Hanksville and Moab, Utah Travel Blog

I flew into Las Vegas Thursday night at 10pm and my friend picked me up from the airport. Our plan was to spend 3 days exploring Hanksville, Utah. We decided to drive 6 hours through the night to get to Factory Butte to make it in time for sunrise. That ended up being both a good and bad decision.

We were both struggling to stay awake at the wheel. I tried to sleep but Murphy kept hitting the warning strip and waking me up. Finally, I got scared for my life and told him to pull over. We took a short break but realized we were running out of time because you lose one hour to time change driving from Las Vegas to Hanksville. I took over and about 20 seconds later, the time it took me to get up to 70 mph, I decked a jack rabbit. Those things are as big as small dogs so that definitely woke me up. Anyway, we made it to Factory Butte just in time for sunrise. Here’s a video of the view at sunrise.

I told Murphy to go closer to the butte while I stayed back and used the 70-200mm telescopic lens to zoom in and really compress the background. Here are a couple of the photos I snapped.

We were driving Murphy’s hybrid Kia which was two wheel drive and didn’t have a whole lot of clearance. We turned off from the main leveled road and followed a random dirt road that looked like it lead to Factory Butte (the ground is level with no trees so you can see the butte in the distance the whole time).

We finished taking pictures and started walking back to the car. I decided to break out the drone and get a few shots even though the morning pastels had faded.

We got back to the car and decided to bop over to Moonscape Overlook since it was only about a 15 min drive.

The road to get there was fine but could definitely get sketchy if it rains. Anyway, we pulled up to the overlook and there were probably about 10 cars spread out along the canyon ridge.

The morning light had faded but it was still really pretty.

The view from moonscape is insane and you can park on the edge and camp out. I waited for one couple to get done taking pictures on this formation that jutted out into the canyon and got the drone out.

After Moonscape overlook it was around 0830 and we were exhausted from driving through the night and getting zero sleep. We decided to drive 30 minutes into Hanksville, Utah and slept for an hour in the car on the side of the road when we got there.

The best times for photography and videography are of course sunset and sunrise so we really had nothing planned for the middle of the day and we were so tired. I told Murphy we could go pitch a tent somewhere and sleep until about 4 pm since we were trying to be dirtbags and not stay in a hotel. I realized that if we kept on the path we were on we would get no sleep, become zombies, and probably crash the car. I searched for hotel rooms and the only rooms available were in Torrey, UT which is about 50 minutes from Hanksville. I booked a room for the next night on Sunday night while Murphy was asleep. When he woke up we discussed our plans going forward and realized that sitting and doing nothing all day between sunrise and sunset sounded really boring so we started talking about driving all the way up to Moab, Utah on Sunday morning. if we did that, we wouldn’t be able to use the hotel room which I booked and was non-refundable. I paid $180 for the room and didn’t want to waste it so we ended up driving from Hanksville to the Noor Hotel in Torrey to see if I could get my money back. I talked with the hotel manager and was able to convince him to switch the reservation for that same day instead of Sunday night. So we ended up staying at the Noor Hotel that night (Saturday night). Here’s us having lunch in the parking lot.

The Noor Hotel was really nice and we crashed there for a couple hours before heading back out.

We left the hotel around 3pm and tried going to the Bentonite Hills but the road to get there definitely requires a four wheel drive vehicle with a pretty high clearance. In order to get to the Bentonite Hills (which look crazy cool) you have to cross a creek in your car near the beginning and I think the area had just received a lot of rain because the creek was pumping and I don’t even know if I would have attempted making the crossing in my truck.

We were dismayed but we decided to head to Long Dong Silver instead.

This place looks like something straight out of Lord of the Rings. We turned off the main highway and drove about halfway down the dirt road to Long Dong Silver until we saw signs saying that no motorized vehicles were allowed past the sign even though there were a bunch of tire tracks clearly leading past the sign. We decided to be good, law-abiding citizens and opted to walk the remaining 1.5 miles to the rock formation.

There were about a dozen people (almost all photographers) there for sunset. Sunset was right around 830pm. We waited for sunset but it was mostly blocked by clouds. Then we walked back and headed to our hotel.

We decided that we would leave our hotel in Torrey and drive to Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, Utah for sunrise. It’s a 3 hour drive from Torrey to Dead Horse and sunrise was at 6am so we woke up at 230am and started driving.

I had been to Dead Horse Point once before on a road trip across the country. I had a specific shot I really wanted to get in my head. I wanted to get it when I was there before but I didn’t have enough time and didn’t have a model.

We got there and I told Murphy exactly where to go and sunrise ended up going off. (Murphy is standing at the very edge).

After sunrise, we walked over to the east side which was facing the rising sun.

We decided to cook breakfast there so we carried the cooler to the west side of the canyon and “tried” to cook bacon and eggs. I say try because Murphy brought one tiny can of propane and it only had about an ounce of gas so we only had enough gas to cook two pieces of bacon. Still delicious though.

After breakfast, we drove the half hour into Moab and set up at the infamous food truck plaza at the center of town. Around 10am, we decided to head to Canyonlands National Park because I’d never been before. There was a 20 minute wait in line but it wasn’t that bad.

We drove to the I incredibly popular Mesa Arch and I was very underwhelmed. I’ve seen so many videos and photos at Mesa Arch at sunrise and was expecting more. Here’s a video of tourists all clambering to get their selfie with the arch.

After Mesa Arch we headed to Green River Overlook.

I’m sure this place is much cooler during sunrise or sunset but Deadhorse Point is more impressive to me.

After Green River Overlook, we headed to Murphy Point and hiked out to the overlook which was 3.4 miles round trip.

Honestly, it was a very similar view to Green River Overlook and by the time we got back to the car it was around 1230pm. We were completely worn out and even though I wanted to get a sunset photo shoot in at White Rim Overlook, we decided that we should drive back to Las Vegas and get some quality sleep.

We did the 6.5 hour drive Back to Vegas and that was the end to our Utah road trip of barely any sleep and constant running and gunning.