An Otherworldly Destination In The West Will Make You Feel Like You've Landed On The Moon

If you've ever dreamed of being an astronaut and visiting the moon, the bad news is that even NASA has trouble getting there these days. Space tourism could also set you back hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. The 18-year wait for a Virgin Galactic flight might be worth it for some, but since you'd be leaving from a spaceport in the New Mexico desert, anyway, there's another option to consider. Head diagonally across the Four Corners to Utah, and you can see what resembles lunar terrain — right on Earth — at Moonscape Overlook.

You may have seen Instagram photos of a lone figure, standing atop a steep rock at Moonscape Overlook. From the dizzying height of this mesa on the outskirts of Hanksville, you can survey a scene that looks like something an astronaut would behold after stepping out of a lunar lander. The area is remote; Hanksville had a population of 158 in the 2020 U.S. census. It's a small town in a big landscape, one that the private Mars Desert Research Station even uses to train for missions due to its geological similarity to the Red Planet.

As part of "The Mighty 5" road trip route through Utah's national parks, Moonscape Overlook is within driving distance of several other natural landmarks, too. If you've got a jeep or 4x4 truck or don't mind joining an SUV tour, this could be the perfect place to escape the noise of civilization and feel like you're on the moon.

How to find Moonscape Overlook in Utah

Though it's more commonly called Moonscape Overlook, Google Maps labels the spot "Moon Overlook." Unless you download an offline map to avoid getting lost, the app may not help. There's not much reception in this area, and despite charming names like Cow Dung Road, some of the signs along the forking dirt roads out to the overlook are numbered, not named. You won't find any facilities like public restrooms up on the mesa, either. Having a high-clearance vehicle with four-wheel drive is preferable since the roads are rocky in places, and your car could get stuck in the mud if it rains.

The road to Moonscape Overlook is marked 1552. It splits off to the left from Skyline View Road, which is labeled 0913. Another option is to link up with a tour and let someone else do the driving for you. Through AAA's Trip Canvas or Tripadvisor's Viator, you can book a tour with a professional driver and guide who will take you out to Moonscape Overlook. You'll meet up at the Wayne County Tourism office for a four-hour trip that includes time in nearby Bentonite Hills, where the landscape has been likened to a rainbow Mars.

Hanksville is also home to a dinosaur quarry where the fossils of huge sauropods from the Jurassic Period, like the Brontosaurus and Brachiosaurus, have been unearthed. If the moon and Mars aren't enough for you, just imagine you're a time traveler in a prehistoric landscape.

Where to stay and what else to do

Aside from the Whispering Sands Motel, Hanksville's lodging options are mostly limited to campgrounds like Duke's RV Park. Both are operated by Red Desert, and the latter offers luxury cabins if you don't have a trailer or tent. You can also find free campsites scattered throughout the surrounding area, and the Muddy Creek Mining Company has cabins as well.

Despite its out-of-the-way feel, Moonscape Overlook is near some other stunning geographical features, so it would make a great addition to a road trip through Utah. Just 3 miles away is Factory Butte, a 6,302-foot sandstone peak, towering over a rugged badlands stretch that serves as a recreation area for off-highway vehicles. With a drone, you can capture some good shots of the adjacent Caineville Mesas (pictured above), where the terrain looks as otherworldly as Moonscape Overlook from the sky.

If you're on a longer trip, adventuring through all five of Utah's national parks, the nearest is Capitol Reef, which is only a 25-mile drive from Moonscape Overlook. We've named this park's Cathedral Valley one of the most beautiful places in America's state and national parks. About 50 miles down the road, you'll also find Goblin Valley State Park, named for its hoodoos (rock formations shaped like mushrooms or sandstone "goblins"). Pair the splendor of Moonscape Overlook with one or more of these places, and you could have a trip that's truly out of this world without ever leaving Earth.