Eastern Utah’s Beaver County may be remote (it’s about 200 miles from Salt Lake City), but it’s got a lot to recommend it. The area’s history is fascinating: It’s surrounded by rugged geographical features used by prehistoric residents. It’s also the hometown of Philo T. Farnsworth, widely credited with the early development of the television and holder of more than 300 patents, as well as Butch Cassidy, the outlaw who inspired the classic Western film.
Beaver County isn’t just interesting in retrospect. Today, you’ll find plenty of outdoor adventure for the whole family, thanks to the county’s proximity to the stunning Tushar Mountains and southwestern Utah’s renowned Color Country. Opportunities for family-friendly adventures abound in this corner of the state that’s truly representative of the American West. Here are five of the best.
1. Camp in Fishlake National Forest
The Tushar Range is Utah’s third-highest, and with two peaks more than 12,000 feet high and several over 11,000, it’s an alpine playground. There’s ample camping in Fishlake National Forest (the forest service manages the range in Beaver County)—so much so, in fact, that campers generally don’t have trouble finding sites even on summer weekends. Families seeking solitude are welcome to head to any number of areas for dispersed camping, including near the Three Creeks and Birch Creek Trailheads. Those looking for a few more amenities can head to Anderson Meadow Campground ($14 per night), which has vault toilets and drinking water, and also offers access to a reservoir with great fishing for rainbow and brook trout.
2. Explore Cove Fort Historic Site
Founded in 1867 at the behest of Mormon pioneer Brigham Young, Cove Fort has likely survived for more than a century and a half thanks in part to its use of volcanic rock rather than the typical wood construction of the mid-19th century. The fort, built as a waystation for travelers on the Mormon Corridor, stands in a square shape with four 100-foot-long, 18.5-foot-high walls. Young chose its location for its proximity to Beaver (a little less than 25 miles away) and the next nearest town, Fillmore. The local water supply wasn’t sufficient to house an entire town, but that didn’t stop the fort from being used by stagecoach lines and the Pony Express, along with up to 75 weary travelers at a time. The fort is open to visitors between 9 a.m. and dusk.
3. Hike in the Tushar Mountains
The Tushars are steep and at high elevation, but since they aren’t particularly rugged, they’re full of fun, family-friendly hikes. The Bullion Falls Trail System takes hikers to a series of waterfalls plunging up to 75 feet; they’re running year-round thanks to the plentiful snowmelt. (Use one of the two upper trailheads for a shorter, easier hike with small kiddos.) There’s also the Miner’s Park Interpretive Area, which gives visitors an idea of what life was like for the miners who headed to the area when gold was discovered. You may even discover some flecks of gold in the creek. Mount Belknap is a great hike for families with older kids, though it may be a bit much for very little ones. It’s just 2.5 miles round trip, but gains 1,400 feet on the way up. The possibility of seeing elk and mountain goats, though, is enough to lure intrepid young ones up the trail.
4. Frisco Ghost Town and Cemetery
Frisco was an active mining camp for 50 years, beginning in 1879, and at one time it was home to more than 6,000 people. The Horn Silver Mine, once a serious producer, yielded more than $20 million worth of silver, while other local mines produced more than $60 million in copper, silver, gold, and more. Many structures, including five beehive-shaped charcoal kilns, still stand, and there’s a plethora of mining equipment littering the desert floor. Look carefully in the sandy washes, where it’s still possible to find relics of the once-vibrant town. Exploring Frisco for a day makes for a great adventure, but be sure to stay out of the old mine shafts, which are privately owned and potentially dangerous.
5. Courthouse Museum
Take a step back in the county’s history at the Beaver County Courthouse Museum. The Territorial Courthouse was finished in 1882, and it served as both the county offices (on the first floor) and as a courtroom and jail (on the second). The building’s tower features a clock on each of the four facades—one for each direction—so that you could check the time from anywhere in town. It’s one of only two clocks like this remaining in the country (with the other one located in the Smithsonian Museum). The museum, which is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, offers a window into what the county was like in the late 19th century.
Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.