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Utah – Dry Deserts, Red Canyons, and Snow-Capped Mountains

Utah is a state of extremes. This goes for the climatic differences as well as the great topographic varieties. From dry deserts and snow-capped mountain ranges in the north to red rock formations and canyons as well as green woodlands on the mountain plateaus of the south: Utah has it all – and much fun! – in store.

As is commonly known, life and culture in the state of Utah has been strongly influenced by the Mormon Church. Still today people of Mormon faith make up more than 60 per cent of the state’s population.

Geographically, Utah is divided into three different and indeed quite distinct zones. For one there are the Rocky Mountains, which deserve little explanation. The largest mountain range in North America, they extend into parts of Utah as well. Other than that, there is the Great Basin and the Colorado Plateau. The northern part of Utah especially is dominated by high mountain ranges. The Wasatch Range, for one, rises to heights of 12,000 feet. The Uinta Mountains, with an elevation of up to 13,000 feet, cross the state from east to west. The state’s highest point, Kings Peak, is located here (13,528 feet).

Western Utah features an entirely different landscape, made up mostly of arid deserts and rugged, small-mountain terrain. Of course there are also the famed salt lakes, most notably the Great Salt Lake, attached to the east of the Great Salt Lake Desert.

Utah’s climate, then, is also in large parts desert-like. The east does not get much precipitation. Snow in winter is not a common phenomenon, especially prevalent in places like Salt Lake City, enhanced by the lakeside effect. The temperature differences between summer and winter are extreme, with summers getting very hot and winters extremely cold in many parts of the state.

Utah was settled from the 1840s on by Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). St. George, Logan, and Manti were the first notable settlements before Salt Lake City rose in the late 1800s. Already in 1869, Utah saw one of its historically most significant events, when the first transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Point, north of the Great Salt Lake. In 1896, Utah became the 45th state to be formally admitted to the Union, the last in the 19th century.

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City, home of the Winter Olympics of the year 2002, is the major urban center in Utah. Beautifully set at the foot of the snow-capped mountains, Salt Lake City combines a rich history, stunning attractions, and great recreation, in winter and summer alike. Various excellent ski resorts are located within an hour’s drive from the city center, including Alta, Brighton, The Canyons, Deer Valley, Park City, Snowbird, and Solitude. The adjacent Great Salt Lake is the largest body of water in the state. Whether in Salt Lake City or up in Park City: All kinds of accommodation lie at the visitors’ feet.

Skiing in Utah is simply a fascinating experience. Due to the great elevation, snow is guaranteed through most of the year. At the same time, the weather is great most of the days as well. What could there be better than smoothly riding down the slopes with the sun on one’s face? Utah has over 2,000 mountain peaks that exceed 10,000 feet, so the right one should be easy to find for everyone.

Northern Utah has more in store for visitors. Provo and Ogden are two other fascinating cities. Ogden sits attractively at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. Hiking and mountainbiking in summer, skiing and snowboarding in winter, visits to the many museums and historical sites throughout the year – Ogden offers a plentitude of things. The same goes for Provo. Bear Lake in the very north is a natural lake spanning 150 square miles. Its turquoise surface stuns visitors from far away. Bear Lake offers fishing for cutthroats, rainbows, mackinaw, whitefish, and other species.

Central Utah

The region around the Wasatch and Colorado Plateaus, Fish Lake, and Green River, is largely characterized by red rock deserts and forest-ridden highlands. The San Rafael Swell, an array of steep desert canyons, provides with the best outlook and scenery in the entire state. Whitewater rafting is a popular pastime on Green River. The Wasatch Plateau provides a stark contrast to the red rocks with its extensive woodlands and smooth hills.

The region may not be famous for its urban centers (though places like Beaver, Price, and Richfield are certainly worth a visit) but it astounds all tourists with the natural beauties and contrasts. The scenery is simply stunning. Millard County, located in the western part of central Utah, is a paradise for outdoor activities. The county also offers two public golf courses, one in Fillmore and one in Delta.

Southern Utah

Southwestern Utah houses two substantial cities with St. George and Cedar City. On top of that, outdoor recreation ranges among the finest in the nation. Winding Lake Powell in the very south is a vast body of sweet water set within the characteristic red cliffs of southern Utah. It offers all kinds of water sports in summer and has more than 2,000 miles of shoreline! St. George, in contrast, is a winter refuge, with great skiing options. The rock formations of Bryce Canyon and also the Capitol Reef National Park are a sight to behold.

The southeastern part of Utah sits at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. All kinds of rock formations, canyons, arches, plateaus, and bizarre cliffs can be found in this region. Several parks like Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park preserve the beauty of the rocks. The small town of Moab is a popular base camp for those eager to explore the rugged nature of Southeastern Utah. Responsible for the shaping of many canyons is the mighty Colorado River that winds its way through the region. At Hovenweep National Monument, the Native American legacy can be marveled at.

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