Top 6 things to do in Utah to remind you you are alive!

Although not on the same scale as New Jersey, Utah is often the subject of scorn, backhanded compliments, and ridicule. I admit it is one of only two states I know off where you can see polygamist compounds and punk rockers all in the same day (Arizona is the only other, and that is only near the Utah border). It also has its own political spectrum ranging from right wing to super ultra right wing. (I am glad to see the “Get us out of the UN” signs of my youth are either gone or less visible.) But Utah takes a bad rap for being overly hegemonic. Yes, over half the residents do not drink alcohol, but that does not mean they will pass laws preventing you from drinking, as long as you follow some very simple rules.

Beyond the Utah of punchlines is a wonderful state, one that grabs you at the border, entrances you with its beauty, and reminds you that you are alive. Based on my 20 years as a resident of the Beehive state, here are my favorite 6 things to do in Utah:

6. Southeastern Utah – If you have a week or two and want to get lost in America, I can think of no better place than Southeastern Utah. My dream escape would begin with a few days in the hub of mountain biking and four wheeling, Moab. For those who have been, the name brings back memories of slick red rock, desert scape, and a land which appears to have been created for wheeled vehicles. I would follow that up with a couple days camping at Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks. Often overshadowed by Zion and Bryce, Arches and Capitol Reef offer something the other two haven’t had for years– solitude and silence. It is important to make sure you keep Capitol Reef and Arches below Zion and Bryce on any list you create; this will keep the crowds at Zion and leave these two a little more open. After a couple of days sweating out the desert heat among the cathedrals and natural bridges, there is no better place to cool off than Lake Powell. Lake Powell has more shoreline than California. If you judge your water skiing based on the scenery, water conditions and the potential for a glass like surface, there is no better place to ski in the world. The lake is full of people from all over the desert southwest, so bring enough gas with you to get 3-5 hours away from the docks and the crowds.

moab 4 wheeling

5. The high Uintas – There is no better place in Utah to escape daily life than the high Uintas wilderness area. I wouldn’t advise getting lost here though. Every year a few intrepid cross country skiers, hikers, and backpackers lose their way and fail to return to their cars. But for those who have a general understanding of the points on the compass, this wilderness offers a unique terrain full of lakes to fish and mountains to climb. The Uinta Mountains are 13,000 feet high, a fact that gives Utahans a minor inferiority complex since Colorado’s peaks exceed 14,000 feet. They shouldn’t get too down on themselves though, seeing as Georgia doesn’t have any hills over 5000 feet and Rhode Island can’t boast a rock big enough to make it over 1000 feet. Amid the many mountains are deep pine forests, aspen-covered hills, and places so isolated the Unabomber might have felt lonely. I would tell you where to enter the wilderness to get to the isolated areas, but then they might not be so isolated.

4. Temple Square – It took 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple and required the dedication and participation of the entire city during its construction. Today it stands as the center of the Mormon church, and is worth a half a day to just wander around, watch the brides get their pictures taken, and spend some time in quiet reflection. As we travel we like to seek out holy places. We have been to Jerusalem, Uluru, The Vatican, Hiroshima, and countless churches, monasteries, and temples around the world. They all have moved us, and we have been edified by them. If you cannot visit us at our home, Temple Square is the next best place to partake of our personal spirituality.

Salt Lake Temple Top of temple

3. Back country winter activities – Skiing takes the headlines in Utah and it should. The state proudly claims the “greatest snow on earth,” and the skiing here is simply amazing. If you want to feel really alive, skip the resorts and head out on your own and cross country ski or snowshoe up a mountain. Both the Wasatch range and the Uintas are filled with trails and mountains to be explored. Make sure to check to find out the avalanche rating. If it is high, stay away.

2. Ceder Breaks and the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City – I love juxtapositioning unrelated or opposing activities. For instance, in LA you can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon. On Indonesia’s Komodo Island, we played with the dragons by morning and snorkeled with giant amberjacks by afternoon. For the best juxtaposition in Utah, stay at Brian Head ski resort about 25 miles northeast of Cedar City. Spend your mornings hiking around the forest or Cedar Breaks National Monument and your nights at one of the nation’s premier Shakespearean festivals.

1. Zion and Bryce – The only reason the Greeks thought Olympus was the home of the Gods was because they had not visited Zion and Bryce Canyon.

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4 thoughts on “Top 6 things to do in Utah to remind you you are alive!

  1. Loved all of the Utah NPs in Oct 2001 — no air traffic then so it was more quiet than normal i guess. Tho’ there were some dirtbag kids throwing rocks at Geezers at Arches. I fussed at ’em.

    NPost. (Nice Post)

  2. We are in the process of doing the Natl. Park tour with our 10 and 12 yr old. Visited
    Zion and Bryce last yr. along with the N. and S. Rim of the Grand C! Zion is my all time favorite! “Hiking” the narrows with my kids in shoulder deep water, unforgettable.
    However, now I’m thinking we need to take a year off and really see the world :)
    Loved your segment on Oprah. Good on ya!

  3. National parks and nature reserves are beautiful places that need to be preserved worldwide.

    The most limiting factor in conservation world wide is the shortage of rangers: , estimated at over 100,000 in developing countries.
    Currently no government or conservation organization in the world addresses this problem. That is why the Adopt A Ranger Foundation has been created.

    One of the most urgent and yet effective way of slowing down the release of CO2 in the admosphere is by effectively protecting forests and coral reefs in nature reserves and protected areas and thus preventing them from going up in CO2 blasting flames. This has been elaborated at my blog and http://www.adopt-a-ranger.org/carbon_offset.htm and http://www.birdlist.org/phpbb/viewforum.php?f=4
    Addressing the park ranger deficit would be the only hope of preserving maybe 50% of the species on earth in the course of this century.

  4. I was really impressed that the High Uintas made your list. I especially love the North Slope. The well travled roads on the south side are great. But if you go into Wyoming and enter the Uintas from the backside you are really in nature. Zion is also my favorite Park in Utah.

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