Things to Do in Utah - page 2
Visitors to this western gem can step back in time some 150 million years when dinosaurs ruled the southern edge of Utah. Self-guided walking tours and informative pamphlets lead travelers through rugged terrain and along well-marked paths to ancient remains from these extinct giants of the Jurassic period.
Best known for the well-preserved fossils of plants and dinosaurs found in the popular Morrison Formation area, Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail is also home to the remains of a now-defunct copper mill from the 1800s. Travelers can explore the area on foot and examine fossils and the old-world factory in a truly hands-on way, as Dinosaur Trail is free of fences and guards, allowing tourists to roam as freely as dinosaurs once did.
You can thank the meandering Virgin River for Zion’s epic beauty. Due to the ferocious forces of erosion over 200 million years, the Virgin River has carved Utah’s sandstone into geological art. Beginning at over 9,000 feet to the north of the park, the north fork of the river winds its way for 190 miles toward southern Nevada and beyond. Along the way it sculpts legendary formations such as Zion’s famous Narrows, and the striated lines of the canyon walls provide a peek at what the center of the Earth might look like.
On the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the road parallels the Virgin River as it winds its way down the canyon, and rockslides, floods and shifting boulders are evidence that the river isn’t quite finished carving Zion Canyon. In the town of Springdale on the park’s southern entrance, tubing down the river is a popular activity in the late spring and summer.
Red Butte Garden and Arboretum is a university-owned botanical garden in Salt Lake City covering more than 150 acres. The garden was founded by Dr. Walter P. Cottam in 1930. Cottam was not only the chair of the University of Utah's botany department; he was also a co-founder of The Nature Conservancy. By 1961, the collection of plants had grown so significantly that the state recognized it as the State Arboretum. In 1985, the garden was relocated to a new – and larger – site in Red Butte Canyon, and given a new name – the Red Butte Garden and Arboretum.
Today, Red Butte Garden features several different garden spaces, hiking trails, paved walking paths, and an amphitheater which hosts concerts on a regular basis. During the summer, films are also often shown in the garden. Visitors are treated to an ever-changing display of plants as different things bloom year-round, but the garden is particularly well-known for its spring bloom made up of some 400,000 bulbs.
Bear Lake is Utah’s second largest natural lake. Earthquake activity formed the lake 28,000 years ago. It’s often called the "Caribbean of the Rockies" because of its bright turquoise blue water. The vibrant blue color is caused by minerals suspended in the lake.
With boat ramps located around the lake, water sports are a large draw. From sailing and boating to jet skiing, fishing and swimming, if you like to be wet, you should like Bear Lake. Cisco Beach is one of the better known areas. In the summer, it’s a popular scuba diving location. In the winter at the end of January, fishing gets the spotlight when fish come close to the shore to spawn. Fishermen wading in the icy water scoop them up by the net full.
When you first enter the dry expanse of Goblin Valley State Park, you’d be forgiven for looking out and thinking there’s really nothing there. Upon closer inspection of the landscape, however, you realize this empty desert void is filled with a curious, geologic beauty that’s equal parts captivating and strange. Here in the middle of the Great Basin Desert—miles from seemingly everywhere—sandstone spires referred to goblins rise silently up from the Earth. Carved by 170 million years of wind and water erosion, this mushroom dotted, light brown landscape is an inland sea of boulders and pinnacles seemingly frozen in time. Discovered only in the 1920s by ranchers looking for cattle, the site is now protected as part of a fascinating Utah State Park. Walk amidst the towering spires and look at the striated lines, where millennia of torment from nature’s fury have formed what we see today. Or, to spend an evening amidst the hoodoos and beneath a banner of stars, reserve a spot at the desert campground where the enveloping silence of the Martian landscape helps you drift off to sleep.
Named after the biblical figures of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the sandstone cliffs known as the Court of the Patriarchs are popular among photographers, rock climbers, and early risers. A visit here doesn’t require much time on its own, but it’s an accessible vantage point for capturing the beauty of the awe-inspiring Zion National Park.
Adrenaline junkies will find their fix on Cataract Canyon’s raging white waters. Several stretches of class five rapids push even the most expert rafters past their limits in what can only be described as one of Utah’s best white water scenes.
