Visit: A Place That Time Forgot
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Utah is one of the top destinations for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. With 5 National Parks, 45 State Parks, and over a dozen ski resorts, it's no wonder that tourists flock here by the millions each year! Popular destinations include places like Park City, St. George, and Moab. However, there are the lesser known destinations--such as San Juan, Emery, and Carbon Counties-- that are equally beautiful and stunning.
U.S. Route 6 and Highway 191 are the main roads connecting the Wasatch Front (think: Salt Lake City and other surrounding cities) to Moab (the main hub for Canyonlands and Arches National Parks). Continue on Highway 191 past Moab and you'll find some of the most beautiful scenery in Utah--eventually coming to the the small towns of Monticello, Blanding, and Bluff. But today, our destination isn't that far south...3 miles from the point of where U.S. Route 6 and Highway 191 merge (about 2 hours South of Salt Lake City and 2 hours North of Moab), is a lesser known--and forgotten town. A place that has somehow managed to bypass time.
Lying at the base of the towering 3000 ft high beige, grey, and pink colored Book Cliffs, sits Helper. The valley is green thanks to the Price River running directly through-- allowing for the healthy growth of Cottonwood, Russian Olives, and Chinese Elms. The sound of the occasional train and church bells fill the air.
Helper boomed in the 30's and 40's due to the coal mining industry. However, as mines closed, most of the inhabitants left...leaving Helper practically destitute. Despite that, the shells of that once booming society still survive. The buildings and architecture in the town are spectacular--evidence of wealthier days. Now a National Historic District, Helper feels like stepping back into time: Coco-Cola advertisements painted onto one building while the old Strand Theater's ticket box remains untouched. Main Street lined with dozens of intricate street lamps and vintage signs donning nearly every building. Despite the rough few decades, if one looks closely, there is evidence of a type of renaissance occurring throughout the town.
Artists are buying up old buildings--and restoring them as art galleries. Vintage gas stations are adorning the ends of town. Restaurants are popping up. Helper even has a coffee shop that would rival the best coffee shops in NYC--don't believe me? stop in and see for yourself! Helper is reminiscent of Park City in the 80's--before the big revival. Helper needs to be seen, and to be loved. That is why this town, The Town that Time Forgot, should be on your list of things to do and see in Utah!
We love Helper and are sure, that if given a chance, you will too! Here is our list of things to do and see in Helper!
1.Western Mining and Railroad Museum- If you do nothing else in Helper, a stop at this museum is a must! The exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, are very well done and informative! You will be surprised by how fun this museum is--for both you AND the whole family! Located in a former hotel, the museum has a wonderful Wild West feel. There are rumors that the museum may even be haunted.
2. Stroll Down Main Street- Be sure to bring your camera along! Walking Main Street in Helper is like stepping back in time! Check out the local artists at work in their shops. Recent additions of fun shops are bringing a new energy to town. Enjoy the architecture and textures of the buildings! Embrace the slow-pace and down-home atmosphere and be sure to check out the revitalization of the old gas stations!
3. Walk The River Walk- Set along the Price River, enjoy this easy to walk, paved trail. Soak in the serene atmosphere and watch for deer, beavers, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and fox! The River Walk has various pathways, some taking you under the freeway and to a large set of stairs--or others that meander their way along the river. A labyrinth and swimming hole can be found on the north end of the walkway. Regardless of your path, you are sure to enjoy your walk! There are plenty of access points on 100 W.
4. Swinging Bridge- This suspension bridge is as old as Time itself. It is a section of the River Walk--leading to the set of stairs in the pathway. The bridge crosses the Price River and swings as you walk! It's a favorite for kids! Find this near the intersection of 100 W. and Main Street
5. Castle Gate Cemetery- In 1924, disaster struck the area when, during a series of 3 explosions, 172 men working in a coal mine were killed. You can imagine the impact that losing 171 fathers, brothers, and sons had on the surrounding small communities. Many of the bodies were buried in the Castle Gate Cemetery--marked by white crosses. In the 1970's, Castle Gate (the town) was dismantled. The homes from the town were moved to Helper. As such, the remaining Castle Gate Cemetery is now sadly forgotten and rundown--giving it an eerie feel. Some even claim the cemetery is haunted...you decide.
6. Visit The Ghost Towns- Just under 100 years ago, Spring Canyon was riddled with little settlements and communities. Storrs, Standardville, Rains, Peerless, Mutual, and Latuda. As mining decreased, the communities disappeared. However, their ruins remain.
The majority of the ruins are on private property--so keep to the road, but it is definitely worth the short drive up the canyon. Most of the ruins can be seen from the comforts of your car! There are buildings--large and small...testaments of a forgotten day! Don't forget the watch out for the White Lady--the supposed ghost that haunts the area. To access Spring Canyon from Helper, Follow North Main Street past the Shell Station. Take a left on Bryner Street. Next, take a right on Canyon Street. Follow Canyon Street under the train bridge and you'll end up in Spring Canyon.
7. Rock climbing and Bouldering in Spring Canyon- In addition the the ghost towns just mentioned, Spring Canyon is the perfect play ground for rock climbers. Some areas already have bolts secured into the rocks for climbing! Facilities include benches and a small bathroom (pit toilet).
8. Spring Canyon Trail- Beginning on Canyon Street (near the elementary school), the Spring Canyon Trail is roughly 4 miles of paved trail ending at the bathrooms by the rock climbing area. This trail meanders its way up Spring Canyon--providing spectacular scenery and solitude! It's perfect for bikers, walkers, and joggers!
9. Train Watching- Helper boasts 1 of 5 train stations in Utah. Amtrak passenger trains stop here, as do many coal and fuel trains. Hang out at the Standardville Bandstand (once located in Standardville) in the Main Street Park and watch the trains pass by!
10. Gigliotti Pond- This little fishing pond has some of the most amazing views around! Gigliotti Pond sits at the base of Balanced Rock. The fishing is great--especially for little people, and yes, there are bathrooms! In the winter, Gigliotti Pond is perfect for ice fishing! The easiest access is to get on Highway 191 and turn down Eleventh North--at the vintage signs.
11. Big John Statue- In 1964, Big John was constructed as a desperate attempt by locals to get travelers to stop in Helper. Big John is a large black statue of a coal miner. He stands on the lawn in front of the Helper Civic Auditorium and Library. While there, it's worth going inside the small library to talk with the friendly librarians!
12. Eat! Don't let the small size of the town fool you! You can get great food in Helper!
13. Kayak Run- though still in the initial building phase, Helper City is restoring the Price River with the intention of having a kayak run through town! Until the final phases are completed, there are still areas in the river to play, including this spot here, located on the corner of Poplar Street and 100 W. The swimming hole (as mentioned before) is a great spot for little swimmers.
14. Helper's First Friday- The first Friday of each month is a celebration in Helper! Whether it's celebrating Outlaw Days, Mardis Gras, or The Day of The Dead, there is bound to be something fun going on! Head down to Main Street on the first Friday of any month between 6-8 PM, and you're sure to find a party! It's fun for the entire family!
With super quick access from the freeway, Helper is easy to see! We hope you take the time to stop in and check out the lovely town of Helper! From sightseeing to biking, 4-wheeling, and ATV's, Helper should be your next stop on the road to adventure! Lodging is available in Price (6 miles south of Helper). For more information, stop by City Hall in Helper--they double as the Visitor Center--or the Western Mining and Railroad Museum!