Screenshot 2023-06-28 at 6.08.18 AM

Take the Roundabout Way in the Carbon Corridor

By Brian Higgins
May 09, 2023

Everyone loves taking the scenic route, especially in Utah, where just about every route is scenic. But when was the last time you made your entire trip the scenic route? Instead of driving to your destination, make your drive the destination in Carbon County. There you'll find the Roundabout Loop, a hidden gem of a drive with activities for families, adventurers and everyone in between. So whether you’re golfing or gazing, hiking or hanging, exploring or exhaling, there’s something for everyone along this winding and wonderful route. 

Not sure where to start? has you covered, with itineraries of all kinds for your trip to Carbon County, Utah’s geological, archaeological and cultural treasure trove. Choose from a golf getaway, a relaxing weekend or a history-rich vacation, and get ready to hit the road. 

The Route

The Roundabout is a 180-mile loop through the San Rafael Swell and Carbon County that hits all the highlights in this spectacular region. From stunning views to ancient rock art and museums of natural history, it showcases the best that the Swell and the Carbon Corridor have to offer. You’ll look out across the vast expanses of Little Grand Canyon (not as vast as the big one, but still pretty dang vast). You’ll see petroglyphs and pictographs that have weathered the test of time, left behind by native peoples. You’ll see the fossils of the massive beasts that roamed the earth millions of years ago. You’ll eat a cheeseburger, probably.

Starting south from Salt Lake City and northern Utah, the Roundabout travels from Helper down State Route 191 to Green River. From Green River, drivers will travel west on Interstate 70 to Ferron, then from Ferron north on State Route 10 back to Helper and Price. Depending on which itinerary you’re following, there will be plenty of stops and detours along the way, but the general route is the same. 

Even without an itinerary, the drive alone is probably good enough for a sweet Instagram and some bragging at work. But here at we don’t do “good enough.” These itineraries will take your trip from pretty good to pretty frickin’ epic, no matter which trip you go for. 

The Golf Getaway

A great weekend spent with friends on the links? Now that’s a tradition unlike any other. Whether it’s your first golf trip or your fore-tieth, the Carbon Corridor provides a stunning — and stunningly affordable — backdrop for any golf getaway.

There are three golf courses along the Roundabout Loop. At each one you’ll find some of the amazing scenery that makes this part of Utah so special. Where else can you golf amidst towering mesas, along rushing rivers and within splashing distance of majestic waterfalls? Not many places, and certainly not for the prices you’ll find in Carbon County. You’ll have to apologize to your 45 handicap buddy in advance — they can’t use the price point as an excuse to get out of this trip. 

And they won’t want to! No matter how many times you slice a ball off canyon walls or into the rushing Green River, it’s still hard to have a bad time at these courses.


  • Carbon Country Club: A true oasis in the desert, featuring awe-inspiring mesas, rocky hilltops and (most importantly) a club restaurant. 
  • Green River State Park: A nine-hole course that’s as affordable as it is beautiful. Which is seriously saying something when one of the Green River is rushing right off the fairway.
  • Millsite Golf Course: Mountains, mesas and a dam good view of Millsite Reservoir’s cascading waterfall off of the seventh hole.

You’ll probably have the best trip if you carve out two or three days for yourself, but if you’re just passing through, any one of these courses makes for a great day on the links. It’s probably too hard to golf all three in one day, but who knows — with enough Arnold Palmers anything’s possible. 

Speaking of refreshments, when you’re finished golfing, be sure to head out for some well earned dinner and drinks at any one of the bustling towns in the region at the end of the day. Whether you’re dining in Green River or clinking glasses in Helper, it’ll be a great way to toast to an amazing getaway with friends. 

Check out the full Golf Getaway itinerary here

The Natural History Excursion

In between your oohs and aahs driving through canyons, mountains and mesas, you might wonder, “How the heck did all of this get made?” Well, if you’re following the Natural History itinerary, you’ll find out soon enough. Heck, you’ll probably be able to lead your own tour the next time you travel this way. You’ll have your audience captive while you describe the geological forces that created the terrain you’re golfing on. And you’ll have the guy who’s trying to putt pretty angry.

