Moonscape Skyline View Utah

How to Explore and Visit Hanksville, Utah

Before it became well-known in photography circles, I headed to the middle of the Utah desert to explore Hanksville, which hides a waterless oasis. Many just drive through it without knowing what’s around them. But it turns magical with a longer look, especially from the sky. Below are the must-see places when you visit Hanksville, including some hidden gems!

Thanks to millions of years of erosion, wind, and other earth-shaping elements, the landscapes in southern Utah are truly mind-boggling. With Utah’s bentonite hills and stunning colors, you need to check out this area!

Must-see places to visit in Hanksville

There are a few must-see spots in Hanksville, with another, Capitol Reef National Park, just 30 minutes away. Most of the area is BLM land, so you’re free to do dispersed camping throughout. If you want to stay in Hanksville, it’s a very small town with only a few places to stay and eat. I went in late January, and nearly nothing was open. Luckily, I found a burger joint that was open past 6 pm.

I was only in Hanksville for 18 hours, but it was well worth it. I was able to see sunset and sunrise in a truly beautiful place.

Factory Butte

This was my main attraction for visiting Hanksville. It’s a classic spot now, but in 2020, this place saw hardly anyone! The landscape is incredible and doesn’t look like any place on Earth. From the ground, it’s pretty cool, but to truly appreciate the area, you need to get a different perspective.

Flying your drone here is legal and highly recommended. You’ll see the textures, the colors, and the entirety of the landscape that you’d only get to see if you were in a low-flying airplane.

Hanksville Drone Photography Utah
Hanksville Drone Photography Utah
Factory Butte Utah Photography must see places in hanksville
Factory Butte Utah Photography Hanksville
must see places in hanksville Drone Photography Utah
Hanksville Drone Photography Utah
Hanksville Utah Sunset
Hanksville Utah Sunset

Rainbow Mountains? Mars? Bentonite Hills, Utah?

The Rainbow Mountains in Utah may not actually be Mars, but it sure looks like another planet. Hidden a few miles off the main road are some gnarly bentonite hills in Utah that make the rainbow mountain landscape seem like you’re no longer on Earth.

This is best photographed during blue/golden hour. It’s also easily the main attraction and one of the must-see places in Hanksville.

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bentonite hills utah
Utah Hanksville Mars bentonite hills utah
rainbow mountains utah
Utah Hanksville Mars
Utah Hanksville Mars rainbow mountains utah
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Moonscape Overlook/Skyline View

I left my Hanksville hotel room around 6:15 am, cruising into the darkness and towards a landscape I had never been to before. As I barrelled through the slowly brightening sky, the beginnings of what would be an incredible sunrise unfolded behind me and then in front of me as the route which started me west then brought me back east.

I cursed myself for sleeping in, thinking I would miss the sunrise. Magically, I appeared at Moonscape Overlook/Skyline View with plenty of time to watch the wild world below the transition from darkness to light.

Even though my fingers froze, and I was worried they were about to fall off, it was entirely worth it. Plus, on the way home, I witnessed a gang of antelope spring across the desert floor right in front of my car. I was not expecting it, yet I somehow snagged a few pictures.

Moonscape Skyline View Utah
Moonscape Skyline View Utah
Moonscape Skyline View Utah must see places in hanksville

Capitol Reef National Park

I could only spend a couple of hours in Capitol Reef, and 98% of it was spent in my car. This wasn’t exactly by design, but I figured I could see more of it if I drove through it instead of doing a single hike.

At some point, I’d like to come back and get up close and personal here. There are some pretty cool spots, not in this area, but in a more remote area of the park, that would make for some amazing backpacking.

While I didn’t see the best of Capitol Reef, I’m excited to get back and see the sights on the dirt roads away from the tourist spots. I highly recommend adding it to a trip to Arches and Canyonlands.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Photography
Capitol Reef National Park Utah Photography
Capitol Reef National Park Utah Photography
Capitol Reef National Park Utah Photography


Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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