Planning Your Road Trip to Utah’s Core

If you want to see what Utah is all about, you have to add the core of Utah to your summer road trip plans at the Carbon Corridor. Utah has 5 National Parks, 43 state parks, and over 9 million acres of national forests. It’s safe to say there is a lot to explore. Luckily we have a road trip to the core of Utah all mapped out for you with where to stay, what to see, and other local tips to make it a memory to last a lifetime!

Where to Go.

You have probably discovered in your research that there is much to see and do in Utah. The Carbon Corridor is your base camp to Utah’s core and is the best spot to venture to Utah's hidden gems, experience a true taste of the American Southwest, and access the surrounding Mighty Five.

We can’t talk about road-tripping through Utah without talking about the Mighty Five. The Mighty Five make up the five National Parks located within Utah. Visitors can make their Utah road trip one that hits all of Utah’s history, great outdoors, and culture. And the best part - the Carbon Corridor is a two-hour drive from Moab, where two of the Mighty Five are located.

Where to Stay.

When you’re road-tripping and spending hours in the car daily, it's nice to have your sleeping plans covered ahead of time. Aside from a hotel stay, there are some great short-term rentals that embrace the culture and beauty of the area. In the charming town of Helper, UT, repurposed gas stations have turned into cute apartments that bring out the vintage feel of the town. 

If you are riding in style and bringing your stay with you in an RV, you’ll want to plan out your spots to park and enjoy. Some great RV parks in Central and Eastern Utah include Nine Mile RV Resort, and Castle Gate RV Park. Located between Salt Lake City and Moab, they make a great basecamp for adventure and exploring to central, southern and eastern Utah.

See our full Lodging Index to plan out your road trip stays in Utah’s core.


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The San Rafael Swell I Alex Moliski 

What to See.

The most fun part in planning your trip is building out your itinerary. If you want to see what Utah is all about, it's important to schedule out time to see the landmarks, scenery and history that has made this area so special.

Awe-Inspiring Spots

Nine Mile Canyon

Dubbed the "World's Longest Outdoor Art Gallery," Nine Mile Canyon is a hidden gem in Utah that stretches approximately 40 miles (despite its name). This extraordinary canyon is renowned for its extensive collection of ancient rock art, showcasing thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs created by the Fremont and Ute people. As you wander through the canyon, you’ll encounter intricate carvings and paintings depicting animals, hunters, and mysterious symbols that offer a glimpse into the lives of these early inhabitants. The rugged beauty of the canyon, combined with its historical significance, makes it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

And the best part - you can learn all about the historical spots with our free audio driving tour

The Swell

The San Rafael Swell, commonly referred to as "The Swell," is a vast, rugged landscape characterized by dramatic geological formations, deep canyons, and expansive plateaus. Located in central Utah, The Swell spans over 2,000 square miles of breathtaking scenery that is perfect for outdoor adventures. Hiking, rock climbing, and off-roading are popular activities here, allowing visitors to explore the area's stunning features such as the Little Grand Canyon, Goblin Valley State Park, and the intricate slot canyons of Ding and Dang.

Buried Forest

Located only 25 minutes outside of Price, UT, the Buried Forest is a fascinating destination where ancient trees have been transformed into colorful stone over millions of years. This petrified forest is a testament to the region's prehistoric past, showcasing cretaceous-age fossils and fragments that have crystallized into vibrant hues of red, yellow, and purple. 

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SPX GeoTour I Price, UT

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Finding Niche Spots 

You’ll want to include those hidden gems that will make your trip special too! Take a drive on the Energy Loop Scenic Byway to see wildflowers, wildlife and historical stops that bring the area to life. If you are feeling more adventurous, visitors of all ages enjoy Geocaching through this area. Our SPX GeoTour takes adventurers through various points across the Carbon Corridor honoring stewardship, preservation and exploration.

Head to and create an account to begin looking for caches. Overwhelmed and don't know where to start? There is a series of caches all labeled "Coal Camp Trail" that speak of the history of the area and offer some fun challenges as you learn more about the area. 


The American Southwest 

2024 marks 100 years of film in Utah! For the art lovers and film buffs there is no better excuse to celebrate and hit the road to spots that celebrate filmmaking in Utah. See Visit Utah’s map of film sets across Utah to add to your trip. 

Museums, ghost towns, Scofield State Park, East Carbon, Movie film spots (even the new Kevin Costner film spots!). Historic Helper Main Street has been home to films like Rigoletto, Adventures in Power, Ghost hunters and Ride with Norman Reedus.

Ultimately, you’ll want to make your first stop for diving into the history and culture of the Carbon County’s Visitor Center located within the USUE Prehistoric Museum

Attend Local Events

Between exploring Nine Mile Canyon and chasing down your favorite film locations, local events are an exciting way to experience the culture and feel of an area. Here are a few local events that should make your list when road-tripping through Utah:

  1. Helper Arts Festival I Helper, UT
  2. East Carbon Community Daze I East Carbon, UT
  3. Helper Saturday Vibes I Helper, UT
  4. Pioneer Days I Wellington, UT
  5. Price City Culture Connection Music Series I Price, UT

See our events calendar for a full list of events and activities happening year-round in the Corridor. 

Planning a road trip to the core of Utah promises an adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and vibrant local culture. From the awe-inspiring petroglyphs of Nine Mile Canyon to the rugged beauty of The Swell, and the vivid colors of the Buried Forest, the Carbon Corridor serves as your perfect basecamp for exploring the hidden gems and iconic landmarks of Utah.

For more tips, detailed itineraries, and additional resources to enhance your road trip experience, visit Your adventure into Utah’s core awaits—start planning today and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime!

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