The Outdoor Playground Called UTAH
II was born in Layton Utah, I grew up all over Davis and Utah County moving every few years with my parents. I didn't like the culture, I felt trapped in a tiny bubble of 'happiness' and wanted to experience the 'REAL world'. I have since lived in Las Vegas, Henderson, Rexburg, Dallas, Plano and have traveled all over the world, and I certainly experienced the worst and the best of humanity in all of those places. I came back to Utah for healing, and my attitude had changed about Utah and all it has to offer.
We are known as the 'Mormon' state within the USA; but I would say it has become much more diversified within the last 5 years. The people are kind, caring, helpful, honest (for the most part) and run on a sort of integrity that you won't find anywhere else. If you are obstinate, rude, manipulative or unkind....it is not popular and you are likely to be shunned or punished by 'the village'.
The culture of Utah sets the stage for a unique travel experience for visitors all on its own. I am now very proud to say I am a Utahan, and truly live in one of the happiest places on earth....just head down to the Brigham Young University Campus and you will see why I say that, lol.
While on your way there, make sure to plan an excursion hiking up Mount Timpanogus, it is a rite of passage for all those who attend college there, and early May or April is likely the best time to go. You will get to see all the beautiful array of wild flowers and the weather is cool, the grass is also still green.
If you are brave enough to head out around 2 am to start your hike you will be greeted with an amazing Sunrise that is sure to bond everyone in your group. The hike is not for the faint of heart, the trail is steep, the air is dry & gets thinner as you ascend. There are parts where the ground is littered with shifting shale so make sure you have your high-top boots on to protect those ankles. If you have a night or two, there is a lovely little field of wild flowers with a small trickling stream that you can camp at as well.
There are so many options for your vacation during the summer time in Utah that I have taken for granted over the years. Here are some of the best Utah has to offer, including the off the beaten path places I just LOVE:
Aspen Grove- Where you can take a family retreat, a marriage retreat or a summer camp all arranged by the Brigham Young University in Provo. BYU as we call it has a fabulous campus as well, and is known for the Code of Honor. Named after one of the founding members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormon’s) --- let me tell you they have great catering.
I remember my best friend as a kid, she would go up to Aspen Grove with her family and would come home with these tales of climbing through trees and going down zip lines, and playing in the water with canoes…..sigh….I’m still jealous of that one 😉
Mountain biking at Park City- This is another one on my ‘to do list’ now that I live here again. I remember taking the Park City Mountain Resort Ski Lift up and around all the beautiful mountains. Taking the lift as a sort of European gondola ride during the fall foliage, with all the wonderful colors.
There were families having picnics, mountain bikers taking their bikes on the lift and then just biking down the hills, where skiers typically reigned during the winter. Really this is such a wonderful diversion from the rat race of life during both the summer and winter months. I feel like summer is the best though, I love skiing, but with the outdoor Arts festivals, weekly farmers markets, boutique shops, an amazing golf course (Canyons Golf Course), and all around relaxing time in the mountain air…..what more could you ask for?!?!
If Park City isn’t your thing, try one of the other resorts for this summer ‘lift’ experience. If you have small children you want to experience hiking, then try Deer Valley - where you can take the lift up to Silver Lake and have a nice relaxing ‘hike’ down. Try out one of the other resorts as well while your here, just[a] to get a sampler of all that the Wasatch Front has to offer. Here is the full run down and schedule for each:
Deer Valley: Lifts run daily until Sept. 4, weekends until Sept. 17.
Snowbird: Peruvian Chair (must be 42 inches tall to ride) runs daily until Aug. 27 and Aerial Tram (all ages) runs daily until Oct. 9; both run on weekends until Oct. 15.
Solitude Mountain Resort: Lift runs Friday-Sunday through Oct. 1 from Solitude Village.
Park City Mountain Resort: Lifts run from the resort base area as well as the Canyons Village until Oct. 1, afternoons only Monday-Friday.
Snowbasin: Gondola runs Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 8.
Sundance: Ray’s and Red’s lifts run through Oct. 8.
Brian Head: Lift runs Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day weekend, when it will operate Monday, too. The lift will reopen Sept 16 for Rocktoberfest.
