Butch Cassidy's West
Start: Las Vegas
Finish: Salt Lake City
Hours of driving: 12–16+ depending on side trips to Circleville or an off-road excursion to Robber's Roost.
He's one of the American West's most notorious outlaws. Though his fame is rooted in theft, his story has transcended the life of crime to became a legend with almost mythical underpinnings. The son of rural Utah pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that legend is Butch Cassidy. On this multiday road trip through Utah, wrap the Hollywood narrative into landmarks from the outlaw's life by exploring locations from both stories.
Many travelers visit southwestern Utah to see the soaring cliffs of Zion National Park and to hike, climb and mountain bike the incredible red rock landscapes. For movie buffs, this scenic corner of the state of Utah comes alive with nostalgia for Robert Redford’s iconic film, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The complete list of filming locations includes the ghost town of Grafton, Snow Canyon State Park, the city of St. George and Zion National Park.
After exploring these Hollywood backdrops, you'll set off on one of Southern Utah's best road trips, the All-American Road: Scenic Byway 12. You'll steal glimpses of the red rock country that captivates modern travelers and at times shielded Butch Cassidy's Hole-in-the-Wall Gang from the law. Here's where you can add extra days to your itinerary. In other words, come for the chance to participate in Butch Cassidy's legend, but don't miss the opportunity to linger in some of America's most scenic and most adventurous parks and monuments.
While you could head back at this point, you're now close enough to Salt Lake City to consider seeing the legend kept alive in the present day. Rumor has it the Owl Bar, originally built in the 1890s, was moved from the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming, and had been visited by Butch Cassidy’s Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. Sundance owner Redford Redford played the Sundance Kid in the 1969 movie, and his Sundance Mountain Resort and Park City-based Sundance film festivals inherit the spirit of that film.
- St. George Area
- Running Through Snow Canyon
- Grafton Ghost Town
Activities and Overnight Options
It's just a couple of hours from McCarran International in Las Vegas to the St. George region of southwestern Utah. The soaring red rock cliffs, Mojave desert landscape and the profound sense of human and geologic history provided the perfect backdrop to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," the movie star of this itinerary. Remember that famous chase scene from the film? Get on a horse and experience it for yourself with Patty Arnett at Snow Canyon Trail Rides or set out on foot across the park’s playful blend of petrified sand dunes and lava fields amid red rock walls and bright skies.
Nearby Grafton will also seem quite familiar (please visit respectfully) and from your base camp in St. George you can count on an array of great dining, overnight lodging, outdoor adventure and access to Zion National Park. If you haven't been to Zion, give yourself at least a couple of extra days, consider lodging or camping options near the park in Springdale and learn how best to visit the park here.
Below the rim of the Great Basin sits Utah's warm-weather retreat, the town of St. George. The stunning valley combines transitional land features from the neighboring basin and Colorado Plateau with the landscapes and wildlife of the Mojave Desert and is an excellent base camp to southwestern Utah's adventures and most scenic movie backdrops.
Contrary to its name, there isn't a lot of snow in Snow Canyon State Park, but it’s the backdrop for the famous 30-minute chase scene in "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid." Get on a horse and see for yourself with Patty at Snow Canyon Trail Rides or set out on foot across the park’s playful blend of petrified sand dunes and lava fields amid red rock walls and bright skies.
Every ghost town has a story to tell. They are often reminders of long forgotten dreams, hopes, struggles, and gradual decline. Some say that Grafton is the most photographed ghost town in the West, and it was, in fact, the filming location for parts of "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid," among other Hollywood movies. This is private property, so do not attempt to enter structures and visit with respect.
- Cassidy Trail
- The Birthplace of Butch
If you haven't used up all your allotted vacation time exploring the southwestern corner of Utah (between St. George, Cedar City and the Kanab area you could easily explore for days), it's time to get to know the man himself — not Paul Newman, but Robert Leroy Parker, the man who became known as Butch Cassidy. Scenic, high-elevation trail systems like Cassidy Trail in Red Canyon may well have been used by Cassidy and his Hole-in-the-Wall Gang to access remote hideouts along the Outlaw Trail. It might make sense: Cassidy's childhood home in Circleville was roughly 40 miles north, so the area may have held special meaning, besides being stunning to look at. Red Canyon mimics the famous hoodoos, or pillars, of red sandstone distinctive of nearby Bryce Canyon National Park. Circleville is a slight detour, either en route from yesterday or as shown on the map below between Day 3's exploration of Capitol Reef and the trip north toward Sundance Mountain Resort. Of course, between your proximity to Bryce Canyon today and the trip to Capitol Reef tomorrow, you have another important decision: Do I add days for "Exploring the Scenery" or keep the posse focused on its pursuit of Butch Cassidy's legend?
Lodging: Panguitch, Bryce Canyon City, Tropic
Camping: Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Kodachrome Basin State Park
The Cassidy Trail wasn’t just the filming location for an iconic Western movie, it’s steeped in history. The trail is the same one Butch Cassidy used to evade the law, and it would become part of what was known as the "Outlaw Trail." Once you find this hidden trailhead, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking scenery and Wild West legend.
