A Hidden Gem Hike In This Western State Offers Views Straight Out Of A Star Wars Movie

Utah is a land of surreal landscapes. Impossible arches bridging broad-shouldered buttes at Arches National Park. In Goblin Valley, giant rock formations with globular heads sit gazing at you from every angle. The famous Wave on the Utah-Arizona border, with its insane swirl of colors, begs the question of who put peyote in the water. There are slot canyons for days, in more shades of orange than you ever knew were possible, and otherworldly destinations like Moonscape Overlook, which make you feel like you've landed on the moon. The list goes on.  

But when it comes to fantastical locales with outrageous names, one stands out over all others: Long Dong Silver Spire in the badlands near Hanksville, in the state's southeast quadrant. Apparently, while the formation is known by a few other names — one being simply, the Spire — the Long Dong name is the one that's most widely used. When you see the gigantic silver rock spires (there are actually two) jutting out of the desert, towering menacingly over their surroundings, it's just like something out of a "Star Wars" movie. It's no wonder that the Mars Society chose a site near Long Dong for its Mars Desert Research Station, per USRA. In this location, the researchers study the effect of Mars-like living conditions on small groups of willing humans. 

Finding the Long Dong Silver Spire

The best time to visit Long Dong Silver Spire is a spring or fall morning or evening, when it's neither too hot nor too cold and the softer light illuminates the rock features, casting interesting shadows. Avoid the area on hot summer days with little shade, and after a heavy rain, as the ground becomes quite soft, making walking or driving a challenge. Whatever time of year you choose to embark on this adventure, bring plenty of sunscreen, water, rain gear, and a downloadable map, since you probably won't get a mobile phone signal there.

Finding the Long Dong Silver Spire is a little tricky, so here are some detailed directions, via Lor & Jor Explore, in case you want to see it for yourself. From Hanksville, drive west on UT-24 for around seven miles before turning right off the highway. The GPS coordinates at this location are 38.369457, -110.840582. You can either park here and walk, or continue driving if you have a 4x4. At this point, you're around two miles from Long Dong. Head north from the parking area, paralleling a dry wash. Continue along the valley area between the cliffs. Then you'll have the option of hiking up some soft soil on your right or continuing around some hills, after which you'll be able to see Long Dong. Take some time to thoroughly check out this geological marvel before heading back to your car. Do let us know if you spot any extra-terrestrial life forms. 

While you're in the area

While you're in the Hanksville area, check out some of the location's other amazing natural treasures. Continuing west on UT-24 from the Long Dong parking area, you'll arrive at Capitol Reef National Park after around 27 miles. Visiting this underrated park is like hitting the surreal scenery jackpot — the whole landscape is ablaze with bright orange cliffs and canyons. There's even a 100-mile-long geologic monocline, or a wrinkle in the earth. To discover the wonders of Capitol Reef, you can take scenic drives, ride on horseback, rock climb, or hike. The park is a great place to get your hiking fix, and one of the most popular paths is the Hickman Bridge Trail, a 1.8 mile out-and-back walk to a spectacular 133-foot natural bridge with beautiful views of the canyon. 

One of the more unusual experiences you can have in this park is visiting its orchards a couple of miles from the visitor center, which are known as the "Eden of Wayne County." The apple, apricot, cherry, peach, pear, plum, mulberry, almond, and walnut trees were originally planted by a pioneer community that settled here back in 1880. You're welcome to pick, pay for, and enjoy some fruit when it's in season. If you don't feel like working for your fruit, stop into the Gifford Homestead to purchase locally baked fruit pies, or homemade ice cream, if you'd rather.