US 89 Through Central Utah: Manti, Gunnison


Day 7 was destined to be another day of driving.  Fortunately, every corner of Utah is beautiful, so I would be able to see a lot without ever stepping out of the car.  I decided to take US 89 through the center of the state, instead of the quicker Interstate 15.  It was a good choice.


South of Salt Lake City, take exit 257 off Interstate 15.  US 6 meets up with US 89, then the two roads split a few miles later.  Just keep following US 89.  In the middle of the state, 89 meets up with I-70 for a while, then splits off again. You won’t need to turn off 89 until Mt. Carmel Junction, where Utah Rte. 9 takes you into Zion National Park. From Exit 257 to Mt. Carmel Junction is 246 miles.

My Visit

Can you imagine a more beautiful scene for a road trip? This (above) is roughly the area where US 6 and US 89 split.  Another hour went by before I took another picture.

As you approach the town of Manti, you pass mile after mile staring ahead, at something very big on the horizon.  The road is flat here, passing through farmland, so the only thing on which to focus your attention is this…

… the Mormon Temple at Manti.  The huge stone building is on a hill overlooking the town, and surrounding Sanpete Valley.

The Manti Utah Temple was the third Mormon temple completed in Utah. It is one of only two temples that still present the “endowment” using live acting. It’s also home to the Mormon Miracle Pageant, which draws thousands of visitors in the summer months. 

I found this old abandoned building in Gunnison, Utah.

Another hour went by between pictures… as US 89 joined up with Interstate 70, then split off again.

Once you leave the interstate behind, you’re in for some twists and turns.

A very long time ago, when I was a kid, we drove down US 89 and stopped at a place called Big Rock Candy Mountain.  I don’t remember much about it, except it was a big deal to a 10 year old.  To my surprise, it still exists, just north of Marysvale.

Big Rock Candy Mountain receives much of its business from people traveling the Paiute ATV Trail, a 275 mile long dirt-road loop that covers a big chunk of central Utah.  Marysvale is roughly in the middle of the trail.

You can find out much more about the Paiute ATV Trail, at Big Rock Candy Mountain’s website.

The main reason I remembered Big Rock Candy Mountain was the distinctive, oddly-colored and tree-barren hill behind the cafe and motel.  It stands out from the rest of the scenery, and you’ll spot it a mile away.

The last time I was here, I ran and played on the hills.  This time I acted more like an adult.

There’s still a good distance to cover on Day 7.  I don’t think I stopped again until I reached Zion National Park, which was at least 2 hours down the road.  As a reward for that non-stop driving, I had enough time to spend a few hours in Zion, and even hike a trail, before dark.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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