Small Towns

Country Escape to the Cool Oasis: Torrey and Boulder, Utah’s Hidden Gems

Torrey and Boulder, Utah have fixes for foodies and places to explore in the heart of Red Rock Country.


When Utahns think of the towns of Torrey and Boulder, Utah, they tend to think of them as “southern Utah”, with the heat and tourist-filled national parks and monuments one might expect. But nothing could be further from the truth. The weather in Red Rock Country — particularly in July and August — is actually more similar to Park City than Moab due to elevation, which means it’s often 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the neighboring Big 5 destinations. Visitors are pleasantly surprised by the temperatures as well as the wealth of options for distinctive dining and activities available in this relatively quiet destination area — even in the dog days of summer. 

Boulder and Escalante

Considered the heart of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Boulder and Escalante are the lifeblood and jumping off point of this rugged landscape, featuring a petrified forest, slot canyons, picturesque plateaus, harrowing drop offs and everything off the beaten path. 

Where to Stay and Play in Boulder 

The hot tub at Boulder Mountain Lodge. Photos by Heather L. King.

Boulder Mountain Lodge

Boulder Mountain Lodge boasts an 11-acre bird sanctuary as well as electric car charging stations on the property, in addition to the star attraction of Hell’s Backbone Grill. Hotel rooms and suites are well appointed with fluffy robes and high-end bath products, plus generously-sized refrigerators with freezers and microwaves, while some accommodations have kitchenettes. Each room comes with a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape. Ground-floor rooms in the main lodge feature both front and back entrances, affording stargazing views above the lake and people watching in the front. Guests can also grill their own meals in the covered BBQ area, play games and roast marshmallows over the fire pit, or soak in the hot tub under the stars.

20 Highway 12, Boulder, UT


Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch

Along the windy Hell’s Backbone Road, Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch hides out at this off-the-beaten path locale. Choose from hotel rooms and suites in the main lodge; stand-alone cabins with full kitchens, grills and fire pits; or yurt-style glamping with decks and patio furniture. Sweetwater Kitchen, the on-site restaurant, is open for dinner while yard games, musical instruments, event facilities and even an inquisitive cat make this a memorable destination for relaxing under the stars. 

3995 Hell’s Backbone Road, Boulder, UT 


Where to Eat and Drink in Boulder and Escalante

Fondue at Hell’s Backbone Grill.

Hell’s Backbone Grill

The matron of Boulder, the restaurant that put this part of the country on the food map, Hell’s Backbone Grill often needs no introduction, other than the fact that founders/owners/chefs Jen Castle and Blake Spalding regularly reinvent the farm and restaurant to answer to the wildness that surrounds them — figuratively and physically. Ingredients that aren’t grown, raised or produced near this remote town are hard and expensive to come by, and experienced staff is nearly as difficult. Yet, the fully female-owned and managed restaurant turns out James Beard Award-level dishes (they’ve been nominated 6 times) like the pan-seared, skin-on trout almondine, or Executive Chef Tamara Stanger’s bison dinner pie tucked into a flaky, all-butter crust five nights a week. Produce like strawberries served with tangy goat cheese fondue (with goat cheese sourced from Mesa Farm nearby), and asparagus for the creamy asparagus soup served in teacups comes straight from the Hell’s Backbone Farm. Open Thursday through Monday from 4-9pm. 

20  North Highway 12, Boulder, UT


Sweetwater Kitchen

Located in the main lodge at Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, Sweetwater Kitchen is named after the stream that runs through the property. Situated on the second floor, views of the landscape captivate diners seated on the wrap-around patio — perhaps with a Sand Creek cocktail in hand made with Ogden’s Own Madame Patrini Gin. Enjoy beef sourced directly from the ranch via the steak frites with decadent anchovy butter, or lighter fare like the blackened trout salad with homemade Caesar dressing. Sweetwater Kitchen serves dinner from 5 to 8pm Tuesday through Saturday. Well-behaved dogs on leash are welcome on the patio. 

3995 Hell’s Backbone Road, Boulder, UT 


Kiva Koffeehouse 

If your destination is hiking Lower Calf Creek Falls or other day trips, start your morning at Kiva Koffeehouse to fill up on hearty breakfast offerings and baked goods (plus coffee) before hitting the trail. The coffeehouse blends effortlessly into the landscape so guests can partake of the beauty of the area while enjoying a breakfast burrito and excellent mocha or latte indoors or out. The Kiva Koffeehouse menu changes frequently, but if the turkey and Swiss sandwich with a kicky aioli is on the menu, order it to make delicious work of studying the map of the area under the glass table tops while you eat. 

