Located about 45 miles east of Ogden and about 30 miles west of Evanston, Wyo., the rest stop for the westbound lanes is the ideal perch to watch a busy main line that sees 50-60 trains per day (and, interestingly, about 14,000 vehicles per day on the highway). Nearby are opportunities to photograph trains in scenic Weber Canyon and near the top of the rugged Wasatch grade (original Big Boy territory), but the I-80 rest stop is a real gift to those who enjoy big-time railroad action in a dramatic setting.
The rest stop, located at exit 170, offers three vantage points: Two formal ones with sidewalks, benches, and pavilions that provide views directly ahead and to the east; and a third one atop a hill that is accessible via a steep dirt trail and offers a view to the west.
For a closer look, you can still drive the paved old road, Echo Canyon Road (itself historic as part of the Lincoln Highway), that closely parallels the double-tracked main line between Echo and Emory, but you’re trapped on the west side of the tracks. Thanks to curves you can shoot across the arc to the sunny side in the morning, but most of the shots are nosey and in your face, and it is difficult to feature the canyon’s red rocks unless you have an exceptionally wide-angle lens (a 12-24mm lens came in handy during my visit).
A few practical tips to visit this spot:
1. You can’t reach this rest area traveling eastbound. The only access is westbound. If you are on I-80 east, go past the Echo Canyon rest area about 7 miles to the Castle Rock exit (itself a great place to view the paired mainline tracks, climbing toward the summit at
Wahsatch, Utah, which is yet another interstate exit and photo opportunity), and turn around. It’s an extra drive, but you’re within sight of the tracks the whole way.
2. Go in the morning for the best sun for photography. In the afternoon, the sun sets early behind the cliffs.
3. Bring food. The rest area has snacks but if you want more than chips and soda, you will need to travel. There are Subway sandwich shops a few miles away in Morgan, Utah, and Evanston, Wyo., but the real find is Taggart’s Grill at exit 108 near Morgan. It is a true hidden gem that is easy to miss, tucked into a hillside. (While there, be sure to try the one-third pound burger with the french-fry dipping sauce.)