MARYSVALE, Piute County — The legendary Big Rock Candy Mountain will soon have more to offer than rocks that look like nougat with caramel ribbons running through them and a quaint rock shop.
The plans for the future include creating a railroad resort with boxcars and cabooses for guest stays, a new multipurpose trailhead, a new raft launch and guest amenities featuring the famed Lemonade Springs and ponderosa trees.
Named in the 1920s by the locals after the mythical mountains in the rollicking ballad by Harry McClintock, the scenic area north of Marysvale on U.S. highway 89 has long laid somewhat dormant despite its beauty and sunshine.
Local agency employees have been cooperatively seeking funds and direction from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program to put the area more conveniently on the map for cyclists, hikers, river rafters and tourists. They now have money for the Candy Mountain Whistle Stop Trailhead development, a multipurpose trailhead in the narrow canyon bottom between the Sevier River and the highway.
The plan includes new parking lots, a raft launch ramp, a picnic area with shade trees, public restrooms and informational kiosks, paid for with grants from the Sevier County Office of Travel and Tourism, the Utah State Parks Association and the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area/Scenic Canyon Preservation Society.
The Big Rock Candy Mountain project won out over other proposals for funding because it will provide access to the Sevier River, said officials.
Marcy DeMillion, River Trails and Conservation Assistance community planner for Utah, said this is an opportunity to establish starting points for multiple methods of travel and recreation.
The RTCA coordinated efforts and refined ideas from everyone involved into the master plan for the trailhead, which she said is the only trailhead along the Sevier River that will provide access for OHV users, bikers, hikers and boaters.
Monte Bona, Director of the Heritage Highway 89 Alliance, said the project fits with the area's interpretive mission by playing into one of the key themes; the interaction of people with the landscape."
Developers and brothers David and Steven Grow are working to create a Track 89 Resort Village to complement the new trailhead. They donated the two acres for the Whistle Stop Trailhead and plan to upgrade and position a number of converted boxcars and luxury caboose cars that will available for overnight and daily rental by June 2012.
"The boxcars will be turned into duplex high-style rooms," Grow said. "The cabooses will be single occupancy, with one queen-sized bed."
The Big Rock Candy Mountain area goes way back with railroads, as the Rio Grande Railroad company bought the east side river route in 1908, a line vital to the economic development of the central Utah valleys.
The line was decommissioned in 1976 and acquired by Sevier County. County officials turned it into the 14-mile Candy Mountain Express hiking/biking trail.
The Grows also paid for the construction of an arched timber bridge near the resort site. A bridge also extends across the Sevier River to the Paiute ATV Trail and Candy Mountain Express bike/hike trail.
Visitors at the boxcar motel will be within walking or riding distance of the Candy Mountain Express Trail and the local rafting business. OHV recreationists will be able to park their hauling vehicles for their stay and ride over to the trailhead to catch the 900-plus miles of the Paiute Trail system, which winds over three mountain ranges and connects to a dozen towns in central Utah.
Grow is enthusiastic about the future of the resort and trailhead for a lot of the same reasons as DeMillion.
"It's a nexus of travel opportunities," he says. "A scenic highway, an endless ATV trail, a bike and hiking path and the best raft launch site in the area. It's got a lot of potential."
Quite a future for a mountain made of rocks that aren't candy at all, but actually an inedible hydrothermically altered volcanic carbonate.
A summary draft plan for the MPNHA can be viewed at sanpete.com.
Sharon Haddock is a professional freelance writer with 30 years experience, 17 of those at The Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.