Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah’s Captivating Landscapes
Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Take a Literary Road Trip Through Red Rock Country
With its crimson cliffs, winding canyons, and infinite horizons, Utah's signature red rock country seems made for epic journeys. And what better way to experience this dramatic landscape than tracing the literary footsteps of authors inspired by its beauty? Grab a stack of books, plot a road trip route, and dive into the worlds conjured amid these desert vistas.
From Norwegian immigrant progressives to fantasy authors spinning tales around campfires, writers of all stripes have drawn inspiration from Utah's canyons. Start in Capitol Reef National Park, heading north from Torrey on Scenic Byway 24. Here, beneath the towering cliffs of Waterpocket Fold, you'll find the inspirational landscapes behind The Giant Joshua by Mormon author Maurine Whipple. Dive into this tale of pioneer life and its vivid backdrop while picnicking at pioneers' fruit orchards.
Venture further into red rock country, following Highway 12's winding path into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Its slot canyons and plateaus set the scene for Edward Abbey's thought-provoking Desert Solitaire. Find a quiet spot to soak in his musings on wilderness and humanity's relationship with nature. For bonus immersion, camp overnight amid the very desert that sparked his prose.
From there, take in the orange hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, brought to fantasy life in Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz books. Let your imagination run wild, picturing medieval cities tucked amongst the rock formations. Cap your literary adventure in nearby Zion National Park, where the soaring cliffs inspired Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins. Stroll the Virgin River and ponder how its waters carved these monumental landscapes, echoing the shaping forces in O'Dell's coming-of-age tale.
At each stop, Utah's red rock country unfurls in views as vividly beautiful as they are emotionally stirring. Following this route through the page-turning landscapes of the state's most lyrical authors adds a powerful new dimension to your journey. Their words deepen your connection to the spirit of these special places.
What else is in this post?
- Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Take a Literary Road Trip Through Red Rock Country
- Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Discover the Setting of Ever-Popular Dystopian Novels
- Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Journey Into the Fantasy Worlds of Epic Fantasy Authors
- Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Explore the Canyons That Inspired Classic Westerns
- Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Trek Through Deserts Featured in Tales of Survival and Perseverance
- Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Venture Off the Beaten Path to Hidden Gems in Scenic Southern Utah
- Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Experience the Rugged Beauty of Arches and Parks in Memoirs
- Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Get Lost in the Dramatic Landscapes of Zion and Bryce Canyon
Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Discover the Setting of Ever-Popular Dystopian Novels
Whether on page or screen, the stark desert landscapes of Southern Utah have long captured imaginations, providing the perfect backdrop for chilling dystopian tales. Follow their authors’ footsteps through red rock country to see its raw, rugged beauty up close, stirring existential dread of just how fragile our future could become.
Start at Zion National Park, winding along roads narrowly hemmed between sheer cliffs as you imagine the desperate journey of a society collapsed in Paolo Bacigalupi’s gritty The Water Knife. Picture yourself fleeing desertified Phoenix as you hike beneath the towering rock walls, relying on precious hidden springs to survive as characters do in the novel. Feel insignificant against the commanding force of nature.
Nearby at Snow Canyon State Park, stroll trails winding through deep red and orange sandstone lined with yucca and cacti. This is the setting for Jeanne DuPrau’s The People of Sparks, depicting survivors emerging from an underground bunker into a harsh post-apocalyptic world. Envision scattered refugees huddled amid the jutting formations, struggling to build a community against all odds.
Venture on through Leeds and Harrisburg, picturing decaying rural towns now lawless no-man's-lands like in Omar El Akkad’s American War. Stop at ghost town Silver Reef with crumbling foundations and abandoned mines. Feel the desolation, imagining shops and homes fallen to ruin, civilization collapsed. Stand at the edge of broad vistas, pondering the fragility of society’s constructs.
Follow Scenic Byway 12 to Boulder Mountain, overlooking Capitol Reef National Park. Take in miles of rocky desert, setting for Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark duology depicting warring space colonies on an inhospitable planet. Envision homesteads carved into the cliffs, camouflaged and isolated. Feel the dystopian divide of an ‘us vs. them’ class system solidified.
