The Bentonite Hills are multi-colored hills with bands of red, brown, purple, and gray in varying hues. The clay on these beautiful hills are fragile when dry and slick and gummy when they are wet. The wetting and drying of the material creates a unique and beautiful texture but also makes travel on the sediment difficult. It is important to leave no trace and not walk on the formations. The Bentonite Hill area is large and many parts are best reached with high clearance vehicles.

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is located among the Bentonite Hills near Hanksville. It is the second of four simulated Mars habitats in the world, built and managed by the Mars Society. The area was chosen for field study research because of the terrain’s noticeable similarities to Mars. Astronauts and research crews spend two weeks at a time living in the two-story, eight-meter cylindrical ‘Habitat,’ also known as the Hab. They are required to wear space suits and carry walkie talkies whenever they step outside the Hab into the simulated Martian environment. The Hab is always manned with at least one crewmember.


The Mars Society, an international non-profit organization dedicated to furthering Mars exploration, selects crew and manages the research station. They also work with BYU, a local university, to assist with operational tasks, and hire local residents to help with routine maintenance. Schools and other groups can interact with the crew at the Musk Observatory, which is equipped with a Celestron 14-inch CGE1400 telescope. MDRS is about a 20-minute drive from the junction of Highways 95 and 24 in Hanksville.

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