Fantasy Canyon, Utah

by Chihi Kwan Chen, November 3, 2009

Fantasy Canyon is located about 40 miles south east of Vernal, Utah. Vernal is at the north eastern section of Utah. We took I-70 and at Exit 157 turned north into US-6 and US-191. US-6 and US-191 part a little beyond Price. One needs to follow US-191 to Vernal. After parting with US-6, US-191 enters a mountainous terrain. This portion of US-191 is a senic drive. About 40 miles after parting from US-6, US-40 joins US-191 and goes into Vernal together. Within Vernal this route is called Main Street. Other streets that are diagonal to Main Street are divided into north and south sections. Vernal Ave. is another street with a normal name and is diagonal to Main Street. Vernal Ave. divides the town into west and east sections. Other roads thus have interesting names like N 100 W, W 200 S, and so on depending on which one of four sections the street is located. At the cross section of Main Street and Vernal Avenue, US-40 and US-191 branch off, with US-191 going north along Vernal Ave., and US-40 continueing toward east along Main Street. To Fantasy Canyon, one needs to follow US-40 East. At S 500 E Street, make a right turn and there is a field office of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that manages Fantasy Canyon. Fantasy Canyon is not a state park, but is in the middle of Indian land. That area has many oil fields and numerous oil field service roads most of which are not on official map. It is a good idea to get a map and information about Fantasy Canyon in the BLM field office. To continue to Fantasy Canyon, one needs to turn back to US-40 East and follows it for a while. At a traffic light, turn right into Utah State Route 45, and drive south along this road. The traffic on this road are mostly oil-field service vehicles. At the intersection with Glen Bench Road, there is a BLM sign pointing toward Fantasy Canyon. This BLM sign is not large and is easy to miss. Before coming up to the BLM sign there is a big sign of "Red Wash", prodding visitors to Red Wash to turn left. Red Wash is a recreational area, but we do not know details about it. Very shortly after the Red Wash sign, BLM sign and the intersection with Glen Bench Road comes up at the right hand side. Glen Bench Road is a paved road. About 0.3 mile after entering Glen Bench Road, Glen Bench Road curves toward left. If keep going straight, we have no idea where it will lead to. Follow Glen Bench Road for a while until another similary paved road called Watson Road joins Glen Bench Road from right. At that intersection, another BLM sign prods visitors to Fantasy Canyon to turn left into a dirt road. After entering into the labyrinth of oil-field service roads, BLM signs become the only guide. It is better to memorize the turns since on the way out BLM signs for exit will be much less frequent than the way in. It is said that especially after dark, it is very difficult to get out of Fantasy Canyon and back to the paved Glen Bench Road. After crossing a wash (dry when we visited), the parking area is not far away. At our visit there was no other cars there. From the visitors sign-in book, looks like only have one or two visitors per day at that time. It should also be mentioned that there are baby rattle snakes (also called pygmy rattle snake) in the canyon, but they are rarely seen. The dirt raod to the canyon becomes unpassable when wet.

There are 20 or more delicate structures in Fantasy Canyon, and are immediately approachable from the parking area. The tallest one was called "Teapot". A picture with a full moon shining through Teapot was the land mark picture of the canyon. Unfortunately in September of 2006, Teapot was found to have toppled from its foundation and shattered on the canyon floor. The night before the discovery, there were three visitors camping there overnight. On investigation, it is said that the destruction of Teapot was probably caused by vendalism. Many suspect that someone tried to climb up that delicate structure and caused its demise. After that incident, experts are fearful that the remaining structures will meet same fate as Teapot. That is probably why advertisement about Fantasy Canyon is so low key that most people do not know about the canyon. Each of the major structure in the canyon has a name, but people can hardly match the names with the shapes of the structures. Some pictures of those structures are included without any comment; everything is just dumped on viewer's fantasy.