With telling names like Big Drop, Little Niagara, Satan’s Gut and The Claw, it’s no wonder Cataract Canyon attracts thrill seekers from across the globe. The roaring river winds through scenic Canyonlands National Park and several slow-flow areas allow travelers to recover from challenging waves while taking in the incredible mountain scenery. A trip through Cataract Canyon is sure to be a wet, wild and memorable adventure!
Set in Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island State Park is home to wildlife, white-sand beaches, trails, and plenty of opportunities for water sports. Take in views of the lake and surrounding mountains on a scenic drive or hike, keeping an eye out for bison, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn along the way.
Liberty Park is Salt Lake City’s oldest and liveliest city park. Located just southeast of the city center, the park features numerous playgrounds, seasonal amusement rides, a swimming pool, basketball courts, concession stands, and a popular running path. The park is also home to the Tracy Aviary, a sanctuary for rare and endangered birds from around the world.
The second-largest copper producer in the United States, the century-old Kennecott Copper Mine (aka the Bingham Canyon Mine) provides about a quarter of America’s copper needs, as well as gold, silver, and molybdenum. The impressive open pit, which is is still growing, is said to be visible from space.
More Things to Do in Utah
With an average annual snowfall of 365 inches spread out over 3,300 total skiable acres, you should be ready to cover lots of ground at Park City Mountain Resort. The 114 trails and 16 lifts guarantee there’s a stretch of snow for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The resort classifies 17 percent of its trails as easy, 52 percent as more difficult and 31 percent are described as most difficult.
Along with skiing and snowboarding, the list of winter activities is long and includes tubing, ice skating, sleigh rides and snowmobile rides.
With summer comes a slew of possibilities to get and stay outside. The resort is home to 70 miles of hiking and biking trails. Fly through the air on zip lines, reach new heights on the climbing wall or race down the Alpine Slide, one of the longest slides in the world.
Families with young children have numerous spaces to call their own at Park City Mountain Resort. Along with miniature golf, there’s the Adventure Zone playground and Little Miners Park. The amusement park entertains its’ tiniest guests with a merry-go-round, airplane ride and mini train.
It’s all about skiing at Alta Ski Area. With 116-plus runs and 2,200 skiable acres (890 hectares), the variety of the terrain provides skiing for all levels. A quarter of the terrain is for beginners, 40 percent dedicated to intermediate skiers and 35 percent for the advanced set. Average yearly snowfall is 551 inches (1,400 cm). A rare skier only mountain, snowboarding is not allowed.
You can learn more than just ski skills at Alta. The resort offers a unique free program called Ski with a Ranger. On weekends and holidays skiers can learn about a variety of topics including the watershed, winter ecology and local mining history while traveling down a groomed run.
The eroded red rock wonderland of Arches National Park houses more than 2,000 natural stone arches, the densest concentration in the world. Geological marvels abound—here you’ll find hundreds of soaring pinnacles, the iconic Delicate Arch, and Landscape Arch, the largest natural arch in the world at 290 feet (88 meters) across.
No-frills camping and incredible scenery are just part of what makes this 9,000-acre recreation area a destination for families traveling to Utah. Sand Flats Recreation Area is home to some of the state’s most pristine hiking trails and intense mountain bike paths. And while the protected area is easily accessible from Moab, travelers say part of its charm comes from feeling miles away from civilization.
In addition to reveling in panoramic views of wide mountain spaces, visitors can voyage out on two wheels along the Slickrock Bike Trail. The pass’s challenging level 4 descents and technical terrain make it a destination for daredevils. Nearby Porcupine Rim Trail offers travelers a chance to explore on two feet, though visitors warn the rocky cliffs are best left to fit adventurers.
With fewer than 1,000 residents, Green River could easily be a sleepy town with little to do or see. But visitors say this quiet community on the banks of the nearby Green River, is actually home to some of Utah’s best attractions, making it well worth a visit. Adrenaline junkies can raft their way through white water rapids on guided tours of the roaring river, while history buffs can venture into the past at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum. The unique rock formations at nearby Goblin Valley provide scenic terrain to explore on foot and the Black Dragon Canyon Trail offers visitors a chance to take in the beautiful mountain scenery on one of the area’s most epic trails.
