Are you currently trying to find the exact location of the Bentonite Hills in Utah? Or maybe you’re more familiar with its other name, the rainbow hills of Utah, or the place in Utah that looks like you’ve set foot on Mars.
To be fair, if it wasn’t for Instagram I probably never would have heard of this place and since it’s a bit off the beaten path there hasn’t been a tourist influx. At least not while we were there. It was just Christof, me and a friendly Australian that we encountered after sunrise.
Watching the sunrise over these incredible rock formations was definitely one of the highlights of our road trip around Utah.
Not keen on exploring on your own? Then the following tour is ideal for you!
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How To Visit The Bentonite Hills In Utah – Map Included
Have you ever visited Utah and been mesmerized by its stunning natural landscapes?
From red-rock canyons to snow-covered mountain tops, there’s something for everyone in Utah’s great outdoors.
But perhaps the most awe-inspiring sight of all are the Bentonite Hills in the western part of the state. These hills feature a unique geological formation that has captivated visitors for centuries.
In this article you’ll learn exactly where to find the best place to photograph the rainbow hills of Utah, the best time to do so, some extra tips for visiting the Bentonite Hills and much more!
How to reach the Bentonite Hills in Utah
The Bentonite Hills, also known as the rainbow hills in Utah or Rainbow Mountain, can be found right outside of Capitol Reef National Park. They’re located on BLM land, just west of Hanksville and along the Utah State Route 24.
The first time we actually saw our first rainbow hills was when we were driving along Cathedral Road towards the Temple of the Sun and Moon. While already impressive, there’s one particular spot that will truly leave you speechless.
But if you only have one day around the Capitol Reef area the Betonite Hills along Cathedral Road are also a good option.
If you have a little more time on your hands then keep on reading for the exact location on where to find the best spot to photograph the Bentonite Hills.
You want to drive towards the following destination – The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS)
From Route 24 you’ll make a left onto a dirt road and after driving for about 15 minutes you’ll reach a fork in the road. On your left you’ll see a road leading towards the MDRS. Don’t drive towards it, you’re not allowed inside. Instead simply continue straight.
💡 TIP – You’ll need a high clearance vehicle to drive on this road. A 4 wheel drive isn’t necessary, depending on the weather. If you do want to attempt this drive with a low clearance vehicle, be my guest. But take it very slow and if you’re not sure your car can continue, park it alongside the road and walk towards the Bentonite Hills.
Hiking Time – From the small parking lot at the start of the dirt road it’s about 1.5 hour walking until you reach the Bentonite Hills.
Below you can see a map where you’ll find the best spot to photograph the Bentonite Hills in Utah.
Here are the driving distances and times for nearby destinations.
- Salt Lake City: 225 miles, 3.5 hours
- Moab: 144 miles, 2.5 hours
- Goblin Valley State Park: 68 miles, 1.5 hours
- Escalante: 75 miles, 1.75 hours
- Bryce Canyon National Park: 120 miles, 1.25 hours
- Zion National Park: 182 miles, 3.25 hours
- Las Vegas: 330 miles, 5 hours
The best time to photograph the Bentonite Hills in Utah
The best time to photograph the Bentonite Hills is during blue hour, which leaves us with two possibilities.
Either you brave the early morning wake up call to visit the area during sunrise or you start driving towards the rainbow hills in Utah in the evening so you can visit during sunset.
While both sunrise and sunset will add a beautiful golden glow to the hills it’s those 30 minutes before and after that you’ll need to make to colors pop as much as possible.
I love using this app to see the exact time of sunrise, sunset and blue hour. It also show where exactly the sun will rise/set and what its trajectory will be.
Photography tips for capturing the Bentonite Hills in Utah
Below you can find some of my best photography tips for capturing the Bentonite Hills near Capitol Reef.
- Use a tripod – You’ll be shooting in low light conditions so any extra stability is always welcome!
- Up your ISO game – I shot most of my landscape photos at the Bentonite Hills at ISO 500 and F6.3 to get the sharpest results possible.
- Get out your drone – The Bentonite Hills are located on BLM and aren’t part of Capitol Reef National Park. So yes, you’re allowed to take out your drone. Just don’t go flying it over the Mars Desert Research Station…
Tips for visiting the Bentonite Hills in Utah
- Wear layers – Especially if you’re visiting for sunrise or sunset make sure to wear a proper jacket. These rainbow hills are located in the desert and can get very cold in the early or late hours.
- Leave no trace – Make sure to pack back in what you take out. Especially if you decide to camp out in the area.
- Wear hiking boots – These hills look rather easy to climb on but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In some parts they are rather steep and the soil can be slippery at times.
- Stick to already made trails – The Bentonite Hills are very fragile and made of clay. So if you want to hike a bit around the area make sure to stick to already established paths and disturbed areas.
- Breakfast – After an incredible morning it’s time to grab breakfast at Duke’s Slickrock Grill in Hanksville. I went for their Lucky Texan, a lovely granola with fresh fruit.
Where to stay near the Bentonite Hills
3 ⭐️ RATING
Located at the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, this Torrey, Utah hotel features an outdoor pool and hot tub. All of the spacious guest rooms include free WiFi. BBQ facilities are available.
And I mean, look at that view from your bedroom window!
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.