Panguitch, Utah, captures the enduring pioneer spirit of Utah with its welcoming rural charm and strong sense of heritage. Much of the town's main drag sits on the National Register of Historic Places and offers quaint, Western-themed local shopping and dining options.
An unlikely candidate for the outlaw life, Cassidy, whose real name was Robert Leroy Parker, was born to Mormon pioneers in the small town of Circleville, Utah. On your journey (granted, a bit out of the way), stop by the site to see the recently restored cabin and to gain perspective on the rural life and place that began it all.
- The All-American Road Scenic Byway 12
- Kodachrome Basin State Park
- Capitol Reef Country
As teased above, this is a day (or days) to get acquainted with some of America's most renowned scenery along one of its best roads, the All-American Highway Scenic Byway 12. If you've never traveled it and have gotten as far as Cassidy Trail in Red Canyon, we highly recommend taking the time to finish the road. It's mere minutes to the turn to Bryce Canyon National Park. There's lodging and dining in Bryce Canyon City and nearby Tropic. And just a little farther is the turn at Cannonville to Kodachrome Basin State Park at one of multiple access routes into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Additional stops include the Escalante area, Boulder Mountain and Torrey, at the junction with yet another scenic byway, S.R. 24 in Capitol Reef Country. In short, give yourself time. (Self-sufficient and well-prepared travelers with an extra can take advantage of their proximity to Robber's Roost to explore remnants of a real outlaw hideout in the wilderness.)
Lodging: Bryce Canyon City, Tropic, Cannonville, Escalante, Boulder, Torrey
Camping: Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Burr Trail, Boulder Mountain, Capitol Reef National Park
Discover two national parks, the vast Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the tranquil beauty of Boulder Mountain along with national forest lands and state parks unlike anywhere else. While you can complete the whole drive on one scenic three-hour tour, even a four-day itinerary only cracks the surface.
The first official name, “Chimney Rock” reflects the area’s 67 monolithic stone spires, part of a multicolored landscape so beautiful it earned the nickname “Kodachrome” after a popular Kodak film. The name stuck and today visitors enjoy camping and hiking across 2,240 acres of photogenic, geologic wonder. Nearby Grosvenor Arch (pictured) offers a quick glimpse into Grand Staircase, but check road conditions before traveling.
Southern Utah is one of few places left where the romanticized wild of the American West and magic of the desert still coexist. We hike, canyoneer, rock climb and go off-road where a century before, only outlaws came to find refuge. Capitol Reef's Cassidy Arch is a spot wild enough to earn the outlaw's name. Or, if you have the right resources and knowledge, set out for the remote Robber's Roost. (Read: In Search of Robber's Roost and The Return to Robber's Roost.)
- Robert Redford's Sundance
- Owl Bar
- Sundance to Park City
It's around three hours from the red rock landscapes and outlaw hideouts of Central Utah back to the metropolitan Wasatch Front. Depending on your departure time, you can make Robert Redford's Sundance Mountain Resort for lunch or dinner at one of the renowned restaurants. An evening spent at the Owl Bar caps off the journey through the scenes and legends of Butch Cassidy. The restored Rosewood Bar is known to have once hosted Cassidy's Hole-in-the-Wall Gang at its original location in Wyoming. Another option for movie buffs and foodies is to continue up the highway to Park City. In January, Utah's famous mountain town hosts the Sundance Film Festival, but it's a year-round destination whether you're looking for trails and adventure or dining and culture. At the end of it all, it's less than an hour back to Salt Lake City International Airport, so there's no rush. (Of course, Butch Cassidy's footprints can be found all over the west, and really intrepid travelers might consider adding a couple of days to head east toward Vernal and Dinosaur National Monument and get directions to Browns Park, a remote and hidden on the Green River where none other than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used to hideout.
Sundance, Utah, home to "Jeremiah Johnson" star, Robert Redford, was one of the main shooting locations for the film. Redford acted as a tour guide for the scenes that were shot on his property. Today, Sundance is a year-round destination for outdoor adventure and rustic, yet upscale, amenities. Only an hour from SLC International, the mountain resort offers downhill, Nordic, fly-fishing, hiking, zip-lining, arts, fine dining and more, all in the shadow of majestic Mount Timpanogos.
Sit at The Owl Bar’s restored 1890s rosewood bar and muse that Butch Cassidy once drank at this plank. Back then, though, the bar was located in Thermopolis, Wyoming, but has since been brought to this watering hole in the shadow of Mt. Timpanogos. Explore an excellent Scotch selection by the fireplace and order food prepared at the Foundry Grill next door.
Park City could certainly stake a rightful claim of being the “perfect mountain town.” Combining its silver mining town heritage, an artistic vibe and a deep appreciation for the outdoors, Park City strikes a balance between luxury and comfort. It's about a 50-minute drive up Provo Canyon and through the Heber Valley to Park City. Because Park City is 35–40 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport, if you're keeping this itinerary to four days, you can enjoy an afternoon adventure, stay for dinner and take an evening flight home.