Located inside Liberty Park in downtown Salt Lake City, Tracy Aviary is essentially a bird zoo housing hundreds of birds.
Founded in 1938 when a local man donated his collection of birds to the city, Tracy Aviary eventually became not only a place where people could come see more than 135 bird species but also an organization dedicated to conservation work. It's the oldest bird park in the United States, today housing 400 birds.
In addition to all of the birds visitors can see, there are also several different bird shows and demonstrations that happen daily, including feeding a flock of Sun Conures or Pelicans, and listening to keepers talking about various birds. A mill built in 1852 is in one part of Tracy Aviary, and it's the oldest commercial building in Utah.
Solitude Mountain Resort lives up to its name, set far from most of the other ski resorts in the Salt Lake City area. Opened in 1957, Solitude occupies part of the Big Cottonwood Canyon and has a reputation for being family-friendly, much like the other resort in the same canyon, Brighton. In fact, there's a partnership between the two resorts that includes a combined day pass and a chairlift that offers access to both.
Solitude has 65 runs, more than half of which are in the “intermediate” level, and the ski season lasts from roughly mid-November through mid-April. There's a Nordic Center that sits between Solitude and Brighton, where you can go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and skate-skiing. In addition to skiing, visitors to Solitude can go ice skating on an outdoor rink.
Opened in 2011 on Salt Lake City’s Library Square, this museum of science, art, and technology is named after Leonardo da Vinci, Italy's famous painter, mathematician, and inventor. Its mission is to inspire visitors to explore the creative side of science and technology through interactive exhibits.
The Discovery Gateway Children's Museum is an interactive, hands-on museum in Salt Lake City’s Gateway District. Programs and exhibits encourage the whole family to learn about science, engineering, art, animals, music, and more. There are temporary exhibits too, and a daily offering of workshops and special activities for kids.
With a dinosaur museum, themed garden, farm park, and more, Utah’s Thanksgiving Point brings together multiple experiences on one family-friendly campus. Part museum and part theme park, it’s located 20 minutes south of Salt Lake City and also features a golf course, spa, shopping, restaurants, and 3-D movie theater.
Located in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Snowbird is a winter and summer mountain resort known for its long ski season and steep terrain. Locals and visitors alike appreciate the laid-back atmosphere, variety of runs, and abundance of high-quality snow.
With one of the largest annual snowfalls in Utah, Brighton Resort is a favorite with skiers and snowboarders who appreciate the affordability, high-quality snow, and unflashy atmosphere. Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the resort offers free skiing for children under 10, making it particularly popular with families.
The La Sal Mountains are Utah’s second highest mountain range with nine peaks surpassing 12,000 feet. Their diverse terrain, impressive views and sky-high summits make La Sal Mountains the ideal place for travelers looking to boulder, ice climb, hike, scramble or go canyoneering.
La Sal’s level 2 and 3 climbs attract intrepid travelers year-round, but visitors agree the steep mountain passes may be too technical for novice wanderers. Many of the trails that lead to 12,000 feet peaks require an ice axe to navigate—even in July! The cooling natural pools and quiet waterfalls of Mill Creek, Negro Bill Canyon and Professor Creek canyons make them popular with hikers during warmer months. And because La Sal Mountains are contained almost entirely on public land, visitors can camp almost anywhere before heading out on an early morning climb.
Zion may have become a national park in November of 1919, but the history of humans walking through these canyons dates back almost 12,000 years. Before there were tourists, pioneers, and Mormons, the Anasazi and Paiute Native Americans were the first settlers to make this landscape their semi-permanent home. At the Zion Human History Museum, marvel at animal pelts that were used by settlers to stay warm through the harsh Utah winters, or read the tales of the western pioneers who would eventually start outposts and towns. There are firsthand accounts from railroad workers who lay tracks throughout the mountains, and stories from the Civilian Conservation Corps diaries from the men who first made the trails. A 22-minute video provides a visual representation of the park’s fascinating history, and over 50,000 objects intricately explain the cultural, natural, and geologic diversity that’s sculpted the park to this day.
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