DREAMSCAPES Fall /2018
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A LAND OF NATURAL WONDERS
 
(2018 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: DENISE J.DEVEAU



From art festivals and Olympic parks to water sports and outdoor adventures, there is a world of surprises in store for Utah visitors. Yet, many would say the real jewel in the crown is the abundance of natural wonders that await you along the way. 

Surrounded by Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho and Wyoming, the state of Utah is a geological wonderland you should not miss.

Among its many natural claims to fame, Utah is home to The Mighty 5 National Parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion and Bryce Canyon), each of which delivers its own unique experience, which might include a stone arch or bridge forged by the elements over thousands of centuries, an intricate maze of canyon trails, craggy towers that resemble ancient ruins or a spectacular strategic lookout point.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES ABOUND

Every landscape offers up a special and variegated display of vibrant colour combinations, from rich russet and oranges to stately purples and greens. Distinctive rock formations abound, many of which have earned such evocative nicknames as the Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, Thor’s Hammer and the Tower of Babel.

Our own trek began with a visit to Arches National Park, home to the iconic Delicate Arch and Double Arch. We then moved on to Canyonlands National Park, where the Grand View Point hike offers a panoramic vista of the complex network of canyons carved out by the Colorado and Green Rivers, as well as the oft-photographed Mesa Arch. Our last stop was Capitol Reef National Park, a grand showcase of sandstone pillars, the Hickman Bridge arch and the 1,000-year-old Fremont Petroglyphs etched in sandstone.

While the sites attract their fair share of tourists, a significant plus is that there is less congestion here than at more popular destinations like the Grand Canyon. The result is a more “unencumbered” experience, with minimal restrictions on where you can go or how close you can be to an edge overlooking a canyon floor.

Hiking is a popular activity for avid travellers who can choose trails with varying degrees of difficulty. A typical mid-level hike will take a couple of hours, during which you can wind your way along well-marked trails, clamber over a few stones and stop to take in some scenic views if you need a break. The best part is that magical moment when you reach an iconic landmark that is hidden from sight until you take those steps over the final rise. 

Walking through the natural wonders of the national parks is not the only way to experience a Utah adventure, however. A road trip through Utah offers something for everyone, whether you’re an avid RVer, cyclist, camper, rock climber, artist or amateur geologist or astronomer.

Rock climbers are faced with an endless choice of challenging venues to conquer both in the parks and along the roadside. The keenest of mountain bikers will immediately point you in the direction of Moab, a popular base camp that attracts riders from around the world.

Often, travellers rent an RV to navigate any or all of the national parks and travel the well-marked scenic highway routes. Camping enthusiasts find plenty of opportunities to pitch their tent along a river bank or another out-of-the-way location. Bear in mind, however, that while hotels and resorts offer camping options, they can often be a spartan affair, so make sure you are always well prepared for any circumstance.

Utah also features a number of certified International Dark Sky Parks, designated “sanctuaries of natural darkness” where would-be astronomers can enjoy a glorious stargazing experience, including a crystal-clear view of the Milky Way, constellations and planets.

It’s not all about being at one with Mother Nature, however. There are plenty of interesting museums, galleries and historical sites worth a side trip when the mood strikes.

One such stop on our journey was Castle Creek Winery outside of Moab, which is located on a working ranch called Red Cliffs Lodge. Here, families can enjoy a traditional cookout, go horseback riding, take in some first-rate whitewater rafting in the nearby river and set up camp if there’s an available space. It’s also home to the Moab Film and Western Heritage Museum, chock full of memorabilia from many of the films shot in the region, which include such classics as Stagecoach, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thelma & Louise and Planet of the Apes.

BE PREPARED

There are some cautionary things you should know before embarking on your outdoor adventures in Utah. While there are plenty of scenic routes from which to choose between point A and point B, there are also vast stretches of land that are virtually uninhabitable. In some cases, you could drive for several hours before you find a rest stop, hotel or fuel station of any kind, so be sure to fill up before you hit the open road.

The heat can be intense so hikers should always carry plenty of water and wear protective clothing. It can be a very long day with no access to food or water. The weather can also be mercurial. Depending on the elevation and the distance you cover, you can be kitted out in summer gear in the morning and pulling out your woolly sweaters by the end of the day. And when rain hits, it can easily turn into a deluge that washes out less travelled roads in a matter of minutes. The best rule-of-thumb is to find a safe haven until it passes. The wait is usually short-lived.

Cautionary advice aside, the beauty of Utah is that the state offers an escape for just about anyone. A plein-air painter might spend countless undisturbed hours replicating the glorious shapes and colours of the unique landscape. Anyone with a scientific bent has a veritable playground in which to study the different geological eras laid out before them. It’s a place where athletes can test their limits, campers can experience the great outdoors undisturbed, children can glimpse life in an Old West setting and historians can peruse ancient petroglyphs and Navajo ruins. Kayakers can shoot rapids and sportsmen can take in a few hours of fly fishing, while stargazers get to experience the night sky in all its glory.

The only limit to anyone exploring the natural wonders of Utah is time.

Travel Planner

Plan your Utah adventure at VisitUtah.com. For more information on all there is to see and experience in Utah’s national parks, visit:

Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge: redcliffslodge.com

The Mighty 5: us-parks.com/the-mighty-5.html

 
 
 
 
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