Utah's Highway Rest Areas

 by Peter

As an archaeologist working in Utah for the last decade and more, I've spent more than my fair share of time driving the state's highways and byways. That has led to my spending perhaps more of my life in rest stops than the average person. I thought that my familiarity might be useful to my readers and decided to share my favorites.

Utah's 21 (29 if you count both directions on freeways) rest stop locations can be divided into four varieties. 

The Kane Springs Rest Area in December

Older Brick

A number of the rest stops are older brick buildings, constructed between 1965 and as late as 1989. These are generally built as a simple block for smaller locations or as a U-shaped building for larger. They have a bathroom each for men and women and often a couple of vending machines in the small courtyard of the U-shaped buildings. On the men's side of things, UDOT has been replacing traditional urinals with zero water varieties in recent years. Although these have a benefit to the environment, they can create an unfortunate smell, especially in the summer.

Crescent Junction Rest Area

To be succinct, these are not my favorite rest areas to actually use the facilities. What these rest areas do have going for them are their grounds. Many have a grassy lawn with unique, three-part picnic structures, where you can always find a sunny or shady side. They also generally have pet areas, and most have a short nature trail that often takes you to an interesting overlook or some interpretive signs explaining geology, biology, or other points of interest. They're honestly worth a stop just for these trails.


  • Bear Lake - Highway 30, Garden City, Rich County
  • Perry - I-15 northbound, south of Brigham City, Box Elder County
  • Weber Canyon/Mountain Green - I-84 both directions, east of Mountain Green, Morgan County
  • Echo Canyon - I-80 eastbound, east of Echo Junction, Summit County
  • Salt Flats - I-80 both directions, east of Wendover, Tooele County
  • Crescent Junction - I-70 eastbound, near turnoff to Moab, Grand County
  • Emery - Highway 10 in Emery, Emery County
  • Ivie Creek - I-70 between Salina and Green River, Emery County
  • Oak Springs - Highway 24 between Richfield and Loa, Wayne County
  • Hoovers - Highway 89 between Marysvale and Elsinore, 
  • Lunt Park - I-15 both directions, between Parowan and Beaver, Iron County
  • Pines - Highway 12 between Panguitch and Bryce,
  • Shingle Creek - Highway 89 between Hatch and Glendale, Kane County
My Personal Favorites:
I should note that I've never been to the Emery, Ivie Creek, Oak Springs, Hoovers, Pines, or Shingle Creek rest areas. However, of those I've visited in this oldest category, my favorites in no particular order are: 

  • Lunt Park (if you're driving to St. George)
  • Salt Flats (there's a great overlook to climb up on the eastbound side)
  • Echo Canyon (which has tame, fat ground squirrels and a steep trail to climb up to look out over Echo Canyon)
  • Perrty (but watch out for the mosquitoes during the spring and summer. This rest stop is in a wet area near the Great Salt Lake and they'll eat you alive)
The grassy area with picnic tables at Lunt Park.

Newer Models
Since the late 90's, the state has constructed a number of newer rest stops. Some of these are likely replacements for existing rest stops while others filled in holes in the system. These buildings are generally a white or tan stucco with a green metal roof. They have a small lobby area that often holds brochures and maps of the surrounding areas and include men's, women's, and family restrooms. As with the older rest areas, these newer versions include picnic areas, although I think they are generally less likely to include the nature trails and overlooks. 

Kane Springs Rest Area with cottonwood trees and red rock cliffs.

These make for some of the best rest areas you can use in Utah. Their bathrooms could use an update, with most now being around 20-25 years old, but they're still mostly in decent shape.

  • Bear Lake Overlook, Highway 89 west of Garden City, Rich County
  • Grassy Mountain, I-80 both directions in the middle of nowhere between Tooele and Wendover, Tooele County
  • Pinion Ridge, Highway 40 between Fruitland and Duchesne, Duchesne County
  • Tie Fork, Highway 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon between Spanish Fork and Soldier Summit, Utah County
  • Kane Springs, Highway 191 between Moab and Monticello, San Juan County
  • Kanarraville, I-15 both directions between Cedar City and Kanarraville, Iron County
My Favorites:
I've never stopped at Bear Lake Overlook, I think, but I've hit all the rest. Here are my favorites, again in no particular order.
  • Tie Fork (because of it's cool train roundhouse area)
  • Kane Springs (all-time favorite. A great location with huge cottonwood trees and impressive red rock walls towering all around)
  • Pinion Ridge (it has a great little nature trail through the junipers and pinions. Look for pine nuts at the right time of year)

Welcome Centers
There are four officially designated state welcome centers that include a rest area component. Thompson and Brigham City were built around the same time as the old brick rest areas and often have a similar design, but with an extra area for brochures, maps, and other tourist accoutrements. Adequate, but nothing really special. Jensen and Echo Canyon were built in the late 90s and are both a bit bigger and fancier.

  • Jensen, US-40 in Jensen, Uintah County
  • Thompson, I-70 in Thompson Springs, Grand County
  • Echo Canyon, I-80 westbound in Echo Canyon, Summit County
  • Brigham City, I-15 southbound a few miles north of Brigham City, Box Elder County.
  • Jensen (just because it has some really great landscaping around it)

Pit Toilets
There is only one state-run pit toilet rest area in the state. However, I'm including a county-run rest area as well, as it is on one of the busier highways. These are pit toilets with all that entails. They probably get cleaned more often than a similar pit facility in a National Forest somewhere, but they still smell, and they're still unpleasant. One of the coldest bathroom experiences I've ever had was at a pit toilet rest area in Nevada. The frigid wind comes right down the vent and right up the toilet seat.

  • Silver City (state-run), US-89 between Eureka and Lynndyl, Juab County
  • Lila Canyon (county-run, I think), US-6 between Wellington and Green River, Grand County 

Other Rest Areas
There are a few other, non-state rest areas. I'm aware of one on Highway 191 in the Blanding Welcome Center in Blanding, San Juan County and one on Highway 10 in Huntington, Emery County. The Huntington bathroom is particularly nice, if you're in the area. Plus, it has wi-fi.

Any questions that I can try to answer? Do you have a favorite Utah rest area? Let me know in the comments.

Note: I'm indebted to UDOT's information on rest areas for much of the information in this post.


Popular Posts