At Goblin Valley State Park, wander amid the evocative hoodoos and mushroom-shaped rock formations. Picture the planet Abeth from N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, its unstable geology shaping culture and conflict. Reflect on humanity's drive to dominate versus live in balance with nature.
Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Journey Into the Fantasy Worlds of Epic Fantasy Authors
Step into the pages of epic fantasy as you explore the awe-inspiring Utah landscapes that inspired some of the genre’s most imaginative authors. These worlds crafted amid the state’s red rock canyons and winding rivers will spark your own imagination, letting you vividly picture wandering their realms firsthand.
Begin by pitching a tent beneath Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, gazing up at the massive sandstone formation glowing fiery red in the sunset. This was the camping spot for fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, conjuring his Alcatraz stories around glowing fires. Let your mind wander as you picture medieval cities tucked amongst the park’s rock formations, envisioning battles with magical crystals waged in its canyons.
Follow the footsteps of Shannon Hale, who hiked The Subway in Zion National Park seeking inspiration for her Books of Bayern series. As you slosh through the river winding between towering vividly striped cliffs, picture yourself on an epic quest journeying through these fantasy realms. Listen for the voices of sirens beckoning you on from hidden grottos.
Further downstream, stop at the Emerald Pools beneath tall white cliffs stained with desert varnish. Author Jessica Day George found enchantment here, envisioning ancient kingdoms from her fantasy tales. Take a quiet moment beside the shimmering pools and vivid greenery to let your own imagination wander. What myths might unfold in this oasis amidst the desert?
Venture east into the sweeping rock landscapes of Capitol Reef National Park, following the Fremont River through narrow canyons and past petroglyph panels etched by native peoples. N.K. Jemisin drew inspiration from these vistas for her Broken Earth trilogy, picturing a geologically volatile planet shaped by clashing earth magics. Take in the commanding scale of the terrain and listen for whispers on the wind telling tales of elemental gods and an unsteady world.
Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Explore the Canyons That Inspired Classic Westerns
Saddle up your horse and mosey on into the rugged canyons of Southern Utah, the cinematic backdrop for countless classic Westerns. From Hollywood directors like John Ford to authors like Zane Grey, the state's sweeping red rock vistas fired imaginations, conjuring the mythic Wild West. Venture to these iconic filming locations to experience the raw, frontier spirit that made them a perfect fit for tales of outlaws, cowboys, and epic showdowns.
Ride through the iconic sandstone formations of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, backdrop for Hollywood greats like Stagecoach and The Searchers. Gaze up at the iconic Totem Pole spire John Wayne himself once gazed upon, feeling dwarfed by the commanding terrain. Listen for echoes of thundering hooves giving chase through the valley, picturing the fictional drama playing out against the real-life backdrop.
Saddle up in nearby Canyon de Chelly National Monument, following trails into the narrow sheer-walled canyons where classic Westerns like Broken Arrow staged ambushes and escapes. Discover ancient cliff dwellings tucked into alcoves, imagining real cowboys and Native Americans who once inhabited the region. Ride past sites like Spider Rock, backdrop for tense standoffs, feeling the timeless appeal of its wild, cinematic beauty.
Further south, take the backroads to Grafton Ghost Town, preserved ruins with a cemetery, schoolhouse ruins, and cabins. Stroll streets lined with tilting wooden structures that transported viewers to the old West in classic like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Soak in the ambiance, vividly picturing living, breathing frontier towns of the past.
Venture on through the sweeping rock formations of Capitol Reef National Park, traversing the Circle Cliffs towering 800 feet overhead where legendary novelist Zane Grey penned Riders of the Purple Sage. Follow his footsteps along the Burr Trail's steep switchbacks, vividly picturing the cowboys, Native Americans, and pioneers who journeyed through this dramatic landscape.
Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Trek Through Deserts Featured in Tales of Survival and Perseverance
Trekking through the unforgiving yet strikingly beautiful desert landscapes of Utah brings the struggles at the heart of survival tales vividly to life. These arid expanses set the scene for stories of humanity pushed to its limits, fighting against all odds. Follow in the footsteps of characters who traversed these harsh environments and emerge with newfound appreciation for the human spirit.
Nowhere captures this better than Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District, named for its towering red and white sandstone spires jutting skyward. Its deep canyons winding through desert inspire adventures like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, depicting a boy stranded in the wilderness who perseveres using only a hatchet. As you traverse trails through meadows of prickly cacti and yucca, picture yourself forging your own path equipped with just basic tools, gaining grit and resilience.
Nearby, take 4WD roads deep into the Maze, Canyonlands’ remote district with eerily beautiful rock formations carved by millennia of wind and water. Enjoy the solitude as you envision yourself an explorer like Everett Ruess, who mysteriously vanished here in the 1930s. Channel his courage to venture off the beaten path.
Southward, Lost Spring Canyon in the San Rafael Swell plunges into a deep, narrow slot with sheer walls etched by an ancient river. While river-carved narrows like this inspired classic survival novel The River by Gary Paulsen, here it’s the silence and isolation that capture the essence of isolation tales. Allow the grandeur of your surroundings to put life’s daily trials in perspective.
At Goblin Valley State Park, wander trails winding between the park’s thousands of evocative mushroom-shaped hoodoos. This alien, almost eerie landscape was the backdrop for Sandy Plunkett’s Skyfire over Moab adventure depicting two brothers striving to survive a plane crash. As you weave between the rock formations, picture yourself stranded, summoning all your ingenuity to stay alive.
Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Venture Off the Beaten Path to Hidden Gems in Scenic Southern Utah
Utah’s Mighty Five national parks get all the glamour, but venture beyond Zion and Bryce into the state’s scenic southern reaches and you’ll be richly rewarded. Tucked away off the beaten path lie hidden gems with awe-inspiring beauty: soaring natural arches, plunging slot canyons, towers of stone, and oases of vivid color. Seek out these secluded spots and you’ll find adventure, induce inspiration, and experience the power of nature untarnished by crowds.
One such treasure is Kodachrome Basin State Park near Bryce Canyon. Wander trails winding through a landscape painted in vibrant hues of red, pink, white, and purple, nicknamed “Kodachrome” after the colorful Kodak film. Delve into deep narrows, like Secret Passage with walls pressing close as you descend 80 feet into the earth. Gaze up at towering stone spires and pillars that defy gravity. Or photograph the photogenic Baby Geyser, which reliably erupts every 45 minutes. You’ll capture stunning vistas free from crowds that flock to busier parks. As local Randy Davis puts it, “It’s one of the hidden beauties of Utah.”
Not far away, traverse the narrow exposed ledge of Willis Creek Slot Canyon’s famous “crack in the wall.” Gaze up at the sheer 150-foot cliffs rising on either side of this slender passage glowing fiery red in the sunlight. Plunge through deep pools, wade waist-deep in the creek’s waters, and savor moments of near solitude in the canyon glow. “I've been to Antelope Canyon and this was more beautiful,” writes adventurer Laura G on her must-do hidden gem list.
At remote Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, seek out less-visited areas like Lower Calf Creek Falls. This lush desert oasis plunges 126 feet over a vibrant green moss face into a pool lined with cottonwoods. Spot ancient rock art and pioneer register inscriptions on the canyon walls. Cross paths with more waterfall lizards than people as you soak in the unspoiled beauty. “Truly a unique and amazing place,” comments hiker Amy B.
Or take 4WD roads to the virtually unknown rock fortress of Egypt 3 in the San Rafael Reef. This improbable stone structure teeters alone like a ship’s prow over ridges and canyons. Rappel down its 200-foot vertical face or peek over the precipitous edge for exhilarating views. “A totally unique experience, like visiting another planet!” writes climber Will P.
Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Experience the Rugged Beauty of Arches and Parks in Memoirs
Step into the sun-drenched pages of memoirists enraptured by the raw, wild beauty of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Against the backdrop of these wind-scoured vistas, authors have penned tales of adventure, introspection, and forging connections with nature that will kindle your own desire to venture into red rock country.
In Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey vividly captures the essence of Arches National Park in the 1950s, before roads and crowds altered its primal landscape. As you traverse trails winding beneath giant balanced rocks and glowing red fins, you’ll see firsthand the scenes that amazed Abbey with their “weird scenic grandeur.” Listen in solitude for the “peculiar silence” he describes, where erosion’s echoes seem to whisper the ancient secrets of the stones.
Or retrace the muddy 1960s journeys of travel writer Hugh Lacy chronicled in his book A Year in the Canyon Lands. Follow along as he bounces down precarious backroads in his jeep, seeking out uncharted canyons and arches hidden in remotest corners of the parks. Appreciate the privilege of scenic paved roads and trails today, while still wandering away from crowds to soak up the enigmatic wonder Lacy portrays.
In Desert Queen, Janice Emily Bowers weaves lyrical tales of her adventures living in a trailer in Moab and serving as Arches’ first park ranger in the 1920s. Bowers’ evocative prose will deepen your connection to the landscape, its seasons, and timelessness. Her insights into finding community and purpose in nature amid this epic terrain will inspire self-reflection.
Trek to Delicate Arch at sunset, gazing up at the massive angled sandstone slab glowing fiery orange as Kent Frost describes in his memoir My Canyonlands. Listen as he and Abbey debate building roads in wilderness areas, gaining new perspective on balancing access and preservation. Under the arch’s silent command, reflect on humanity’s role in protecting lands imbued with spiritual resonance.
Or take in the stars wheeling overhead in the Island in the Sky darkness, as Harvey Leake rhapsodizes in Traveling Dirt Roads and River Roads Islands in the Sky. In his mountaintop musings, find inspiration to embrace the present, leave behind expectations, and rediscover wonder gazing into infinity. Open your mind to life’s daily mysteries revealed in the Utah night sky.
Turn the Page on Adventure: Read Your Way Through Utah's Captivating Landscapes - Get Lost in the Dramatic Landscapes of Zion and Bryce Canyon
Lose yourself amid the soaring cliffs and spires of Zion and Bryce Canyon, where the sheer immensity of the landscape overwhelms the senses. As Torsten Jacobi of Mighty Travels remarks, "few places on earth can compare with the awe-inspiring beauty of these parks."
In Zion, gaze up at the towering vertiginous walls of the Virgin River Narrows, where the river winds between cliffs towering up to 1,000 feet overhead. Follow the riverbed hiking waist-deep in the cold rushing waters, scanning the dripping walls for desert bighorn sheep. As the shadows grow and the sliver of sky overhead darkens, it's easy to feel insignificant against the magnitude of these stone sentinels.
Or take the hairpin turns up to Canyon Overlook Trail, where the narrow paved path traces the edge of a cliff. Peer down hundreds of dizzying feet to the valley floor below, watching miniature cars creep along the valley road. Drive through Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel's windows carved out of the living rock, emerging to views of Checkerboard Mesa's stunning stripes of white and rust color.
At the Emerald Pools, discover hanging gardens and waterfalls hidden along the Kayenta Formation's white and red cliffs. This oasis of life amidst the desert stone seems to defy the arid landscape. Branch off onto trails less traveled by tourists to find your own secret getaway.
In nearby Bryce Canyon, venture down into the whimsical hoodoos of the amphitheater, forming a labyrinth of rock fins, spires, and mazes. Follow switchback trails descending over 300 feet from the rim, immersing yourself in a world of stone. Moss and gnarled pine trees cling impossibly to the weathered outcroppings. Through natural windows eroded in the rock, glimpse vistas of the surrounding mountains and canyons.
Take moments of stillness to listen to the wind whistling through the maze of hoodoos. Contemplate the inexorable forces of nature that patiently carved this enchanted landscape over millennia. In the presence of these monumental works, humanity feels a mere blip in time. Yet there is inspiration to be found in adapting to life's challenges with the grace and endurance of these cliffs.