Cherry Peak: Lift runs on Saturdays through Labor Day weekend.
…..geez after this list it almost seems like all the mountains are claimed by one big wig resort or another right? NOPE! There is plenty more to choose from! Just head up North to Logan Utah and you are sure to find plenty of hiking there.
Check out Alltrails.com to find the best ones, complete with their level of difficulty and how long it should take you.
If going North isn’t your thing (yes that was a sly Game of Thrones plug), then head south towards Las Vegas. Instead of taking I15, take a slight detour to the Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe Utah. This place is by far the MOST UNIQUE campground you will EVER find. I would suggest visiting late in the Fall when you have the crisp air and natural Hot Springs to enjoy.
Here you will find a slightly run down, but very gypsy like setting where you can camp inside a converted Bus. They have nightly movies, an amazing Music Festival during July, hiking nearby, local wildlife that is welcome and well cared for and much much more.
So make sure you stop by, take a nice long soak in these natural hot springs to absorb the healing energies of the earth in their adorable outdoor bathtubs. In total there are 8 bathtubs (cleaned every morning) & 2 concrete pools (cleaned once or twice a week). The tubs are kept at a sizzling 98 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit (37-43 degrees C.), you can’t help but relax at those temperatures.
If sitting in hot tubs and visiting gypsy like dwellings aren’t for you, then head over to Bryce Canyon National Park. Here you will find gigantic towers of rock that looks like a rock giant was scared and you get to see his arm hair standing straight up and down. It is the most unusual, alluring and amazing thing you will witness.
It is the most interesting ‘rock forest’ in the world. When I went to Bryce Canyon, it was on a trip down to Las Vegas. I was in my car that was packed to the brim with clothing, food, paraphernalia that I had been living off of for several weeks and had to make it back to Las Vegas for my graduation in 2 days. I didn’t have the time to really enjoy Bryce canyon.
The reason I feel I only got a taste of Bryce Canyon was due to the fact that each viewing platform was about a 10-15 minute ride down the road & the trails weren’t properly marked for directionally challenged people like me. If you don’t want to get lost while in Bryce Canyon make sure to grab a map from the Park Rangers toll Tower when you first enter (that saved my bacon.)
After Bryce Canyon you could swing on over to Moab, with the Canyonlands and Arches National Park being very close by.
I actually went to Moab with my dog Zoey & we both had THE BEST TIME! Summer in Moab is fairly crowded, so be sure to visit sometime in the fall when trails are less crowded & the traffic isn’t as heavy.
You are allowed to bring your dog, but you need to know which trails you can hike on with a dog. Moab has hiking, rock climbing, marathons, white water rafting, canoeing, and a plethora of other activities surely to provide satiety to any outdoor enthusiast.
At this juncture in your Tour of Utah you can either head over to Grand Junction Colorado (where you could fly out of) or head down to Las Vegas (fly out with a shimmery bang). Grand Junction Colorado has a myriad of different things you can choose from for any outdoorsman (or woman 😉 or Wine lover as they are building their vineyards there to rival Napa Valley California.
If this doesn’t tickle your fancy, then how about visiting Zion National Park on your way down South! This place is absolutely stunning, no words, videos, or descriptions could ever do this place justice. My hiking recommendations may include some canyoneering and rappelling off of steep high rocks into streams and shallow pools. This is the ULTIMATE outdoor adventure to be sure.
As Maria said from the Sound of Music, ‘These are a few of my favorite things’ - If you visit any one of these places, I promise you that you will want to live in Utah forever. For all my protestations I have had about moving back to Utah, I'm very happy to be back here because of all that Utah had to offer. So come visit me & let's both take advantage of one of the happiest places on earth and all it has to offer. As always, happy travels, happy tales & see you on the flip side.
Janiel Green, CultureTrekking.com
About the Author: Janiel Green is a Physician Assistant working for the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Utah. She loves being outdoors, feels laughter is always the best medicine & fiercely loves her dog Zoey. She started her blog CultureTrekking.com as a means of helping others Explore different cultures, connect communities, find unique adventures & inspire others to ‘Be that Change’ you wish to see in the world.