Utah: A Quick Rundown

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“Write about what you know,” they say. It’s a good starting point. It’s a piece of advice that I intend to follow as I write for The Wayfarer Travel Magazine. My bio gives a strong indication concerning what I claim to know about. The rest of it I’ll make up as I go along. When it comes to Utah, there is no pretending. I love the state and have explored much of it but not nearly all of it. As I explore its vast playground in the time to come I will share my adventures with you, the reader. For now, let me tell you briefly about my home state, why I love it, and why you should visit.

Utah is a trifecta of three geographical regions: The Rocky Mountains, The Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. The Rocky Mountains in the northeast are home to the Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges. To the west lies the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats in the Great Basin region. In the southern Colorado Plateau region unique land formations like arches and hoodoos are found in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. These examples only make up a small selection of Utah’s diverse landscape. Valleys, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and deserts help comprise that rest.

What does this offer the visitor? Outdoor fun and adventure mixed in with the solitude that comes from the outdoors. That’s the best thing Utah has to offer. John Muir once stated that “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” Muir wasn’t speaking specifically about Utah but he might as well have been.

Equipped with the right gear, Utah’s outdoors are ready for adventure every season of the year. My personal favorite is summer. I look back and cannot recall a single Utah summer I did not enjoy. I always strive to get back to Utah in the summer when camping and hiking are at their best.  When days on Lake Powell, Sand Hollow Reservoir, or Jordanelle Reservoir are searing hot but remedied with a dip in the water or a cold beer in hand. When floating down the Provo River in a tube is a summer rite of passage. When mountain bikers head down to Moab for the slick rock and others follow to head to the Colorado River to embark on a whitewater river rafting expedition. When backpackers summit King’s Peak and lightly populate the Needle Trail previously covered in snowpack. I could go on and on about the seemingly limitless adventures waiting to be had in the Utah outdoors during the summer but I’ll save my breath except to mention that fishing, rock climbing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and waterskiing/wakeboarding also eagerly await the summer months.

Biking Moab
Biking in Moab. Photo credit Tony Nguyen.
Moab Biking
Biking in Moab. Photo credit Brian Perkins.

 

4X4 Moab
Jeeping in Moab

 

Winter delivers Utah amazing lake-effect snow that truly qualifies as some of the world’s greatest. Fourteen ski/snowboard resorts grace Utah’s mountains. Eight of which can be accessed within an hour of landing in Salt Lake City. If you’re not a skier or snowboarder you can snowshoe to Donut Falls, snow mobile up in Tibblefork, or relax in an amazing snow covered cabin near Park City. Despite your choice, Utah’s 500-plus inches of annual snowfall will offer plenty of snow for a fun winter adventure.

A throwback to the time Shaun and I tried Ski bikes.
A throwback to the time Shaun and I tried Ski bikes.

Fringe Season. A friend of mine likes to call that period of time when we experience spring like weather but are technically still in winter the fringe season. I am officially stealing this term from him. It’s a great time of year because people like him get to start their day off skiing up in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The afternoon is then spent mountain biking in Corner Canyon in the local foothills. In short, Utah has a badass fringe season.

 

Of Utah’s 52,696,960 acres, 65% (35,033,603 acres) are under federal protection and management. Percentage-wise, only Nevada is higher. Considering the amount of acreage, Utah is fourth behind Alaska, California, and Nevada. Include land managed by the State of Utah, the total acreage managed by a government entity is closer to 70%. Utah is home to five national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. In addition, there are seven national monuments—including Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, and Rainbow Bridge—and two national recreation areas, Glen Canyon and Flaming Gorge.

With such diverse terrain–ranging from dry deserts to high mountain peaks to mountain valleys–it is no wonder why Utah is so highly prized and protected. Those that have had a chance to explore the diverse landscape often end up returning, if not staying. It is why when I am feeling over-civilized, nerve-shaken, and tired I return to the Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges; I return to the wildness of the West Desert; I drink from the fountains of life found in The Narrows of Zion.

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