Utah, a true Western Mountain state, is the center of Mormonism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nearly two-thirds of Utah’s inhabitants declare themselves members of the church. The most-visited tourist attraction in the state is the Mormon Temple Square and its score of related sites in the capital, Salt Lake City.
About 80 percent of the state’s three million residents live in areas clustered around Salt Lake City. The remaining vast and varied expanses of the state offer a dense concentration of outdoor adventure and majestic scenery. Five national parks entice visitors with forests, lakes, rivers and the otherworldly landscape of the Red Rock Desert.
The town of Moab, in the state’s southeast quarter, is a hub for visiting some of Utah’s most iconic sites. Island in the Sky, a sandstone mesa towering more than 1,000 feet over its surroundings, hands visitors a starting-point vantage on spectacular vistas. Within easy access is Arches National Park, with some 2,000 natural sandstone arches, and Canyonlands, the state’s largest national park.
Utah, considered the site of the best skiing anywhere, lays claim to “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” No wonder the capital was the site of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. But that’s not all the state offers the outdoors types, whether they are out for a challenge or for relaxation. The state bestows on its travelers opportunities for world-class mountain biking, hiking, four-wheeling, rafting, fishing, ballooning, skydiving and canyoneering.
The arts are not ignored in the state, which hosts arts festivals year round. The best-known cultural event, though, is the hip Sundance Festival in Park City. Some 20,000 persons flock to this independent film festival celebration every January.
Children are not disappointed in Utah. Dinosaurland, in Vernal, displays 18 full-size prehistoric creatures, making the site popular with families. Cherry Hill Camping Resort in Kaysville is another children’s paradise. With 180 campsites, the turbocharged campground includes a water park with a life-size pirate ship, waterfalls and special effects. Families can burn off steam with mini-golf, batting cages, rock climbing walls, arcade games, and free summer concerts.