Price & San Rafael Swell
Though a true Utah backwater, Price can serve as a base for exploring enticing backcountry dinosaur and ancient rock-art sites in the scenic San Rafael Swell and beyond. It's en route from Green River (65 miles) to Vernal (112 miles), so the staff at the visitor center can help you plan out your regional routes.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area & Lake Powell
In the 1960s the construction of a massive dam flooded Glen Canyon, forming Lake Powell, a recreational playground. Almost 50 years later this is still an environmental hot-button topic, but generations of Western families have grown up boating here.
Impressive, deep-ocher-red monoliths rise up roadside as you drive along Hwy 12, 10 miles west of the Hwy 63/Bryce Canyon turnoff. The aptly named Red Canyon provides super-easy access to these eerie, intensely colored formations. In fact, you have to cross under two blasted-rock arches to continue on the highway.
En route between Bluff (22 miles) and Moab (75 miles), is this aptly-named agricultural and mining center. It's worth checking out for its two specialized museums and the nearby outdoors, though it's slim pickings for hotels and restaurants (which do not serve alcohol). At the Blanding Visitor Center the small pioneer artifact collection is worth a look.
Logan & Around
With university charm and pretty rural surroundings, Logan is quintessential old-fashioned community with strong Mormon roots. It's situated 80 miles north of Salt Lake City in bucolic Cache Valley, which offers year-round outdoor activities. Ask about the possibilities at Cache Valley Visitor Bureau.
Canyonlands – Island in the Sky
You'll comprehend space in new ways atop the appropriately named Island in the Sky. This 6000ft-high flat-topped mesa drops precipitously on all sides, providing some of the longest, most enthralling vistas of any park in southern Utah. The 11,500ft Henry Mountains bookend panoramic views in the west, and the 12,700ft La Sal Mountains are to the east.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Named for its fiery red sandstone canyon, Flaming Gorge provides 375 miles of shoreline around Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which straddles the Utah–Wyoming state line. As with many artificial lakes, fishing and boating are prime attractions. Various records for giant lake trout and Kokanee salmon have been set here.
Hwy 89 - Panguitch to Kanab
Most people pass through this stretch of Hwy 89 as quickly as possible en route from Zion to Bryce national parks. All the better for you – the tiny old towns along the way have a few restaurant and lodging gems hidden within. (Note that businesses' seasonal closings change with weather and whim.
Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area
With miles of weathered, swirling slickrock and slot-canyon systems that can be hiked for days without seeing a soul, it's no wonder that this wilderness area is such a popular destination for hearty trekkers, canyoneers and photographers. Day-hike permits cost $5 to $7 and several are very tough to get. General information and reservations are available at http://www.blm.
Antelope Island State Park
The Great Salt Lake is the largest body of water west of the Great Lakes, but it's hard to say just exactly how big it is. Since 1873 the lake has varied from 900 to 2500 sq miles. Maximum depths have ranged from 24ft to 45ft – it's wide and shallow, like a plate. Spring runoff raises levels; summer's sweltering heat lowers them.