we’re just going to hell
When we visited Death Valley a couple of years ago, we were unsurprised to see many of its sights named after the devil. Even in May, it was uncomfortably hot in Death Valley, the thermometer dial hitting 109 degrees. The association with the underworld made sense and passed without a second thought. The frequency with which Lucifer’s name and abode are invoked in Utah, on the other hand, is simply staggering — especially considering that the Latter-Day Saints call this land home.
We had dinner at Cafe Diablo in Torrey, and the next night dined at the Hell’s Backbone grill in Boulder. The latter gets its name from the Hell’s Backbone road that connects the towns of Boulder and Escalante. Until Route 12 was devised and blasted through the mountains of the Grand Escalante Staircase, the dizzying, gravel Hell’s Backbone road was the only way to get between these two towns.
Despite all the time we spent exploring various canyons, we did not make it to even one of the four Devil’s Canyons in Utah. And though we did wander through the Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park, we missed out on adventure driving down the Devil’s Revenge track near Moab. Hiking in Needles, we came upon a trail marker for the Devil’s Kitchen, but our path took us in a slightly different direction.
Other notable sites scattered throughout the state include the Devil’s Hole, Devil’s Steps, Devil’s Castle, Devil’s Slide, Devil’s Den, Devil’s Twist, Devil’s Pocket, Devil’s Window, Devil’s Peak, Devil’s Playground, and the Devil’s Dance Floor. This is just a small smattering of places with the word “devil” in their title. There are also plenty of other diabolical landmarks that feature Hell, Satan, and all sorts of demonic variations, such as Diablo, in their monikers.
Seeing the high concentration of devilish appellations among the red rocks of southern Utah even prompted one graphic designer to create a United States Devil Map. Utah also has a handful of angelic landmarks, of course, Angel’s Landing in Zion being the most prominent. Nevertheless, demons outnumber the seraphim in Utah’s nomenclature by at least a six to one count, according to one estimate.
It would seem that long before the Latter-Day Saints settled in Utah, the state’s unique geography was labeled by an earlier generation of frontiersmen whose struggles in this hardscrabble, unforgiving land prompted the frequent allusions to Beelzebub.