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NORTH AMERICA - USA

WHY SHOULD I VISIT UTAH

Avatar   By Anna Sarjeant - House of Travel Content Specialist


Utah

Why? Because Utah is a wild old cad.

One night with this handsomely rugged brute and you’ll have stories to last a lifetime. Jam-packed with outrageously scenic places, you’ll be attracted to both the good looks: red-rock cliffs and National Parks, and the charming personality. Anyone for a sing-song around a canyon campfire?

Sunsets and starlit nights await. On your guard, people; Utah’s out to seduce you.

 

1. There are National Parks at every turn

THE MIGHTY 5®. Need we say more?

Bryce Canyon

Star-gazing from Mars, now made possible in Utah. Or so it’ll seem if you lie across the sandstone plateau of The Mighty 5®’s craggy savannah-coloured stone. Bathing in sunshine that penetrates a desert soil, the five national parks that make up this other-worldly terrain include Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Collectively the five parks are an expansive, seemingly limitless mass of domes, cliffs and arches, 300-foot towers and arid humidity; a sizzling desert of brilliant, barren orange. Arrive a little earlier and experience sunrise over red rocks and jutting formations that spike, twist and curve. Stay a little later and watch as shadows from the setting sun give way to a glowing night’s sky; the transformation of light and colour, pink through to navy seeping into every pocket and fold. Time your visit to witness the full moon cast a silvery glare over the deep canyons and towers, or arrive late autumn and you’ll be presented with the Milky Way, its streaks smeared across the sky like an extra-terrestrial firework display.

2. Movie sets to rival Hollywood's finest

“Run Forrest, Run!”

Monument Valley

And he did. And he didn’t stop until he got all the way to Monument Valley.

This iconic landscape was made famous in the Forrest Gump movie and has been used countless times as the scenery for many famous Westerns. If you’re a movie buff or a selfie-addict, this is the backdrop for you.

3. The world’s oldest and most talkative tree lives here

Pando

And he did. And he didn’t stop until he got all the way to Monument Valley.

Meet Pando. The Granddaddy of all trees. Not only is Pando over 80,000 years old; weighs in at 6,615 tons and is spread over 106 acres, it’s assumed he only has one enormous underground root system, and scientifically speaking, that makes ole Pando a single organism. Like many aged chaps, he's a very vocal old beast. Also known as The Trembling Giant, his leaves react theatrically to the slightest of gusts, rustling as they do. Now spread that sort of trembling over a hundred acre site and you have quite the acoustics.

4. The skiing’s better

And it’s all to do with science. Again!!

Ski

Utah boasts 14 ski resorts in total (with 10 less than an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City) and you’re guaranteed a decent flurry of powder because of Utah’s location and weather. Starting in the Pacific, storms travel inland losing moisture density as they go, then they pick up some important speed around the Great Salt Lake, dry out and then sprinkle - in the form of snowflakes – all over the Wasatch. This results in a dense snowy base, topped with fluffy, much lighter powder. Now explain all that to an avid skier - and watch their little face light up.

Yup. Utah. You da best.

5. The world’s only ski-in/ski-out distillery is here

Erm, yes.

Whiskey in Utah

As the world’s only ski-in/ski-out gastro distillery, once you’re done shredding snow, slide your skis into Park City’s High West Distillery & Saloon for a brewery tour and a tipple. It’s only a couple dozen sashays from the chair lift at the bottom of Quittin’ Time ski run at Park City Mountain Resort. Inside the old 20th century stable and accompanying townhouse you’ll find two saloon style bars, a restaurant and of course, a brewery. Also famed for its vodka which is distilled at an almighty 7000 feet, there’s a new gin is the pipeline and a brew lab where you can learn all the science behind the sauce. However, this place is mostly about the whiskey (or should that be whisk-SKI?), so try a Rendezvous Rye – the company’s most popular blend.

…And keep those poles to hand, a dozen whiskeys down and you’ll need them.

6. It’s home to the only warm scuba spot in mainland USA

Scuba diving

Scuba divers rejoice, it’s not all about the powder. At Homestead Crater you can dive into crystal clear warm waters come rain, shine or minus degree snow. A 17 metre dome made from limestone rock, this little natural phenomenon is a hot tub gifted from Mother Earth. 20 metres deep, the crater is a geothermal pool with an average temperate between 32-35 degrees Celsius. An opening at the summit allows for natural light and the water’s so clear you’ll get scuba viz as far as 15 metres. It’s too hot for aquatic life, so don’t expect to find Dory, but there are still plenty of surreal visions to be sought beneath.

7. Native American history comes to life here

Native American history

Navajo Indians are American Indian people of New Mexico and Arizona, with lands also spilling over into Monument Valley. Explore the park's 92,000 acres (or at least some of it) with a Navajo guide. You’ll enjoy a fascinating insight into the life of Native American Indians and the surrounding landscape.

8. You can zen out under a starlit sky

Zen Out

If you’re feeling adventurous, stay out late and look up at the stars. Zero light pollution means you can geek-out at the millions of stars - and the Milky Way - and feel like you are the smallest thing in the world. We bet you’ve never seen anything quite like it.

9. Lake Powell is as exotic as a Mediterranean isle

Lake Powell

Possibly the only part of the US that resembles a gorgeous Mediterranean island, Lake Powell mixes golden orange rock with azure blue water. Water activities abound, from swimming to fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling and even water skiing. Or you can stay ashore and enjoy the ample hiking and sightseeing opportunities. If you like the appeal of water but prefer to stay dry, book a boat trip from any of the marinas. Once you’re a few kilometres off shore you’ll feel like you’ve left civilisation completely. Alternatively, do like the locals and go for a swim – the summertime 40 degree heat baking off vibrant clay coloured rocks makes going for a quick dip very appealing.

10. World-record speeds are smashed at Bonneville Salt Flats

Bonneville Salt Flats

A lunar like vastness that will send a tingle down your spine, the Bonneville Salt Flats are as white and as flat as they are empty. Save for the infamous speedway, where land speed records have been set – and smashed. Annual racing events are free to attend, so check the agenda and become a spectator. There’s something oddly ghostly about watching race cars chasing one another across a dust-white eternity.

11. Trampers can hike 15-mile golden tunnels

Buckskin Gulch

Not for the faint-hearted, when we say this one ain’t a walk in the park, we mean it ain’t a walk in the park. To the contrary, you’re hiking the 15-mile slot canyon which is called Buckskin Gulch, located in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area of Southern Utah. The longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwest. You’re encapsulated at all times, the route is never more than 20-feet wide (sometimes it's less than 10 feet from side to side) and the terrain’s unpredictable. Rock jams, pools, quicksand and flash flooding are all common. Still game? Alrighty then. For hard-core hikers only, check in with the rangers before you go and be extremely weather aware: You know the drill.

On the positive side, you’ll be amply rewarded with sandstone formations that twist, turn and protrude in all manner of shapes and strange ways. Burnt orange and permanently aglow, the tunnels feel post-apocalyptic, yet strangely protective all at once. Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!

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ABOUT ANNA SARJEANT

As a self-confessed travel addict, the majority of my wage, time and daydreams are spent seeing as much of the planet as my pay packet will allow. My love for a good jaunt may have been brought on by an inquisitive mind, but I am more inclined to think it was induced by several childhood holidays spent in a rain-lashed caravan. Up a mountain. On a farm. In Britain. Bored.

More about Anna >

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