Don’t let Utah’s reputation as a dull bastion of Mormonism, polygamy, and weak beer deter you from visiting the Beehive State. The truth is, Utah has really loosened its ultra-conservative attitude in recent years and the place has never been more fun. The natural beauty here has always been the big draw, but with more bars, brewpubs, and entertainment now on the menu it’s an even better travel destination.
Utah’s urban attractions are admittedly thin, but its natural wonders are at the top of the charts. The entire southern region is covered in extraordinary red rock canyon national parks like Zion, Bryce, and Canyonlands. It’s a mecca for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and other outdoor recreation. Just next door, the Wasatch Mountains are home to superb ski resorts like Alta, Snowbird, and Park City. At the center of it all is the capital Salt Lake City, the core of Mormonism, with its own surprising delights.
What surprises most first-time visitors to Utah is the open friendliness of the people. There are certainly closed communities in some rural areas, but the main tourist haunts like Moab, Park City, and Salt Lake are loads of fun and almost as liberal-minded as other states. There’s some incredible value to be had in Utah. Food and lodging are both very affordable. The only possible negative is the strict alcohol laws that make it hard to find a stiff drink. But even that is loosening up, and the state’s bar scene has never been livelier.
Apart from the ski towns like Park City, few travelers spend much time in Utah’s cities. They have their merits, but the real attraction here is the outdoor recreation. You can easily move from the alpine ski resorts of the Wasatch down into the red rock canyons of Arches in a single day. The area around Salt Lake Valley offers easy access to both worlds, with the capital convenient to everything. But the real gems of Utah take a little extra travel effort to reach. The wonders of Zion National Park, Lake Powell, and Canyonlands are just remote enough to deter weekend warriors.
Utah is certainly a four season state. The varied geography and landscape create a climate of extremes - but one that exhibits every type of seasonal weather. In the winter time it is generally cold and snowy throughout the state (although, more so in the mountainous regions of the north and east). The summers are hot everywhere. Especially in the desert plains areas where there is no shelter or shade and only reflective sand to bolster the inferno. But the heat doesn't last forever - it is broken by semi-regular spurts of rain and very regular cold nights. There is no "best time" to visit Utah, although most tourists agree that the heat of high summer can be unbearable. But fall, winter and spring are all exceptional times to see the state.
Without a car you won’t see anything in Utah. There simply is no other means of transportation to move around this state than by driving. But the roads and interstates are in excellent condition, and nearly every mile of driving in Utah can be considered highly scenic. You’ll really need a full week to get more than a taste of what’s waiting in Canyon Country. The rate on a weekly car rental can offer some solid savings over single day rates, and early bookings lower the cost even more.
- Rise above the multicolored sandstone beauty of Canyonlands National Park by driving to the easily accessible Island in the Sky District with its many vantage points
- Get your money’s worth of powder on the slopes of Utah’s legendary ski resorts such as Alta, Snowbird, and Deer Valley
- Experience the seemingly impossible grip of Moab’s ironically-named slick rock mountain bike trails, a must-ride for any serious mountain biker
- Gawk at the sheer majesty of Zion National Park’s red rock canyons as they tower thousands of feet straight up from the valley floor
- Rent a houseboat for a week on Lake Powell and explore the hundreds of little finger coves that ripple the shoreline of this stunning lake
- Witness the divine architecture of the Mormon Temple at the heart of Salt Lake City and learn a bit about this unique religion
- Drop into Utah’s most liberal scene in the mountain town of Park City, a rare center of lively nightlife and trendy amenities