1) Actually, the trip starts in Nevada, but just over the border from Utah, in Great Basin National Park,where park employees found a Winchester Model 1873—“the gun that won the West”—this past November, propped against an old juniper pine where it was left, possibly more than 100 years ago. If you happen to find your own treasure of this notoriety, it’s worth remembering it is illegal to remove anything from a national park, but that shouldn’t keep you from looking! Also don’t miss the ancient bristlecone pines (the oldest living trees) in the park, as well as the famousLehman Caves,which have been attracting visitors since they were discovered in the late 1880s.
2) Head east to Fort Deseret,where cattle theft during the Black Hawk War of 1865 with the Pahvant Indians inspired a competition between early settlers to build the fort with maximum efficiency—the winning team won a dinner and dance, while the losing teams provided the food and entertainment. As a result, this 550 square-foot fort was built in 18 days. Just to the south, rock hounding is encouraged onSunstone Knoll. Keep your eyes open for cave sightings—legend has it an Old West cowboy once found bars of gold too heavy to carry out of the desert, and was never again able to locate the cave where he left them.
3) On the way to Cove Fort, swing through Fillmore for surprisingly good food from Cluff’s Drive Inn, followed by a visit to theTerritorial Statehouse State Park Museum, built between 1852 and 1855 in anticipation of Utah’s statehood—which wouldn’t happen until 1896. In the meantime, settlers were left to their own devices and built the magnificently well-preserved Cove Fort in 1867 for travelers making the two-day trek between Fillmore and Beaver—Butch Cassidy’s birthplace and a gateway to many of the area’s ghost towns.
4) If you’re itching for more Old West Utah, book a stay with the Rockin’ R Ranch, a working guest ranch in Antimony, where you can truly experience the land the same way the early settlers did—through the ears of a horse. Or, if the ranch requires a little too much time from your travels, head to Panguitch, where the Little Britches Rodeo comes to town in early October, and one-of-a-kind treasures are found behind the storefront of Cowboy Collectibles, where owners Randy and Becky Yard bring their trade show talent to Main Street, Utah.