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Sugar House Journal

Off the Beaten Path: easy, educational, day trips for when you need to get out of town

Jun 29, 2018 15h11 ● By Lori Gillespie

The Delta Solar Project looks like something from a science-fiction movie. (Courtesy of Michael Gillespie)

By Lori Gillespie | [email protected]

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series, Off the Beaten Path, that explores possible day trip destinations outside of Sugar House.

While Salt Lake City offers many opportunities to explore, sometimes you just need to get out of town for the day. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money and want to learn something or see something new, this day trip might offer exactly what you are looking for. So pack a cooler with a lunch, grab some extra water, check out a book on CD from the library, fill the gas tank and engage your sense of adventure. It’s time to hit the backroads and see some unusual things that help make our state unique.

Delta and the West Desert

Located two hours southwest of Salt Lake City (about 135 miles), Delta is an easy day trip.  Taking Highway 68 along the west side of Utah Lake is the suggested route. It offers a beautiful different view of the Wasatch Mountains across the lake, and it’s not the interstate. When it intersects with Highway 6 at the southern tip of Utah Lake, you will see a historic Sinclair Gas Station. Take a right and continue on Highway 6 all the way to Delta.  


Delta is home to a couple of museums located next door to each other on Main Street. The Great Basin Museum, 45 West Main, offers a quick glimpse into what life was like in Utah’s west desert from the distant past — rocks and fossils are on display — to the not-so-distant past with exhibits of the Native Americans who made the area their home through the pioneers who settled there during the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum is a wonderful place to discover what life was like in the harsh Great Basin.

Next door is the Topaz Museum, 55 West Main. The Topaz Museum opened their doors a few years ago and focuses on the history of the Topaz Japanese Internment Camp, which was located outside of Delta from 1942–1945. The museum features art, artifacts, photos and a whole lot of history. You can start the museum tour with a film that shows what life was like in the camp. Then tour the museum for more first-hand recollections of this difficult time in US history. You’re bound to learn something new. 

When you are done touring the museum, get a map from the front desk and take the opportunity to visit the actual Topaz Interment Camp site. Located about 15 miles from Delta, down many dirt roads with no shade in sight, is the site of the camp. This is where thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry were interred during WWII. The site is mostly barren — the barracks were removed years ago with most of them being repurposed — but there are remnants of the lives that were spent there more than three-fourths of a century ago. As you walk along the “streets,” you can almost feel what it was like to live there.  

The museums and the camp are free, but all rely on donations to stay open for everyone to enjoy and learn. 

Out of the Ordinary Extras

As you head back to town, there are a couple of unusual stops that you should make. You will need to pull out your GPS to find them, but their uniqueness makes them worth the effort. And yes, those dirt roads will get you there.

The Delta Solar Project looks like something from a science-fiction movie set. The tall structures reach up to the blue skies looking like they are summoning something from above. They were meant to collect solar energy, but winds from a desert tornado destroyed many of the panels and the solar project currently stands in a dilapidated state. Everyone from young kids to adults will enjoy seeing these unique structures. 

After leaving the Solar Project, follow your GPS toward Highway 50 and start driving toward Hinckley. On your left, a mile or so before arriving in Hinckley, you will find the Shoe Tree. This tree, the only one visible for miles, has enticed many people over the years to leave a pair of shoes in its branches. It is a unique piece of the Utah landscape, and since you are already out there, it’s a must see.

Heading home

As you start your trip home, you will probably be hungry. Delta has a few chain restaurants and some local ones too. There are places to sit and eat or grab a bite for the road. Ashton’s Burger Barn will not disappoint.

This day trip will fill your brain and your eyes with some amazing and unique ideas and places. This trip is suggested for families with kids over 10 because there is a lot of sitting in the car. But if you are looking for something new and exciting to do, that can be done in a day, this trip is a must.