Why Price Is the Perfect Basecamp for Your Adventures in Central Utah

The gateway to outdoor recreation in the Carbon Corridor, this friendly town offers easy access to climbing, hiking, mountain biking and off-roading.

Written By Matcha

San Rafael Swell   |  Marc Piscotty

Price, an hour’s drive southeast of Provo, prides itself as the northern gateway to some of Utah’s most sought-after outdoor recreation across a sculptured landscape of sandstone mesas and mountains, curving canyons, wide-open views and dazzling beauty. The friendly town, straddling the Price River below Soldier Summit, makes a perfect base camp to discover the surrounding natural wonders, historic sites and grand scenery. 

Price is a hub for retail and lodging, and also for sightseeing and reveling in nature’s beauty. It serves as a springboard for Utah’s famed outdoor adventures with cliffs for climbing, as well as trails for hiking, mountain biking and a spider web of OHV tracks accessing pristine campsites in the back of beyond. 

Here, five iconic adventures within an hour’s drive of Price, the ideal place to stay for easy access to fun and adventurous excursions in Utah’s Carbon Corridor.

1. Admire the World’s Longest Art Gallery

Stretching almost 45 miles east from Price to the Green River, Nine Mile Canyon is the premiere rock art site in North America (Read: A Rural Community Leading the Way in Stewardship and Preservation). The twisting, cliff-lined canyon, called the longest art gallery in the world, boasts more than 10,000 petroglyphs, pictographs and archaeological sites that date back 8,000 years. Panels of rock art, mostly petroglyphs etched on sandstone faces, were created by the Fremont people more than a thousand years ago and later by the Utes in historic times. 

While there are OHV trails with access to the canyon, many opt for the scenic auto tour up the beautifully paved road. Stop in one of the towns along Highway 6 to get a copy of the interpretive brochure (PDF), though signs in the canyon point to stops at famous sites like the Great Hunt Panel with 30 bighorn sheep and native hunters, and the Big Buffalo Panel. The canyon also harbors pioneer signatures, historic homesteads and the ghost town of Harper, a former stagecoach stop. 

Nearby Range Creek Ranch, open only by permit through the Natural History Museum of Utah, is a treasure trove of undisturbed Native American sites, such as once-flourishing villages, pit-houses, granaries and rock art panels. Contact the Natural History Museum of Utah for a limited daily permit. (Read: Spirits in the Rock)

The San Rafael Reef

Photo: Andrew Burr

Nine Mile Canyon

Photo: Dean Krakel

Hiking Goblin Valley on the southeastern edge of the San Rafael Swell

Photo: Michael Kunde

2. Explore the San Rafael Swell

The San Rafael Swell rises south of Price, a giant blister of sandstone creased by hidden canyons and dominated by towering rock mountains like Bottleneck Peak and Windowblind Peak. The Swell, recently designated a BLM recreation area, has breathtaking views, ancient rock art sites and raw-edged beauty. The immense area, bisected by Interstate 70, offers plenty of natural wonders, sinuous slot canyons, skyscraping cliffs and a network of rough roads left by 1940s uranium miners. It’s an inviting spot for canyoneers, climbers, campers, four-wheelers and mountain bikers.

The San Rafael Swell is filled with hidden gems like the Head of Sinbad, the 1921 Swasey Cabin, the Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel, the Wedge Overlook above the Little Grand Canyon and Little Wild Horse Canyon — one of Utah’s best-known slots. (Read: A Grand Tour of the San Rafael Swell)

3. Dig Jurassic Dinosaurs

Utah’s original Jurassic Park lies 30 miles south of Price in the brand-new Jurassic National Monument. The centerpiece of the monument is the famed Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, a unique site that, since the 1920s, has yielded almost 15,000 bones from at least 74 dinosaurs as well as a rare dinosaur egg. 

Over 150 million years ago, central Utah was a vast swampland with meandering rivers and shallow ponds. It is thought that dinosaurs became trapped in mud and quicksand and turned to fossils after burial. While most dinosaur graveyards are populated by large herbivores like Diplodocus and Camarasaurus, more than 75 percent of the bones at this quarry come from 46 carnivorous Allosaurus specimens. 

Allosaurus were fierce two-legged predators that grew to more than 30 feet long and had dozens of sharp teeth. It’s an enduring Jurassic mystery why so many meat-eaters were buried here. 

After viewing the black bones in gray limestone at the quarry, head back to Price and visit the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum for dinosaur displays and the skeleton of a Utahraptor. (Read: A Deep Dig into Utah's Deep Time)

Photo: Mark Osler

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry

Photo: Mark Osler

4. Drive the Huntington Eccles Canyon National Scenic Byway 

The Price area offers a scenic bounty for steering-wheel recreationists, with dramatic drives and backroads that explore desert canyons, ragged mesas and the lofty Wasatch Plateau. After driving through Nine Mile Canyon and traveling dusty roads in the San Rafael Swell, head those wheels west in Huntington and follow the 83-mile Huntington Eccles Canyon National Scenic Byway for a grand tour of the Wasatch Plateau. 

The drive, designated the first National Scenic Byway in 1990, climbs steep-walled canyons covered with pines, firs and groves of quaking aspen, twists past glassy lakes and alpine cirques above 10,000 feet and discovers central Utah’s rich Mormon pioneerNative American and mining history. It has 17 wayside stops with interpretive signs, 15 campgrounds in the Manti-La Sal National Forest and recreational opportunities, including fishing, hiking, off-road driving and mountain biking. 

5. Adventure in the Great Outdoors

While plenty of jaw-dropping scenery surrounds Price, the area also offers amazing outdoor adventures to thrill the senses. Besides hiking in the San Rafael Swell, the Price area offers superb, off-the-beaten-track trails for hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. 

The Price City River Trail follows the Price River along the city’s edge, while a network of multi-use trails that include Porphyry Pinnacle Trail, Trestle Cutoff and Cedar Bench Trail explore the badlands and canyons west of Price. 

The Spring Canyon Trail west of Helper leads to a fine sport climbing area on sandstone cliffs. West of Castle Dale is Joe’s Valley Bouldering Area, a world-class venue for climbing finger-busting routes on sandstone blocks. For off-highway-vehicles (OHVs), more than 1,000 miles of backcountry trails and roads offer motorized adventure. Fishermen, campers and boaters find more recreation at three nearby state parks — Scofield ReservoirMillsite and Huntington.

Bouldering near Castle Dale

Photo: Marc Piscotty

Best Bets for Dining and Lodging

As the mountains and cliffs glow red in the fading sunlight, Price welcomes visitors back after a long day of fun in the sun with a variety of lodging from rustic to plush and a range of tasty restaurants. Price treats its visitors like locals and offers plenty of Old West hospitality and friendliness. 

The first order of business is satiating that hunger. Locals swear by the pub food and cold drafts at Grogg’s Pinnacle Brewing Company as well as other favorites such as Farlaino’s Café, Tangerine Eatery with vegan options, Sherald’s Burger Bar and Big Don’s Pizza and Pasta. For a good night’s sleep, grab a bed at a local hotel like the Legacy Inn, Greenwell Inn, Quality Inn, the Ramada or Holiday Inn. 

Basecamp Price

Price sits close to the northern section of the San Rafael Swell, which is home to vast deserts, yawning canyons and fascinating rock formations. The area is known for its coal mining, as well as its recreational opportunities.

Explore Price

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