Dino-Mite Sites

Did you know that Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in the Carbon Corridor is home to one of the largest collections of Jurassic period dinosaur bones ever discovered? Did you also know that the Carbon Corridor is so rich in dinosaur fossils that you can find them just lying around at Fossil Point? And did you also also know that when you’re standing atop the Cedar Mountain overlook, you’re standing on a formation that likely contains three major groups of undiscovered dinosaur fossils?

Oh, you didn’t? Well, there’s plenty more facts where those came from! Just visit these paleontological pit stops (say that three times fast) along the Natural History loop. Perfect for dino-loving kids from one to 93. 


  • USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum: See dinosaur bones and learn about the geological history of the region. 
  • Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry: Visit the site where more than 12,000 bones from at least 70 dinosaurs have been discovered, and learn theories on what led to their demise.
  • Museum of the San Rafael: This eclectic museum features dinosaur bones alongside cultural artifacts and info about native people, plants and animals. 
  • John Wesley Powell River History Museum: If you’re hoping to learn that dinosaurs had boats, we have to disappoint, but there are some fossils at this river-centric museum.
  • Cedar Mountain Overlook: Take in the amazing view that the fossilized dinosaurs beneath your feet you wish they could enjoy. 
  • Fossil Point: The most hands-on experience you can get! Take pictures holding real life dino bones and fossils, but remember — it’s illegal to take them home.

Geological Wonders

When you’re all dino-ed out, feel free to sit back and stare slack-jawed at the incredible views that the Roundabout has to offer. From overlooks to unique geological features to some of the funkiest looking rocks you’ve ever seen, these stops don’t disappoint. 


  • Nine Mile Canyon: A treasure trove of ancient rock art, this scenic drive cuts through the towering Book Cliffs and offers plenty of spots to get out and explore. 
  • Gordon Creek Falls: A quick hike and a stunning waterfall. What more could you ask for?
  • Joe’s Valley: Do some angling on the shore, take a dip or go bouldering on one of hundreds of climbing routes. 
  • Ghost Rock: A quick pull-off from the highway, this area rewards drivers with spectacular views of the canyons and hills of the San Rafael Swell. 
  • Goblin Valley: One of the most unique parks in Utah, Goblin Valley features hundreds of stunted hoodoos (known as goblins), and lots more to explore. Be sure to come back at night — it’s a certified International Dark Sky Park.
  • Crystal Geyser: Visit one of the only cold water geysers in the world! Eruptions are sporadic but the colorful mineral rocks are worth the trip alone. 
  • Buried Forest Concretions: A quick hike will take you to this “forest,” which is actually mineral deposits that look like fossilized tree stumps. 
  • Bruin Point: Take your OHV (or high-clearance SUV) on this mountain top drive through the Book Cliffs. It’ll be one for the books. 

Check out the full Regional History loop here.

The Regional History Roundabout

The Natural History loop deals with the big picture. Ya know, shifting tectonic plates, ancient seas, long-dead creatures who once roamed the earth. But that kind of stuff happened all over the world. The Carbon Corridor’s got a unique history all its own, one filled with ancient civilizations, modern explorers and bustling industry. 

The World’s Largest Art Gallery

One of the most incredible aspects of the Carbon Corridor and the surrounding region is its unrivaled collection of ancient rock art. These astonishingly intact paintings and carvings were left behind by two distinct cultures — the Fremont Culture who inhabited the area between 2,000 and 700 years ago and the Barrier Canyon People who may have passed through as far back as 7,000 years ago. 

The meaning of these pictographs (paintings) and petroglyphs (carvings) has been lost to time, but one thing’s for sure — modern historians don’t need your help interpreting. If you’ve got any ideas for contributions to these living historical sites, please keep them to yourself and don’t add anything to the wall. In fact, even touching the rock is enough to damage the art, so stick to photos and leave any tracings to the experts.


