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Utah Hike of the Week: Fantasy Canyon — Uintah County

First Published      Last Updated Jun 20 2017 11:27 pm

Fantasy Canyon is a dense array of intricate rock formations in gray sandstone formed by an ancient lake and eons of weathering. The formations appear as if from nowhere in a vast and remote oil and gas field about 30 miles south of Vernal. It's a short hike and a fascinating side trip if you are in the Vernal area.

Directions • From U.S. Highway 40 and State Road 45 in Naples, take S.R. 45 south about 20.3 miles and turn west on Glen Bench Road; you will see a sign directing you to Fantasy Canyon. Take Glen Bench Road about 8 miles west and south to a sign directing you south to Fantasy Canyon. From here, follow the signs through about 5.5 miles of unpaved road as it winds among drilling operations. Turn east and continue following the signs a half-mile or so to the parking area, where there are picnic tables, bathrooms and a kiosk.

Hike • A map of the formations is posted on the kiosk, and there are corresponding metal markers placed on the trail. I took a picture of the list and referred to it on my hike. Kids and adults both will have fun trying to identify the named formations; use your imagination and try to find others in the rocks.

The trail makes a figure eight with two squiggly loops, and there are two trail ends at the trailhead. Take the northern trail east and look for the metal markers; some parts of the trail are hard to find, and some of the markers have toppled. Don't climb formations and try your best to stay on existing trails. The official trail goes east a few hundred feet, bends back west and returns east into the dense part of the formations. At about a quarter-mile, you will see the trail descend south to the deepest and most intricate part of the canyon; this is the junction of the figure eight. If you wish to see Fantasy Canyon from above, don't go downhill but take a footpath uphill to your east to the top of the canyon and follow around its rim to see views of the surrounding area. The trail drops back into the formations near the east end of the canyon, where there is a round bench for resting. The trail exits the formations and continues west to the trailhead.

Less mobile hikers may prefer to skip the trail section above the canyon. You can follow the trail signs downhill and walk east to the round bench to take in the bizarre scenery.

There is no shade in the canyon, and midday summer temperatures can be extremely high. Try to go at night or in the morning during summer. There are no notices forbidding dogs, but the hot, rocky ground likely will be very painful on the paws.

Digital map available at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1stoF143fD_fgoJMDCU-y-c3OLSo&usp=sharing.

Fantasy Canyon

Hiking time • 1 hour

Round-trip miles • About 1 mile of exploring

Elevation gain • 75 feet

Difficulty • Easy

Trailhead restrooms • Yes

Dogs allowed • Yes

Bikes allowed • n/a

Fees • Free

— Erin Alberty