Highway 12 between Milepost 73 and 74, Escalante, UT


Wild Indigo Café 

Place your order for classic American-style breakfast, Indian street food-inspired cuisine at lunch or a changing dinner menu on Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings from the brightly painted food truck on the hill. Opened in March 2023, creator Lacy Allen’s “food with flair” features a wide selection of items including a waffle sandwich and chai to dosa hot dogs and fried green beans with housemade chutneys and sauces served daily from 8am to 2pm. Cool down with a mango lassi and while you wait for your order, then stop into the market for essentials and liquor supplies, and be sure to visit Cache Canning in the shops next door to pick up pickled, preserved and grown fruits and vegetables. Wild Indigo Café is located at Hills & Hollows Market, with cheery outdoor seating with a view.

Hills & Hollows
840 W Highway 12
Boulder, UT

Magnolia’s Street Food

This breakfast (served until 11am) and lunch bus can be found permanently parked at the Anasazi State Park Museum in Boulder dishing up massive and tasty tacos and burritos seven days a week from 9am to 3pm. Magnolia’s Pancho & Lefty’s breakfast burrito is an adventure-fueled start to the day, with 2 eggs, juicy pork carnitas, griddled potatoes and onions, gorgeous roasted green chiles and cotija cheese. Fresh-made agua frescas or Colorado River Coffee Roasters cold brew complete the meal. The unexpectedly vibrant kimchi breakfast tacos come as a pair featuring homemade kimchi, a fried egg, green chiles and grilled onions. Add local sausage for $2 more. Plenty of sunny or shaded tables are set up for dining, or any item is prepared to go. If destinations take you south to Escalante, Magnolia’s has recently opened a second location there as well. 

Anasazi State Park Museum
460 N Highway 12
Boulder Town, UT 



Situated just outside of the west entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey is a quaint and friendly location on the Capitol Reef Scenic Byway (Highway 24) surrounded by green pastures, rose-colored cliffs and a tight-knit community you’ll be delighted to get to know.

Where to Eat and Drink in Torrey

Capitol Burger

What do you get when two professional chefs own a food truck in Torrey? The #4 best restaurant in a five-state region according to Yelp. Luke Fowles, owner and chef of Capitol Burger, and his wife, co-owner, and pastry chef Sunny Clark, do everything differently than your average burger joint — and it shows in every bite of the six burgers they sell Wednesday through Sunday in the parking lot of The Chuckwagon. The couple grind the beef for the patties fresh every day it’s served, make their own American cheese, pickles, mayo and aioli. Each burger has its star ingredient that’s drool worthy — from the roasted green chiles on the mac n cheese burger to the garlic cremini mushrooms and blue cheese on the mushroom blue burger. Check their Facebook page for the week’s hours and location.

The Chuck Wagon

12 W Main Street, Torrey, UT


Hunt & Gather

As the name implies, Hunt & Gather utilizes ingredients like wild game, fish, fruits, vegetables and goat cheese that’s been hunted or gathered from local purveyors. Lettuces, herbs and fruit are grown both on property and at the home of owners/chefs Chet and Nancy Saign, while mushrooms are foraged from the nearby hills. The dinner menu is divided into Hunter or Gatherer, where entrees such as a filet of elk is seared and served with chevre from nearby Mesa Farm and house-smoked and cured meats grace the charcuterie board. Hunt & Gather serves local hard ciders and spirits from Etta Place Cider and Robbers Roost Distillery across the road, as well as other Utah-made products whenever possible. Chef Chet uses his years of experience working in some of the best restaurants in Salt Lake and on the East Coast to coax delicate flavors out of each and every sauce. Enjoy dinner on either of 2 heated patios or in the spacious interior decorated with historic memorabilia from the area. 

599 W Main Street, Torrey, UT


Etta Place Cider

Ann Torrence and Robert Marc have 90 different kinds of heirloom apples growing in their high-elevation orchards in Torrey. They never planned to make hard cider, but today, they operate and experiment via Etta Place Cider, taking apples from tree to bottle in about 6 weeks. The cidery makes handcrafted and seasonal hard ciders featuring the fruits of the orchard and southern Utah. Visit the tasting room on the west end of Torrey to sample their best-selling Etta Place Dry, the latest bottles such as the Etta Place Gingered, which can be used in a cocktail that might otherwise be topped with ginger ale, and purchase limited edition delights like the Etta’s Reserve Fig Mead. Drop in to learn more about hard ciders Monday through Saturday from 11am to 7pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. 