  • Nine Mile Canyon: Actually around 46 miles, this canyon features several incredible rock art panels.
  • USU Prehistoric Museum: Learn a bit about the cultures who left all this art behind. See mockup dwelling spaces and amazing archaeological finds. 
  • Buckhorn Wash Panel: This 130-foot long panel features both pictographs from the Barrier Canyon Culture and petroglyphs from the Fremont People. 
  • Head of Sinbad Panel: The paintings in this panel are so well preserved, you’d think they were drawn last week — not 3,000 years ago.  
  • Temple Mountain Panel: Another panel featuring both carvings and paintings, with some of the largest figures you’ll find in the area. 
  • Rochester Panel: This incredible dense panel features all kinds of shapes and figures and is one of the best examples of Fremont rock art. 

The Old West

A lot of folks have passed through the area in the years since those ancient artists left their work behind. From the explorers who set out to map the region to the industries that brought settlers soon after them, there’s a lot to learn about life in the Old West. You don’t need a trusty steed to visit these sites, but you should at least say “Giddy up!” when you start your car.


  • Helper Mining and Railroad Museum: Learn all about the early industry in the region the best way possible — by exploring a mock-up coal mine and hopping on a mini train. 
  • Historic Downtown Helper: You won’t find a more authentic Western Main Street anywhere. You definitely won’t find one with local art galleries and a giant coal miner statue. 
  • Spring Canyon: You’ve seen what happens when a town thrives. Head over to this ghost town that wasn’t quite so lucky. 
  • Historic Coke Ovens: Check out this long series of abandoned coke ovens that once cleaned extracted coal of impurities. 
  • John Wesley Powell River History Museum: Learn the legend of early river pioneer John Wesley Powell and all those who came after him down the Green.
  • Swasey’s Cabin: This well preserved outlaw cabin is a testament to life out West, with all its triumphs and hardships.

Check out the full Regional History itinerary here.

Relaxing Weekend Away

There’s a lot to do and see in the Carbon Corridor, but if you’re not in the mood to spend your weekend hopping from stop to stop (no matter how amazing those stops are), it’s also a great place to relax and take it easy. Yup, the same place that boasts ancient rock art and troves of dino bone also has cozy main streets, white sand beaches and viewpoints just begging to be picnicked at.  


  • Downtown Helper: Stroll down Main Street while stopping in at shops and galleries, then walk back up the Helper Riverwalk trail. Then do it again, since it doesn’t take too long. 
  • Price Canyon Recreation Area: Shaded by bristlecone pine trees, this natural area is a great spot for a mid-day picnic or a walk on the nearby nature trail.
  • The Wedge Overlook: Be amazed by Little Grand Canyon and one of the best views in the Swell (or Utah for that matter), and be even more amazed that you didn’t have to hike to it.
  • Swasey’s Beach: Read your summer beach book as you laze on this white sand beach off the Green River. Or stare at the Book Cliffs and call that reading. 
  • Millsite State Park: Take the canoes out, go fishing or just relax in the water at this scenic state park. 
  • Huntington State Park: Where the crawdads sing, at least in Utah. Fish for those little critters, try and nab a larger trophy or just enjoy the water however you see fit. 

Check out the full Relaxing Weekend itinerary here.

There’s No Wrong Way to Roundabout

Itineraries are nice, but at the end of the day, it’s your trip. So do it however you want! Want some art with a side of allosaurus? No problem. Want to hit nine holes and then hit Nine Mile Canyon? Sounds great! Want to go to the beach and just stay at the beach and do nothing else but be at the beach? Also very much allowed. 

There’s tons of ways to stay and play in the Carbon Corridor, and there’s no wrong way to do it. So follow these itineraries to a T or mix and match how you please. And if your route ends up looking a little roundabout? Well, that’s just how we like it in these parts.