Driving Across Utah: Interstates 15 & 70, US 89, Gunnison


The middle of Utah is remarkably desolate and empty, which makes it so surprising that, in the middle of nowhere, two major interstates meet.  And to top it off, one of them ends here!  After spanning most of the United States, I-70 abruptly ends near the small town of Cove Fort, forcing westbound drivers to choose whether they want to head north or south (or continue west on the even more desolate US 50, known as the Loneliest Road In America across Nevada).

Fortunately, I didn’t have to face this dilemma.  I wanted to head east on I-70 for just a short while, before exiting the freeway at Gunnison.

The Interstate 15/70 junction is nestled in the middle of some beautifully green hills, and once you’ve exited onto 70, there’s a brief climb that leads to this viewpoint, looking back to the west, towards I-15.  After that…

… I-70 continues east (actually, for the first 50 miles or so, it’s more northeast), passing through occasional pockets of nice, flat farmland, in between rolling hills — some of which is framed by some snow-capped peaks in the distance.

Exit I-70 onto US 89 north at Salina.  If you kept going, you’d face a 110 mile stretch of road with no services.  This is why the gas stations will be so expensive at the exit.  If you need fuel, try to make it into town.

I visited Salina on my Loneliest Road trip in 2009.  Since I had already seen the town, I didn’t spend much time there on this trip.

Gunnison, Utah

The wide street that cuts through downtown Gunnison was quiet during my Sunday morning visit.

Perhaps the most interesting building in downtown Gunnison is the Casino Star, an old theater that first opened in 1912.  It looks like it will have a nice, new facade by the time it’s 100th anniversary rolls around.

Gunnison officially became a town in 1893.  Six years later, this building began serving as its city hall.

Some farm equipment helps fill the parking lot outside Christensen’s (or K&J’s, if you prefer) department store.

I also noticed this car battery store as I drive through the town.  Look closely at the “chimney” on the roof, and you’ll notice this building used to be a Studebaker dealership.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive from Beaver to Salina, Utah, through the I-15/I-70 junction:

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