700 W Highway 24, Torrey, UT

Robbers Roost Distillery

Sharing space with Etta Place Cider, Robbers Roost Distillery is the Torrey outpost of Waterpocket Distillery from Salt Lake, named for the Waterpocket Fold just down the road in Capitol Reef National Park. The wild and adventurous spirit of the west is at the heart of owners and distillers Alan and Julia Scott’s desire to reintroduce pre-Prohibition herbal spirits, bitters and long forgotten liqueurs to adventurers seeking unexpected flavors. With the Robbers Roost Distillery location, the Scotts are now offering tastings of distilled spirits found only in red rock country under the Robbers Roost label, as well as many offerings from their full line of spirits. 

700 W Highway 24, Torrey, UT 


Color Ridge Creamery

Color Ridge Creamery began as a way for owners and husbands Joseph Shumway and A.C. Ivory to fill the void of a really good ice cream shop in Torrey for neighbors and visitors alike. Joseph, who helped reimagine his family’s dairy farm in western Wyoming by becoming an ice cream chef, makes all the ice cream at Color Ridge. In addition to traditional flavors like cookie dough and chocolate, some offerings creatively use herbs and other ingredients that they grow on their farm or were inspired by their natural surroundings — a scoop of vibrant purple/blue juniper berry is their ode to the Southern Utah desert. The 8 flavors available at any time may change throughout the day or weekend, but it’s easy to try multiples with their three or five-scoop flights in custom-thrown pottery dishes. A flight card identifying each flavor with room for tasting notes is included. They also offer ice cream shakes that allow for mixing and matching of two flavors in a cute glass mug that’s instantly Instagrammable. Color Ridge Creamery is open Friday through Sunday from 11am to 8:30pm. 

135 E Main Street, Torrey, UT 84775


Wild Rabbit Café

The lines out the door at Beth Rumsey’s Wild Rabbit Cafe on most weekends hint at the delicious baked goods, Shooke Coffee Roasters coffee and hearty breakfast and lunch offerings found inside. Try the fluffiest biscuits and gravy made with local Oyler Family Farms sausage, or a farm egg scramble with your choice of protein, bread and cheese surrounded by plenty of sauteed vegetables. Orders are available for takeout or dine-in in the bright café area or on the patio situated on Main.

135 E Main Street, Torrey, UT 


Shooke Coffee Roasters

The name Shooke Coffee Roasters started as a family joke about owners Shawn Passey and Brooke Salt’s celebrity name. But coffee is no laughing matter as the couple works diligently to bring out the best in every coffee bean sourced from small farmers around the world. Passey brings his years of expertise as a professional coffee roaster to the table along with connections made through Fair Trade USA to blend together Boulder Mountain Breakfast Blend and Cathedral Valley; a mix of beans from Indonesia and South America. Drink Shooke Coffee at Wild Rabbit Café two doors down, and then take their roasted whole beans home from their shop via an online subscription, or from the Wayne County Farmers Market on Saturdays.  

135 E Main Street. Suite 107, Torrey, UT 


Sourdough bread from Capitol Reef Provision.

Capitol Reef Provisions 

Get fresh baked sourdough in white or rye varieties from owner and baker Virginia Maris each week at the Wayne County Farmers Market on Saturdays, or in front of Etta Place Cider on select days. Her loaves are wonderfully soft on the inside with a chewy and beautifully golden exterior. Pair a slice of bread with fresh goat cheese from Mesa Farm — also available at the farmers market.

Where to Stay and Relax in Torrey

Red Sands Hotel and Spa

Red Sands Hotel and Spa is a centrally located destination hotel offering easy access to national parks, hiking and mountain biking adventures as well as dark sky stargazing. Rooms and common areas offer panoramic views of red rock formations and bucolic horses grazing. Take advantage of the only full-service spa within 300 miles at The Spa at Red Sands. Find balance and relaxation in a calming yoga or meditation room, steam away the stress and treat yourself to the Relax and Unwind in the Desert Massage with essential oils, scrubs and soaks handcrafted locally with native and healing botanicals. Rehydrate with a body wrap and facial, then soothe away any tension with a private bath or salt float while watching the red rock vistas in the distance. 

670 Highway 24, Torrey, UT 


Capitol Reef Resort

No matter what kind of stay you are looking for, Capitol Reef Resort offers standard hotel rooms, many with breathtaking views and patios or balconies, various sized cabins, a Conestoga covered wagon, and teepee glamping at the mouth of the entrance to Capitol Reef.

2600 E. Highway 24, Torrey UT


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