Road Trip: Utah

Spring is a wonderful time for a VroomGirls Central Utah getaway, just south of Salt Lake City. Heritage Highway 89 is full of pioneer history and hiking trails for all fitness levels and is awash in a springtime kaleidoscope of wildflowers.

By Diane Lockard

The Local Vibe

The Wasatch Mountains – with hiking trails to 6,500 feet – are covered with evergreens as far as you can see. Just now, a wild riot of colored wildflowers, such as the hardy purple Pasque is starting to appear, and melted snow is filling the streams with clear, fresh, frigid water. Highway 89 in Utah is a ribbon of 1,800 miles of mainly two-lane roads. We’re going to concentrate on just 250 of these miles that will take your breath away. My daughter and I discovered it on a road trip. We were looking for a Farmer’s Market, and found a Bluegrass festival instead.

My road trip starts at Salt Lake City on I-15, take the Spanish Fork / Hwy 6 exit, and head south on Hwy 89 for suggested coordinates. Sanpete County Line is north of Fairview, UT- Gateway to the Heritage Highway 89; cruise over to the 1920s Corner Station and gift shop. You’ll know you’re there when you see a vintage Texaco sign and gasoline pump out in front.

The shop sells “memories” with local crafts, toys, oilcloth tablecloths and home décor, Pioneer Valley jams and jellies, and friendly service that is prevalent throughout the trip. At the Museum of History and Art, housed in two stately buildings, collections of pioneer life and crafts from local artists include a cast of an Ice Age mammoth found nearby, and a sculpture of a crazy unique hood ornament: a ram that was commissioned for a Dodge pickup.

Country Cuisine

As I continue south on Hwy 89, I look out at the farms and open spaces and envision the advent of spring with newborn lambs, calves, and fresh-furrowed fields and gardens ready for planting, spreading east to the Wasatch Plateau.

After entering Mount Pleasant, I stop at one of the newer additions, the Shave ‘n Cream, for my treat: 37- choices of ice cream ranging from Moose Tracks to wild huckleberry. Three scoops of ice cream for just $3.00; their specialty is a Hawaiian shaved ice creation. Browse the quaint bookstore/gift shop, the Next Chapter at 22 W. Main St, Moroni. Yes, there are still bookstores here. Experience life as an early settler at the Relic Home/Pioneer Museum, take the Main Street Tour and visit the Museum and Blacksmith Shop – lunch for $7. These small communities were among the first to be settled in the 1800s by Scandinavian pioneers, giving the area the name of ‘Little Denmark.’

I stop at the Horseshoe Mountain Restaurant / El Mexicano, to enjoy a large taco salad that has fresh, crisp lettuce, cilantro, shredded beef, and all the extras, living up to its rating, with a complete menu starting at $7.00. The view of the mountains instills in me a desire for the hiking trails, rock climbing, and ATV trails just to get off the beaten path. I suggest wearing layers, as the evenings are cooler in the higher elevations.

Early Settler Charm

Our next stop, Spring City, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has a large quantity of significant buildings that have been preserved. It is named for a spring that provided water for the Indians before the settlers arrived, and is still in use today. My daughter and I fill up our bottles with cold water from the fountain on Main Street.

Stop by Sophie’s Black Sheep Gallery, which exhibits the work of more than 30 local artisans. Nearby, watch the potter working at Horseshoe Mountain Pottery and ask for a walking guide. On May 26, the Heritage Festival in Spring City, showcases open houses of historic homes and artisan galleries. Lunch is included. Adults $10.00.

As for where to stay, great rates can be found in Sanpete County at the Willow Creek Inn in Ephraim with rooms starting at $72, and a suite with whirlpool at $102. It has an outdoor hot tub, Belgian waffle breakfast, and a wide array of simple food nearby: Tin Plate Pasta, Roy’s Pizza, and Polly’s Brainfreeze.

Don’t miss the Smorgasbord at the Scandinavian Festival in Snow College May 24 – May 26, featuring music, crafts, and entertainment. See the Central Utah Art Center with rotating exhibits of artists who exhibit locally and overseas, currently, “New Art from Los Angeles. The Gang’s All Here.” Spanky and our gang, and the dog…
Before we arrive in Manti (the county seat,) the spires of the Latter Day Saints temple can be seen. After a day relaxing and sightseeing, return to the Ephraim House / Pioneer Guest Home, 10 North Main, Ephraim that is six miles north of the Temple. Lodging in an original pioneer home built in 1869. The entire house (4 bedrooms) can be rented for $220 / $79 per room – nightly rates, plus kitchen facilities.

Visit Life 100 Years Ago

The Manti-LaSal Forest to the east of the Highway provides recreation throughout the year. A best-kept secret is the Palisades State Park/ Golf course in Sterling, five minutes south of Manti. I found the Gunnison Rose B and a piece of the past, at the end of the Sanpete County portion of our road trip on the Hertiage Highway. Here, traveling salesmen from decades ago, called “Drummers,” stopped for a respite in the 1800s hotel, which is landscaped with blooming rose bushes. There is a selection of six artfully decorated rooms with different themes, I selected the Rose room with the avg. nightly rate – $54 – $69 for 2 people, additional accommodations available, and a suite on the third floor for $99, all packages include breakfast.

The spectacular Casino Star Theater, built 100 years ago for movies is across the street, and still plays movies and holds live performances. Dine at Lishey Lou’s in Mayfield, a suggestion of the B and B’s owner, where homemade blueberry sour cream pie and a friendly server awaits. People gather to eat breakfast, lunch e.g. Sanpete Turkey Sandwich, average – $10.00, and a dinner menu of steak, salmon. You can continue the loop and return to the B and B by Nine-mile Reservoir.

The Heritage Highway continues south. Visit a 100-year old salt mine in Redmond, and view a video, although underground tours are not available at this time. Nearby, Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort (of Burl Ives’ fame) is on Heritage Hwy 89 in Marysvale. Here, you’ll find log cabin accomodations, as well as whitewater rafting, rope courses and ziplines. Just 75 miles south, through the inspiring red sandstone formations, you arrive at Bryce Canyon, one of Utah’s five National Parks.

Share This:

3 Responses to “Road Trip: Utah”

  1. James Cowlin says:

    Great article, Diane. My wife and I have traveled Heritage Highway 89, also known as the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area, many times. From your description, I can tell that we are going to need to pay another visit and check out more of the restaurants that you mentioned.

    For those looking for a more extended road trip on US Route 89, take a look at our website and blog . You’ll find guides for your driving vacation for the entire route between Canada and Mexico.

    I can’t wait to dig into a piece of that blueberry sour cream pie.

  2. Kaye says:

    One correction: The Next Chapter gift and book store is in Moroni, Utah, not Mt Pleasant. There are now 2 or 3 art galleries in Spring City plus a new Cafe called Das Cafe featuring German food. there is also a small museum worth seeing plus an old jail. Great article. Lots of scenery and fun stops along the way, a few you missed so now you have to come back.

    • Diane Lockard says:

      Thank you for your response; Central Utah is a hidden gem and has lots to explore! I am booked at the Gunnison Rose B and B and will use it as my base.
      I visited the Festival in Spring City over Memorial Day; it was fun going to the different places and talking to the friendly people. During the summer, take part in rodeos, fireworks, Pioneer celebrations, bluegrass festivals, camping… Check

      Highway 89 is No.1 of ten Drivers’ Drives picked by National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Leave a Comment