With the biggest, most beautiful and most pristine landscapes in
North America, UTAH has something for everyone: from brilliantly
colored canyons, across endless desert plains, to thickly wooded
and snow-covered mountains. This unmatched range of terrain, almost
all of which is public land, makes Utah the place to come for outdoor
pursuits , whether your tastes run to hiking, off-track mountain
biking, whitewater rafting or skiing.
Southern Utah has more national parks than anywhere else in
the US; in fact it has often been suggested that the entire area
should become one vast national park. The most accessible parts
- such as Zion and Bryce Canyon - are by far the most visited,
but lesser-known parks like Arches and Canyonlands are every
bit as dramatic. Huge tracts of this empty desert, in which beautiful
pre-Columbian pictographs and Ancestral Puebloan ruins lie hidden,
are all but unexplored; seeing them in safety requires a good
degree of advance planning and self-sufficiency.
In the northeast of the state, the Uinta Mountains remain uncrossed
by road and form one of the most extensive wilderness areas in
the US outside Alaska, while Flaming Gorge and Dinosaur preserve
more desert splendor. Though the northwest is predominantly flat
and dry, the granite mountains of the Wasatch Front tower over
state capital Salt Lake City - a surprisingly attractive and
enjoyable stopover - while Alta, Snowbird and the resorts around
Park City offer some of the best skiing in North America.
Led by Brigham Young, Utah's earliest Anglo settlers - the Mormons
- arrived in the Salt Lake area in 1847, and set about the massive
irrigation projects that made their agrarian way of life possible.
At first they provoked great suspicion and hostility back east;
Congress turned down their first petition for statehood in 1850,
in part because of the religious significance of the proposed
name, Deseret , a Mormon word meaning "honeybee" (the
state symbol is still a beehive, to denote industry). The Republican
convention of 1856 railed against slavery and polygamy in equal
measure - had the South not intervened, civil war with the Mormons
was a real possibility. Relations eased when the Mormon church
realized in 1890 that it had better drop polygamy on its own
terms before being forced to do so. Statehood followed in 1896,
and a century on, seventy percent of Utah's two-million-strong
population are Mormons. The Mormon influence is responsible for
the layout of Utah's towns, where residential streets are as
wide as interstates, and all are numbered block-by-block according
to the same logical if ponderous system.
Despite Brigham Young's early opposition to the search for mineral
wealth, Mormon businessmen became renowned as fiercely pro-mining
and anti-conservation. Only since the early 1980s - once the
uranium bonanza was definitely over - has tourism been appreciated
as a major industry, and former mining towns such as Moab developed
facilities for wide-eyed travelers smitten by the lure of the
desert. Increased tourism has also led to a relaxation of Utah's
notoriously arcane drinking laws ; In most towns, at least one
restaurant will be licensed to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks
to diners, and it may also be licensed to sell beer in its bar
or lounge. Beer is also sold in a few other locations, but to
drink stronger liquor you'll have to become a member of a " private
club "; most sell temporary membership for a token fee.
Take-out bottled drinks, including beer, can only be purchased
in State Liquor Stores.