Take a Weekend Trip Through Highway 89: A Road of Utah Culture

Summer in Utah is the best time for a spontaneous weekend adventure. One tried-and-true way to take advantage of the Beehive State’s unique culture is to take a drive along Utah’s section of U.S. Highway 89. From Garden City to Kanab, Highway 89 showcases authentic Utah eateries, historic landmarks, awe-inspiring sceneries and much more—perfect for the whole family to enjoy, or for a couple’s getaway. So load up the car and settle in, let’s explore Highway 89!

Night before

Begin your trip in the Northern Utah town  Garden City, home of Bear Lake and near the Idaho border, check in to Conestoga Ranch (conestogaranch.com) for a glamping experience in a covered-wagon tent. Pick up a quick and easy dinner at seasonally opened La Beau’s (labeaus.com), where they serve Bear Lake’s famous raspberry milkshakes and other small-town fast food.

Bear Lake. Photo by Marc Piscotty / Visit Utah

Day One: Garden City to Salt Lake City (120 mi)

After a night in Garden City, spend the morning in the city. Enjoy breakfast at Campfire Grill Restaurant (campfiregrillrestaurant.com) with a classic American breakfast or some cinnamon french toast. Rent a boat or canoe to spend some time in the water or walk around the lake and see why Garden City is known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies.” 

After a slow and calm morning in Bear Lake, get on Highway 89 and head down to Brigham City. The small town’s iconic Peach City restaurant (thepeachcity.com), located right on Main Street, is an all-American diner experience and was voted to have the best fries in Utah by KSL Studio 5. 

The section of Highway 89 between Brigham City and Willard is also known as the “Fruit Highway.” With an array of Utah-grown produce ranging from peaches to cherries to raspberries, these fresh fruit stands are at their peak in mid-late summertime.

Further down 89 is Ogden, Utah. What was once a rail hub for the Western United States has now turned into its own quirky town, unique to many other Utah cities. Ogden’s iconic Historic 25th Street is currently in the running for USA Today’s best USA main street. With a variety of things to do, from axe throwing to walk-in tattoos to exploring various restaurants, 25th Street brings a lot to the table. Enjoy dinner at Roosters Brewing (roostersbrewingco.com) on the famous street with classic brewery-style foods like Carne Asada tacos, burrata and pesto pizza, and a gorgonzola bacon burger.

After dinner, make your way south to settle down for the night in the state’s capital. Salt Lake City’s  Little America Hotel (saltlake.littleamerica.com) promises a comfortable and charming night’s stay, and has been an iconic part of the city’s history for generations. 

Day Two: Salt Lake City to Marysvale (190 mi)

Awake to the gorgeous skyline of Salt Lake City and head down to Finns (finnscafe.net), a Scandinavian-influenced cafe, for breakfast. Partake in their famous sourdough pancakes, a traditional Scandinavian breakfast, Wienerschnitzel and eggs or any other breakfast food that the heart may desire.

Natural History Museum dinosaur display. Photo by Marc Piscotty

Finish up in SLC with the Natural History Museum of Utah (nhmu.utah.edu), located on the mountainside of the University of Utah’s campus. Learn about Utah’s rich geological and archeological history from every period of Earth’s history. With regularly changing inventory, there is always something new to discover.

After exploring the state’s capitol, hop back on Highway 89 and head south to Provo. Stop for lunch at Black Sheep Cafe (blacksheepcafe.com), a Native American-owned restaurant that serves a variety of Navajo tacos, a Utah-specific cuisine made up of taco fillings on frybread. 

After leaving Provo to venture even further South, Utah’s metropolitan area starts to diminish as its more rural and natural areas start to take over. Take a break in Manti to experience the Pioneer Heritage Gardens and to take a stretch before the remainder of the day’s trip.

Along the route is Big Rock Candy Mountain, take a peek at the seemingly normal mountain, the namesake to an iconic American folk song.

Stop for dinner at Coach’s Dog House in Marysvale. Coach’s offers classic hot dogs and hamburgers for a simple, but satisfying meal to end the long day of driving through the Beehive state. Lay down for the night at the Pine Creek Cabins Resort (pinecreekcabinsresort.com) for a night in one of their cozy cabins, a summertime classic.

Day Three: Sevier to Kanab (115 mi)

Wake up from a peaceful night in a cabin and head just shy of an hour south to Wanderlust Cowgirl Coffee (wanderlustcowgirlcoffee.com) to live out your Wild West dreams. Order coffee, fruity drinks, like smoothies, energy drinks or orange cream, and some breakfast food to gather energy for the long road ahead.

The Narrows at Zion National Park. Photo by David Pettit / Visit Utah

Though Highway 89 does pass through  Zion National Park, it does lead to East Zion Adventures (eastzionadventures.com). Before Southern Utah’s blazing sun gets the best of the day, spend the morning canyoneering, jeep touring, UTV-ing or even horseback riding at East Zion Adventures. 

Less than half an hour down the road is Thunderbird Restaurant (thunderbirdutah.com) in Mt. Carmel, a great lunch stop to sit, enjoy the view and cool down after a morning out in the desert heat. Enjoy their Carmel Mountain burger or Thunderbird sandwich, with a variety of lunch classics on the menu as well.

Once you’ve arrived in Kanab (a.k.a Utah’s ‘Little Hollywood), indulge fans of old Western films at Little Hollywood Land (littlehollywoodmuseum.org). The museum features information about Hollywood from 1924 to today and gives visitors insight as to why the Southern Utah city has drawn filmmakers for nearly 80 years. 

After a day of museums and the outdoors, enjoy the scenery at Wild Thyme Cafe (wildthymekanab.com) in Kanab. Savor the farm-to-table freshness of the restaurant’s high-quality food as you recount the details of your Highway 89 trip.

Take in the sandstone scenery for the last stay of the trip at Cave Lake Canyon Ranch (cavelakes.com). Experience a night of glamping in the ranch’s luxurious tents in Southern Utah’s unique and extraordinary landscape.

Final Morning:

As the trip comes to its close, grab a morning pick-me-up at Taro Coffee Bar (tarocoffeebar.com) while deciding your return route, see what adventures I-15 may bring on the way up North or embark on a whole new adventure.

Though Highway 89 runs from Yellowstone to Flagstaff, Utah’s portion of the US highway brings its own, unique adventures that offer insight into Utah’s culture. From Northern Utah’s delicious fruit to Southern Utah’s Wild West appeal, exploring U.S. 89 offers a new look into these cultural gems.

Brisa Odenthal
Brisa Odenthal
Brisa Odenthal is a sophomore at Weber State University studying Multimedia Journalism. She is currently an editorial intern at Salt Lake magazine and has worked with The Signpost and PBS Utah. She enjoys writing and has plans to work in the journalism industry after she graduates from Weber State.

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