Otherworldly Views At Moonscape Overlook, Utah
Updated October 2023, Otherworldly Views At Moonscape Overlook, Utah was originally published in August 2023.
Yet another gem along Utah’s Highway 24 near the town of Hanksville (have I mentioned before this is my absolute favorite part of Utah?) is the out-of-this-world Moonscape Overlook.
And you guessed it- the place looks like the surface of the moon, especially at sunrise.
In all actuality, the Moonscape Overlook was never on my radar. I had Bentonite Hills in my crosshairs for quite a while and decided to time my drive from Salt Lake City to Vegas to visit my parents to catch blue hour and sunrise at Bentonite Hills.
Yes, that meant I left my house at 02:00 am. Yes, it sucked (I’m not a morning person). But oh was it worth it.
So much so, that I decided to return on my way back to Salt Lake from Vegas to catch a sunset, camp, and capture another sunrise there at Bentonite (you know, you have to treat yourself to some misery mixed with beauty sometimes).
That second morning at Bentonite Hills I was out capturing some drone photos and videos when a guy named Tom and his friend Nate turned up and introduced themselves.
The two were up visiting from St. George and we got to talking, of course, Tom was there to drone the Bentonite Hills too.
That’s when he mentioned that I absolutely had to do sunrise at Moonscape Overlook.
Pretty soon, Tom had his phone out and was swiping through photos of yet another Unearthly Utah landscape.
Were my plans to return home that evening foiled?
Why yes, they sure the f*** were (thanks, Tom). Right then and there I decided that I was going to use the day to play around at other sites around Highway 24 and head on over to Moonscape Overlook to camp for the night and catch that unreal blue sunrise out there.
(Did I need to return home that night? Not really. I was then what I called “funemployed”).
*If you’re wondering how my funemployment came about- it stemmed from a surprise prompt from my fairly new boyfriend at the time to move from Colorado over to Salt Lake, and as many of you who have followed along on my s***show of a life journey know that I also work as a dental hygienist. Dental hygiene doesn’t pay so well in Utah (or at least as well as Colorado and nowhere near Alaska rates). So I decided to pursue blogging my ass off and figuring out how to make my new-ish tour company pan out. Maybe it’ll be a success, but more than likely it’ll be a failure- stay tuned to find out which direction it goes off the rails.
So, after my long-winded speel that has started to give off “unnecessary information for SEO purposes food blog (just give me the f***ing recipe) vibes”, in the remainder of this short post you’ll find all the info you need to know about seeing the ethereal at Moonscape Overlook.
Spoiler alert: there’s not that much to know- it’s not a lot more than a parking lot but people keep asking me about this place after having seen photos so I figured I’d write a blog post about the Moonscape Overlook to enhance ad revenue (yes, I’m sorry they’re annoying but adventuring ain’t free, blogging is a lot of work and actually costs money to do, and at least I’m not asking you to donate money to my “coffee… cough cough… funemployment fund”).
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What Gives the Moonscape Overlook its Unique Appearance?
Moonscape Overlook, also known as Skyline View, overlooks Utah’s Blue Valley.
The Blue Valley has a bit of a lunar appearance in terms of texture and color.
What gives the Blue Valley its looks is the Mancos Shale which is the dominant geological feature of the area here near the ghost-ish town of Cainsville.
Mancos Shale is more of a grey color in direct sunlight, but just before sunrise and just after sunset it gains a blueish tinge.
The Best Time to Visit the Moonscape Overlook
The best times to visit are during blue hour and golden hour. So that means get there just before sunrise (like 30 minutes before) and the late afternoon just before sunset for dramatic scenes.
Also, note that you can camp here if you don’t want to get up super early and drive from elsewhere (this is what I did).
I went and scoped out where I wanted to camp at the Moonscape Overlook after I wrapped up shooting at Bentonite Hills so I probably arrived at about 9 am.
I took some drone shots just to see and in the broad daylight, it’s still cool but not as mind-blowing as the sunset and sunrise.
I returned after a day of playing around in Capitol Reef National Park, Factory Butte, Little Egypt, walking to the (don’t laugh) Long Dong Silver Spire, and returning to play with an ND filter on Bentonite Hills (again) at just before sunset.
The wind had kicked up substantially that afternoon, so I didn’t shoot as much on my drone as I’d have liked out of fear of crashing it somewhere in the Blue Valley below and then feeling bad for not retrieving it because to be quite honest it looks like you’d be walking an eternity down there to find it if you even did.
Nonetheless, the sunset was still pretty mesmerizing.
After my fancy dinner of a banana, an apple, and some cashews, I called it a night and went to sleep and woke up just before blue hour began.
Soon I was stood out there in the wind that still hadn’t f***ed off with a bunch of tripod-wielding photographers.
I about gave up just before the sun popped over the horizon when finally the wind died down a little bit so I went and got the drone out and managed to capture some pretty epic blue hour-turns golden hour shots.
Am I glad I risked it for the biscuit and got that bad boy out.
While you can get some epic shots of the Moonscape Overlook with your camera or even your phone, there’s just a whole different perspective to the place from above.
(and yes, it is allowed to fly a drone at Moonscape Overlook).
How to get to the Moonscape Overlook
Luckily, Moonscape Overlook isn’t that far off the actual beaten path.
If you are on Utah Highway 24 you’ll want to turn north onto Factory Butte Road (about 12 miles west of Hanksville).
After about 6 miles of bumping along Factory Butte Road (yes it’s a dirt road), you’ll take a turn to the east onto Coal Mine Road (not there’s no sign, but it is named on Google Maps and Maps.me).
Next, you’ll take Coal Mine Road all the way to the Moonscape Overlook Viewpoint. The road ends there, if you keep going you will drive off the edge of a cliff and into the Blue Valley which 0/10 would not recommend.
If you’re using Google Maps or Maps.me, just punch in the following coordinates and you’ll be led to Moonscape Overlook: 38.45222,-110.83806.
Do I Need 4WD to Reach Moonscape Overlook
No, you do not. I got my 2WD 2012 Kia Soul up there so 4WD isn’t necessary.
It is a dirt road once you turn off of Highway 24, just take your time and everything should be fine.
Camping at Mooscape Overlook
Camping is allowed here at Moonscape Overlook (you’re allowed 14 nights in a 28 day period since it is public land).
Know that there are no facilities here, meaning no toilets or water, so you’ll need to be 100% self-sufficient.
Where to Stay Near Mooscape Overlook
Not looking to camp? Try the Whispering Sands Motel over in Hanksville or if you don’t mind being a little further afield you can check out lodges over in the Torrey area on the other side of Capitol Reef National Park.
Other Tips & Info to Know Before Visiting Mooscape Overlook
- Temperatures: It can be deadly hot in the summer, absolutely frigid in winter, and in the spring and fall can have nice warm or even hot days and cool to freezing nights. So plan accordingly, wear layers, and if camping bring the proper equipment.
- Wind: It can get crazy gusty up here at Moonscape Overlook as well as in the surrounding areas along Highway 24. You may want to camp elsewhere if the winds are bad on your visit.
Other Places to Visit Nearby Moonscape Overlook Along Highway 24
- Factory Butte
- Long Dong Silver Spire
- Bentonite Hills
- Cathedral Valley
- Little Egypt
- Goblin Valley
- Capitol Reef National Park
Have any questions about visiting the Moonscape Overlook?
Ask in the comments sections below.