Utah Things to Do Tips by richiecdisc Top 5 Page for this destination
Utah Things to Do: 357 reviews and 705 photos
Utah's state capitol shines more than not
Nestled into the Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City has a beautiful setting and agreeable climate sharing Utah's sunny exposure. As Utah's capitol and with an intriguing Mormon history, the city has a good mix of modern and well-preserved 1800s architecture. A well thought out city planning makes for an easy place to visit with fair mass transit and low traffic. There are ample places to eat and surprisingly given the religious orientation of the town, have a beer or glass of wine. Perhaps most interesting is you can visit many of the city sights for free as part of the Mormon crusade. While it seems initially unnerving, your Mormon hosts are not pushy in their views, realizing a soft sell is best utilized in such circumstances. All seems about picture perfect if stopping in for a brief respite from experiencing all the great nature Utah has to offer until you notice a growing legion of homeless. For a city quite prosperous, it seems an odd juxtaposition to be in proximity to such abject poverty. So, while visiting the free sights and enjoying a burger and beer, you might find yourself wondering what the Mormon's answer to all this is but find yourself mimicking your hosts and being too polite to ask.
Directions: Salt Lake City is in the northern part of Utah, over 200 miles from any of the famed National Parks in the southern portion of the state.
An oasis in the desert
Arizona kind of creeps up on you. Though one of the most popular retirement states due to its dry sunny climate, it is not in itself the great tourist destination. Sure, everyone that travels across country is bound to go to the Grand Canyon; it's our national, natural icon. But more often than not, the masses are coming from Las Vegas and that city in the desert has Nevada tagged onto its address. Phoenix might be a great place to go to University or even live, but it's not exactly the cultural marvel as say San Francisco or New York. You have to love the desert but just how much of it can you take? Quite a bit if National Parks are your thing. The last state in the contiguous United States to join boasts more National Parks and Monuments than anywhere but California and Alaska. If Native American culture is your thing, Arizona is certainly one of the easiest places to experience it up close. Wide open highways lined with huge cacti are the state's trademark and make even the big distances between natural wonders a scenic experience. Even if cities lack a bit of luster, amenities are always at your fingertips. Arizona might not entice but once there it will enthrall those with an appreciation for nature, wide open spaces, and love of the Wild West of old.
Directions: Located off Route 89 on the Utah/Arizona border.
scenic gorge en route to Matrimony Springs
Moab is a cool little National Park gateway town. Blessed with a dry sunny climate there are many commercial campgrounds for those not able to get one of the much coveted ones in Arches National Park nearby. There are also other accommodation choices in all price ranges for the non-campers visiting both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks a short drive away. As with all such towns, there are heaps of shops to buy souvenirs, groceries, and anything else you might need for your park visits. There is a big selection of restaurants and even two brewpubs for those seeking out local beers! We enjoyed our afternoons here, escaping the heat of the park at midday.
There are some nice walks near town and many scenic drives as well. Matrimony Springs should not be missed as you can re-fill your large water containers with some of the best tasting water you are going to find, and it's free! Take 191 just north of the town center and make a right on 128. It's less than a mile on the right hand side. Legend has it that anyone that drinks this water will return to Moab. We actually had some of this water in our big ten liter tank when we got to the North California Coast and my cousin who lives there but loves Moab was happy to have some.
Lovely Zion lures you in
Zion National Park has got to be one of the most gorgeous sights in the world. Sheer red rock in various hues shoot up from a lovely lush flat pastoral valley with a raging Virgin River running through it. It is not hard to imagine a dinosaur lumbering through this Jurassic looking park yet only small traces remain of the area's early inhabitants of 12,000 years ago. Though both Anasazi and Paiute Indians left a more indelible mark a few thousand years later, Mormon settlers seem to have taken not only a more pronounced place it its history but also on the imagination of those who visit it. They even managed to wrangle the name change from its original more Native American sounding Mukuntuweap National Monument. The Christian name of Zion has perhaps a more holy sound to the current people visiting it but no matter the name, it is the person with absolutely no faith who can look upon its beauty without ascribing it to some power above.
Zion National Park is one park that seems to require no effort. You can merely linger in the valley and experience a rare beauty so spectacular yet gentle. Utah as a rule exudes the stunning when it comes to color in rock formation but in Zion it is in stark contrast to the pastoral quality of the valley below. The Virgin River cuts a swath through the sheer cliffs surrounding it and gives birth to a lush forest for this dry part of the country. The road through the park mirror the river but there are also flat walks that parallel the road. This is one place where even a walk of little effort has great rewards so by all means get of your car and walk.
Bryce is magical at dawn
Bryce Canyon National Park seems almost too perfect. There is an eery Disney-like quality to the surrealistically colorful hoodoos and the park's innovative trails that bring visitors into tight weaves amongst what initially look like plastic recreations of sand drippings from above. But make no mistake these are sandstone formations made entirely by the forces of nature. What nature intended in its result is not entirely certain but its effect on man is not: awe.
