I recently had a surprisingly delightful visit to a very strange place in Utah: Sego Canyon.
Nestled in the east side of Utah, Sego Canyon is a hidden gem that offers visitors a glimpse into the area’s rich cultural and geological history. With ancient rock art and an abandoned ghost town, Sego Canyon is a worthwhile detour for travelers driving along I-70 through Utah.
Getting to Sego Canyon
Sego Canyon is approximately 30 miles west of Green River, Utah. You can take I-70 to the Thompson Springs exit (exit 187), drive through Thompson Springs, and then follow the dirt road for approximately 4 miles to the canyon.
The road is generally passable for most vehicles, although you should always think twice before going if it has been raining. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended for those who want to explore the more remote areas of the canyon.
- On your way to visit Arches? Check out our Arches trip planner as well as When is Arches Open & When is the Best Time to Visit? and The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Delicate Arch.
Thompson Springs was founded in the late 1800s as a stopover for trains traveling through the area. The town quickly grew into a hub for ranching, mining, and other industries, and at its peak had a population of several hundred residents. However, like many other small towns in the area, Thompson Springs began to decline in the mid-1900s as industry shifted elsewhere. Today, the town is home to only a handful of residents.
Thompson Springs is a very run-down town with abandoned and collapsed buildings. You might think it’s a ghost town, but it’s not! The ghost town is located deeper into the canyon.
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The Role of the Railroad in Sego Canyon and Thompson Springs
In Sego Canyon, the railroad played a crucial role in the establishment of the town and its coal mining industry. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) built a line through the canyon in the early 1900s, connecting Sego to other towns in the region and providing a way to transport coal out of the area. The railroad also brought supplies and equipment to the town, and many of the abandoned buildings and mining equipment in Sego Canyon are remnants of this era.
But alas, when the mines died out, Sego Canyon died out. When I-70 was built, Thompson Springs nearly died out.
The Rock Art of Sego Canyon
The main draw of Sego Canyon is its impressive collection of rock art. The canyon contains thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs that were created by Native Americans. These images depict a range of subjects, from human figures and animals to abstract symbols and shapes. The rock art in Sego Canyon is particularly well-preserved.
It’s worth walking around and exploring the various panels scattered throughout the area. Spotting rock art isn’t always that easy. Look closer to find images you missed at first glance.
Please do not touch the rock art; let’s preserve these drawings that are 1,000+ years old for future generations.
- See more Native American rock art close by on Potash Road.
- Discover some amazing rock art in Horseshoe Canyon at Canyonlands National Park.
From the rock art, you can continue to drive into the canyon. The road gets more difficult, and this is where a high-clearance vehicle would be nice. As you drive, you’ll notice the railroad tracks and buildings.
The road forks; take your first right and you’ll notice a graveyard, one of the more interesting and poignant sites in Sego Canyon. The graveyard contains the graves of several former residents of the town, providing a window into the past and a glimpse into the lives of those who once called Sego home.
The Sego Graveyard is a small, fenced-in area that contains several headstones and markers. Many of the graves are unmarked or have only rudimentary markers, and it is believed that there are several more graves in the area that have been lost to time.
While little is known about the individuals buried in the Sego Graveyard, their graves offer a poignant reminder of the challenges and hardships faced by early settlers in the American West. Many of those buried in the graveyard were coal miners.
- Looking for other things to do in this area? Visit Dead Horse Point State Park or Gemini Bridges near Moab.
The Ghost Town of Sego Canyon
In the late 1800s, the town of Sego was established in the canyon as a hub for coal mining. The town thrived for several decades, but eventually declined and was abandoned in the mid-1900s.
Today, the remains of the town have almost all crumbled. If I remember correctly, only one brick building is still standing. The other wooden buildings have all collapsed.
Unfortunately, this makes the ghost town of little interest to visitors who aren’t hardcore ghost town hunters.
Things To Do Nearby
There are a few things to know about nearby.
Papa Joe’s Gas & Go
Papa Joe’s Gas & Go is a gas station-turned-tourist trap located at the next freeway exit west of Thompson Springs.
It’s a bizarre spot with aliens, cars painted like Lightning McQueen or the Scooby Doo van, and a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor.
Green River is home to the John Wesley Powell Museum, a great place to learn about Canyonlands and early exploration of the West.
Moab, Utah, is home to endless adventures. Please see our Moab Trip Planner and our Moab Itinerary for more.
- Check out more things to do near Moab, Utah.
Cisco Ghost Town
Cisco is another run-down ghost town located nearby on Scenic Byway 128.
Is Visiting Sego Canyon Worth It?
It really depends on how much you’re into rock art and ghost towns. The rock art is great; the ghost town is not. I thought it was worth the short detour from I-70 to explore this little canyon due to the rock art. I only wish I would have seen the ghost town 10-15 years ago when most of the buildings were still standing.
What else do you need to know?
There is so much to do in Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands. How do you know what you should see and do? You need help! Don’t miss out on the best things.
Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!
- Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands Itinerary
- Moab Trip Planner Page
- Arches Trip Planner Page
- Can’t Get a Reservation for Arches? Here are 9 Things to do Nearby
- Things To Do Along Scenic Potash Road In Moab, Utah
- How to Visit Gemini Bridges in Moab, Utah (the easy way or the fun way)
- Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab: Is It Worth It?
- Scenic Byway 128 in Moab: Things to See and Do
- The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Delicate Arch
- When is Arches Open & When is the Best Time to Visit?
- How To Hike Horseshoe Canyon In Canyonlands
- Sego Canyon Rock Art-Bureau of Land Management