Fine dining at the top step of a natural wonder
The other Boulder (Utah, not Colorado) isn’t the easiest of our five destinations to get to — it’s a five-and-a-half hour drive with a few twists and turns — but the payoff is massive, as you land in a bonanza of natural wonders. Even the drive itself, on Scenic Byway 12 passing through Bryce Canyon, is so spectacular that the Federal Highway Administration designated it one of the country’s 184 All American Roads. My husband and I find the high-desert mix of mountain forests and sandstone cliffs so enchanting that we eloped there. And every time we go back, we leave wishing we had more time to stay.
If you plan to eat multiple meals at Hell’s Backbone Grill and Farm (more below), then you’ll want to book a room at Boulder Mountain Lodge. Besides being comfy and well-appointed, it’s just steps from the celebrated restaurant on Highway 12 ($130 and up, boulder-utah.com). For something more off the beaten path, check out Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, which has everything from tent camping and yurts to cabins and a classic lodge ($130 and up, bouldermountain-guestranch.com).
No offense to Mother Nature, but the food in Boulder is the main draw for many visitors. Hell’s Backbone Grill Owners Jen Castle and Blake Spalding have created something so special with their farm-to-table restaurant that they’ve earned a top Zagat rating and been James Beard Award semifinalists twice. Don’t leave without a package of Castle’s Blue Ribbon Black-Powder biscuit mix (hellsbackbonegrill.com). For breakfast or lunch, make time to visit Kiva Koffeehouse on the 12 between Boulder and Escalante. The java’s fine, but the view? Breathtaking (kivakoffeehouse.com).
There are gazillions of hikes within a stone’s throw of Boulder, but if you only have time for one, go to Capitol Reef. There are treks of every difficulty level there — from wheelchair-accessible walks to backcountry backpacking — and the geologically diverse scenery is awe-inspiring, no matter which one you choose (nps.gov/care). For something closer to town and more family-oriented, check out the Anasazi State Park Museum. The site holds Pueblo ruins and artifacts from as far back as 1050 CE, along with short interpretive trails, picnic areas, and interactive exhibits (stateparks.utah.gov).
Hell’s Backbone Grill gets its name from a 35-mile scenic drive that includes a hair-raising one-lane bridge over a deep gorge in the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the road in 1933 as the first connector between Boulder and nearby Escalante, Utah (now also on Highway 12). Meandering through aspen and ponderosa pine forest, the gravel road takes around two hours to complete (utah.com). If you’re afraid of heights, then try the 67-mile Burr Trail, another historic — and highly scenic — drive, this one connecting Boulder to Bullfrog Marina at Lake Powell. It’s a rough backcountry road, but those with high-clearance/four-wheel-drive vehicles have access to a smorgasbord of sweeping vistas along the way: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (nps.gov).
For more on Boulder, go to visitutah.com.