The spell that Bryce Canyon casts on all visitors who gaze upon its hoodoos is nothing new. Paiutes attributed the magical rock formations to being people turned to stone by a god-like coyote and it would be the rare person indeed who did not ascribe their formation to some type of power from above. Sure, we all know about erosion but why here and in such profusion. Their formation can be explained physically but how can it be that the result is so visually stunning, so stiring within? Man's all consuming need to pose such questions lies at the very core of why we as a species are drawn to such sites to not only gaze but contemplate our place in the universe. It is perhaps the only time we realize that we are likely not the center of any such constellation.
Directions: Bryce is located off Route 12 in southern Utah.
It is not hard to imagine the colorfully hued rock formations of Utah being submerged under a sea of blue. They would perhaps fit better there than sitting incongruously on the planet's exterior. Capitol Reef National Park's name comes from its hallmark feature, the Waterpocket Fold. This 100 mile unbroken buckling of the Earth's surface was called a reef by early settlers referring to its impenetrability. Yet, the least famous and visited of Utah's National Parks is much more than this unusual wrinkle on the planet's crust; it is valley full of life with a river flowing through it. The Fremont River sustained the Navajo from whom the sandstone forming the park's colorful features takes its name and Mormon's who forged a land of fruit and plenty in an otherwise unlikely place.
The park's lack of visitors is one of its great pleasures, with one of the more developed but least used hiking networks among Utah parks. Combine this with surreal scenic drives as well as well-preserved remnants of early Mormon settler life and one can easily be wooed by an idyllic pastoral quality, where fruit orchards and rainbow rocks mix effortlessly in a place the Navajo so eloquently called The Land of the Sleeping Rainbow.
Address: Book it at the visitor center.
Turret Arch at sunset from the rear
Arches may not have the lineage of a Yosemite or Yellowstone, its National Park status dating back to only 1971, but its history as an evolving geologic wonder and attracter of mankind is considerably longer. Formed of ancient oceans depositing salt resulting in the area's trademark Entrada Sandstone, Arches is a textbook example of erosion with wind, sand, ice and gravity all playing important roles in the sculpting of the fins and arches that define the park. Native Americans roamed areas that now comprise the park, leaving petroglyphs and other traces of their presence but none suggesting a true settlement. Aside from the remnants of one cattle rancher's twenty-year reign, there is little to proof that anyone called this land home for long. An inhospitable and remote place is the only explanation for surely any that came upon the scenic wonder of Arches would have felt the same awe and wonder we do today. With over two thousand recorded arches and countless fins waiting to fill the void of those that crumble, we should feel lucky that not only a National Park was formed to protect them but one that makes many of them accessible and a joy to camp amongst them under an endless sky of stars.
Directions: Southeast Utah, off route 191.
no poor man's Grand Canyon
Canyonlands can easily be construed as a poor man's Grand Canyon but this beautiful area is much more than a mere little brother to its more famous sibling. With a similar mesa strewn river gorged topography, Canyonlands differs as much in its more varied accessibility than in its size. But make no mistake, this accessibility is not of the easy variety, it is for the fully prepared and adventurous. Sure there are the simple drive by overlooks off paved roads as in the Grand Canyon but, one has more opportunity to reach both the Colorado and Green Rivers here. Take heed, the roads are a criss-cross of four-wheel drive tracks that only the hearty dare tackle.As with all such allowances of motorized transport into an remote area, it can have both good and bad effects. When remote areas become more accessible even if only to the adventurous, the potential of solitude is open to being more easily interrupted even if these very roads are what make some of these areas possible in the first place. For this reason, while enjoying the protection and restraints of a National Park, Canyonlands has more the feel of a National Recreation Area. Enjoy it as such and you will find a park wild and spectacular, ready to be taken by those up to the task.
Address: Southeast Utah, off route 191.
Directions: Canyonlands National Park is located off Route 191 in the eastern part of Utah.
The Wave is just one Staircase wonder
With a name like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument you would think the National Park system had grandiose plans for this sublime piece of Utah real estate when it was designated a protected area in 1996, but the young park was relegated to the Bureau of Land Management and hence lost a bit of the gloss associated with its more famous National Park cousins in the state. No matter, it appears enough people are finding out about it just the same and perhaps the reasoning behind the managerial choice was to keep it less developed and hence more wild than a bona fide National Park. With little known but sure fire attractions like The Wave and Buckskin Gulch, it might be for the best to keep roads to them unpaved and relegated more for adventure seekers. Even this growing group is having to be kept at bay with permit requirements to protect this fragile ecosystem What they seek is a communion with nature that the National Park system has used as its calling card for a century but has lost sight of in its quest for convenience. Many will complain that such national treasures should be more accessible to the masses who in tax dollars fund them but this is one grand experiment that seems to be proving that less can indeed be more.
Directions: Staircase-Escalante National Monument if located of Route 89 in the far south of Utah.
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