernardo Pacini

I am an enthusiastic traveler. I have also published some poetry. Besides traveling, my interests include literature, prog music and good food,.

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