Go outside and play. Isn’t that what parents used to say? In Utah, it could well be a marketing slogan. The rugged terrain of this little-populated state really does beg to be biked, hiked, skied and otherwise actively explored. Its dazzling display of geographic grandeur leaves visitors a bit awestruck and dumbfounded. The panoply of colors, colors everywhere, as far as the eye can see, is more varied than a 64-pack of crayons. The temptation to simply sit still and watch the ever-changing kaleidoscope runs in opposition to hiking where no one (literally) has hiked before. This haunting topography is that vast.
The southern Utah landscape is defined by five national parks, featuring towering mountain peaks, plunging canyons, sweeping sandstone domes and seemingly endless expanses of undulating desert. Northern Utah is marked by the Great Salt Lake, forested mountains in the snow-covered Wasatch Range (where the 2002 Olympic Winter Games were held) and the wild Uinta Mountains.
Utah is also defined by modern Mormons, whose social and political influence reverberates throughout the state. When the Mormon pioneers reached the area in 1847, they, too (like the Native Americans 7000 years before them), felt a spiritual response and claimed it as their new home (their Zion). No matter what your belief system, the magical landscape of Utah will feel like heaven on earth.
Need to know
Utah destination guides
Salt Lake City
Utah's capital city, and the only one with an international airport, has a surprisingly small-town feel.
Ten of the world's most mind-blowing landscapes
Gazing at a remarkable view for the first time is one of travel’s greatest thrills - and these 10 landscapes are among the most mind-blowing we’ve ever seen. Straight from our brand-new hardback Lonely Planet's Beautiful World, these landscapes are almost too extraordinary to be real.
Best of the West
Explore the national parks of western USA including the Grand Canyon
3-Day National Parks Tour from Las Vegas: Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon
See the desert landscapes of the Western United States! On this three-day tour, depart from Las Vegas to see Arizona’s Grand Canyon and Lake Powell, and Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Discover the natural beauty of these canyon rock formations and the surrounding bodies of water as you tour the scenic areas with your expert guide.
Best of the west: Utah's most extraordinary parks
Utah’s national parks and state parks harbour some of the most extraordinary landforms on Earth, and embody the spirit of the American frontier. Explore with Lonely Planet Traveller magazine’s Rory Goulding. Images by Philip Lee Harvey. American bison graze by the fickle shores of Utah’s Great Salt Lake.