I stood at an overlook on the Chesler Park Loop Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands, struck by how quiet it was. The sun was setting behind me, and all of the candy cane colored rock spires stood at attention in the distance. It was amazing how few hikers there were in this part of the national park. I drove back down the dirt road to the highway, dodging cows in the dark and settled into my basecamp in Monticello, Utah. Over the coming days, I would see how perfectly my travel plans would align with this convenient location.
Staying in the Grist Mill Inn felt a little like staying at Grandma’s house, except way more comfortable. Vintage touches decorated the walls, and there were multiple cozy common areas to hang out. Not to mention, the location was close to downtown shops and restaurants. I loved the pour-over coffee option at Roam Industry, the sandwiches at Peace Tree Cafe, and the Thai delicacies Ja-Roen Thai Sushi.
Miniature Golf…inside a general store!
Okay, this was just hilarious. I was so confused when I mapped Silver Queen Miniature Golf and it pulled up at the Monticello Mercantile. I wandered into the store and, sure enough, the neon-lit course entrance was inside! Hand-painted glow-in-the-dark murals covered the walls and mining sounds ricocheted throughout–a true nod to the area’s history. This was a great way to spend some time in town!
Mountain Biking in Monticello
In the summer months, the Abajo Mountains outside of Monticello offer some incomparable singletrack. I was a little late in season for mountain riding, so Dustin at Roam Industry in town recommended the Abajo Foothills trail system. This is a newer network that definitely got my heart pumping! Small rollers, tight turns, and a couple of drops made for a great afternoon.
Canyon Country Discovery Center
Serving as somewhat of a welcome center, the Canyon Country Discovery Center highlights the Colorado Plateau through adventure, education, and stewardship. Hands-on exhibits educate kids and adults alike on local ecosystems and culture in the area. Also at the Center was an indoor climbing wall, and an observatory outside. The dark skies in southern Utah are truly special, and learning about planets, stars, the moon, and other galaxies was an unforgettable experience.
Within 25-55 miles of Monticello
It might seem like a long drive, but it’s a darn scenic one!
Looking Glass Arch
Looking Glass Arch sits like a bird nest in a massive rock on Looking Glass Road. From a distance it looks deceptively small, but the arch is actually quite large. Also, the midday sun reflects photogenically inside the arch and rock.
Standing on the edge of–what feels like–the world, the Needles Overlook offers an expansive view over Canyonlands and beyond. The Colorado River cuts through mesas and the low-angle sun offers the best views of the contours on the landscape. There is no shortage of photo opportunities here!
Newspaper Rock Petroglyph Panel + Hiking in Chesler Park
On the way out to Elephant Hill Trailhead in the Needles District of Canyonlands, stopping at the Newspaper Rock Panel is a must! Within the designation of Bears Ears National Monument is a rock panel with one of the highest concentrations of petroglyphs known to exist. The carvings are immaculately well preserved and tell stories of the past.
Finally, once you reach the trailhead, choose your hiking adventure in Chesler Park and explore the surreal landscape. Absolutely don’t forget a map and GPS in this area, and give yourself extra time because there are photo opportunities around every corner–no exaggerating!