10 of the Most Bizarre Places in Utah

10 of the Most Bizarre Places in Utah

By Utah.com
July 10, 2023 | Updated November 09, 2023

1. Thistle Ghost Town

Location: Thistle, Spanish Fork Canyon

It doesn’t get any more Old West than this: Railroad company sets up shop in the early 20th century, creates a cute little town that epitomizes small-town America, families settle in and tourists glide on through via rail. Super fairy tale, right? Nope. Disaster hit this little town in 1983 mudslide extravaganza to the max. The population had shrunk down to only 50 people when a very, very wet year pummeled the mountainside down into the valley. The town never recovered. Homes were devastated, and you can still see one house submerged in a permanent lake of sorrow. Eerie indeed. Picnic anyone?

2. Victim of the Beast Gravesite

Location: Salt Lake City Cemetery

Dear Sarah Koenig, queen of mystery podcast detectives:

We have a mystery for you. Lilly E. Gray’s gravestone tells Salt Lake City locals that she was “A Victim of the Beast 666.” What does it mean?! It’s freaking us all out. Seriously freaking freaked out. She was born in 1881 and died in 1958. Did the Beast kill her? Did the Beast curse her, and then she died later? Was it a cantankerous joke written by her anti-government husband, Elmer? Is “the Beast” a moniker, a code name? Or was it seriously THE Beast that did her in? What kind of town do we live in anyway? I’m getting outta here. But not. But, seriously. What. The. Heck?

3. Pando, the Trembling Giant

Location: 1 mile southwest of Fish Lake

Utah wins again! The oldest and heaviest living organism in the world is nestled and sprawling within our state border. Pando is an Aspen clone 80,000 years old that weighs in at about 6 million kilograms. But of course, as old as it is, Pando seems to be nearing its end. Saddest story you’ll hear today. Plan on seeing this wise old organism for yourself before its atrophic journey consumes it back into the earth. Autumn will amaze you. Hello, October road trip.

4. Spiral Jetty

Location: Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake

Modern art, amirite? Some guy with a tractor dumps a million tons of basalt in some cutesy circle in the middle of nowhere, and we’re all supposed to, what? Clap or something? Visit with picnic baskets? Go at sunset and watch a pink sun sink into a pink-lemonade inland sea, thereby experiencing the marrow of what it means to be human? Pshaw! Your kid could do that. Well, if your kid had a tractor, which he will never have, because you don’t want him to become a modern artist.

5. Mars Desert Research Station

Location: San Rafael Swell

Science agrees with us. Utah definitely has other-worldly landscapes worth exploring and practicing what life on Mars would really be like. This place is still a place for pioneers. Space pioneers of the last frontier-ish. The MDRS field team consists of geologists, astrobiologists, engineers, mechanics, physicians, human factors researchers, artists and others who live in relative isolation in a Mars analog environment science experiments they make movies about. And, lucky for you, if you’re a science-y person, you can even volunteer to help out on the station. #marssociety

For everyone else, sorry, no visitors. Learn More About MDRS

6. Devil's Slide

Location: Weber Canyon

As you drive along I-84 through Weber Canyon in northern Utah, you’ll catch a glimpse of this bizarre and confusing geological formation. Protruding about 40 feet out from the side of the mountain and about 200 feet tall, are two parallel slabs of rock made up of limestone strata. And if we want to get even more technical, the slide consists of old sea sediment deposits that have been weathered and eroded for approximately 170 to 180 million years. Interestingly, the name comes from an early resident in the area, James John Walker, who claimed it looked like a “large playground slide only fit for the Devil.” Seems reasonable, we guess.

7. Fantasy Canyon

Location: 27 miles south of Vernal

Rise up, LARPers! Assemble, ye cosplay enthusiasts! Give me your tired, your weak, your Dungeon Masters yearning to breathe free! Introducing Fantasy Canyon, a real-life (wear sunblock, pasty basement-gamers) red rock arena where you can wage battle against petrified forces of evil. Man, you haven’t had this much fun since your high school band teacher had a nervous breakdown! And the sci-fi nature scenery’s not bad either.

8. The "Up" House

Location: Herriman

Photo credit: Josh Foulger

The charming and colorful little house from the Pixar movie “Up” is real! And it resides in Herriman, Utah. Built in 2011, with permission from the Disney company, the house is an exact replica of the one in the movie, down to even the smallest details from the exterior paint to the custom-made furniture. It’s definitely worth a drive-by.

9. Tree of Utah

Location: Bonneville Salt Flats, along I-80 west of Salt Lake City

Photo credit: Dave Webb

Some people are artists. Some people see a stretch of salt flats and say, “I shall build an 87-foot tree out of 225 tons of cement, 2,000 ceramic tiles and 5 tons of welding rod. And it shall be called the Tree of Life.” And some people must have had other artist friends or doting mothers who say, “You shall, no seriously you totally shall do that. That makes so much sense.” And some people are named Karl Momen, and millions of Wendover-bound tourists who see the Tree are redeemed. Inspired. Confused.

10. Church Rock

Location: Highway 191, between Moab and Monticello

"Church rock?" Looks up from Pitchfork review of Death Grips’ new album. "Uhh, that’s cool." Like, you know music is subjective and everything, but you didn’t think anyone was into mainstream Christian stuff. Kudos. That takes guts. What’s that? It’s an oddly shaped sandstone formation erroneously associated with Marie Ogden’s nearby Home of Truth utopian community that locals claim was once dynamited out to make a church? Oh yeah, totally. You worshipped there, way before it was cool. Her early sermons were her best, though.