Point your compass to Green River, Utah, and its must-stop burger joint
Words and Photos By Austen Diamond
The path to Ray’s Tavern is paved in gold — or is it American cheese and fry sauce? Either way, Ray’s is the way to hamburger bliss after a weekend of concurring and communing with Mother Nature at her most brazen — namely, Moab and the surrounding Southern Utah recreational areas.
Myriad hiking trails, climbing routes, MTB singletrack, slot canyons and waterways fill a weekend adventure in Red Rock Country. But it wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Ray’s Tavern, a burger joint in the middle of quaint Green River, Utah.
Green River, a once bustling town and a hub for uranium mining and oil extraction, is now a little sleeper that’s primarily known for four things: delicious melons, the John Wesley Powell River Museum, being a pull-out for white water rafters, and for Ray’s quarter-pound charbroiled burgers.
Ray’s Tavern opened in 1943 and has long since been what Inside/Outside Southwest magazine called "a river rat Mecca." It’s true, and Ray’s attracts people from all sports.
Aside from whitewater rafting, Green River’s nearby recreational areas — the Book Cliffs and San Rafael Swell — offer opportunities for mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking, and off-roading. There are a number of Green River-based outfitters to equip folks for such excursions. And, of course, many travelers head straight for Moab and the Southern Utah national parks.
A relaxed setting for a meal and a brew, Ray’s is packed on Sunday evenings as people pass through en route to the Wasatch Front. The last of the weekend’s sunshine pours over the parking lot, which has more gear strapped to all-terrain vehicles than you could imagine. There are rafters and bikers sitting in the oaky interior or on the large patio. One can hear storytellers reliving the weekend’s many highs; in reaction, there’s tons of knee-slapping and guffawing.
And then there’s the food. Most folks stick with a pitcher filled with one of Utah’s fine craft ales and lagers and a burger. The menu is simple, and the charbroiled burger, in and of itself, is worth the pull-off from I-70.
Locals’ Picks for Outdoor Adventure in the Green River Area
"What I love about living in Green River is the biking. There’s all kinds of slickrock trails around here. We have the river to raft on, and we play at the beach all the time."
I was born here and raised on a ranch. I love the dirt, the desert, the hills. It’s just awesome. It’s a way of life for us [to be outside]. I ride a lot of mules, we go clear up into the Bookcliff Mountains in the summer. And then over in the San Rafael Swell, my family had a cabin and we’d ride around there all the time.
"The wilderness is right in our backyard. We do a lot of mountain biking, hiking, four-wheeling. It’s a great place if you are into the outdoors. I’ve lived here my whole life, and it’s been very nice. Working here, we usually do lots of daily trips, like up to the Bookcliffs and the Sand Dunes."