Things to Do in Utah
When Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, Brigham Young, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), proclaimed “Here we will build a temple to our God.” The place where this pronouncement was made eventually became known as Temple Square, whose centerpiece is the Salt Lake Temple — the largest of 135+ Mormon temples.
Located in downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square is the world headquarters of LDS Church, as well as Utah’s number one tourist attraction, drawing in 3-5 million visitors each year. Contained within the Square’s 35 acres are the Salt Lake Temple, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Salt Lake Assembly Hall, the Seagull Monument, two visitors' centers and the largest genealogy library of its kind in the world. It is also home to the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra.
Free guided tours take in historic sites, interactive exhibits, art displays and films, parks.
With its steep climbs and deep descents, the Hell’s Revenge Trail offers some of the best views of the Colorado River, La Sal Mountains, Negro Bill Canyon, and the Abyss Canyon. At nearly 7.5 miles long, the challenging trail loops through the sandstone and slickrock of the scenic Moab Valley. It takes those brave enough to walk its roller coaster track through narrow canyons, Navajo sandstone formations, and vast pools of water. Views are often exceptional.
Steep hills and tight turns keep visitors to this trail on edge (literally). Names of spots such as Devil’s Driveway, Hell’s Gate, the Tip Over Challenge, and the Escalator, this trail is not for the faint of heart — but those adventurous enough to take it on will be rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding natural scenery.
Even though the Zion landscape was carved by rushing waters, there are a couple of places where the water gathers in crystalline, turquoise pools. At the aptly named Emerald Pools, the iridescent dollops of fresh water create a refreshing contrast to the earthy red cliffs that explode throughout the park. Multiple trails lead up towards the pools from the canyon’s scenic drive, with the half-mile, paved trail to the Lower Pool being the shortest and most accessible. For those seeking a bit more adventure, the Middle Pools trail and the Upper Pools trail climb farther into the backcountry, with the Upper Pools Trail being three miles, round-trip, and gaining 350 feet in elevation. Along the hike, watch as waterfalls spill their way over the slick surface of the rocks, and marvel at the colors and serenity of the pools as they float beneath the cliffs. For fresh views throughout the hike, return along the Kayenta Trail to complete a wilderness loop.
Set in southeast Utah's high desert, Canyonlands National Park includes more than 300,000 acres of rugged landscape. The Green and Colorado rivers divide the park into four distinct districts.
Although the Island in the Sky district sits on sandstone cliffs more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding area, it is easily accessible to visitors via a 34-mile roundtrip scenic drive that offers multiple overlooks and even some picnic spots. There are also hiking opportunities and a four-wheel-drive road.
If you have a full day, the Needles district (in Canyonlands’ southeast corner) is also a good choice for a visit. A scenic drive takes you past the visitor center, offers viewpoints and provides many pullouts close to short hiking trails.
The Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square was built between 1863 and 1875 and originally housed meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church). It was also the location of the semi-annual LDS General Conference for 132 years, before the conference moved to a new center in 2000.
The Tabernacle’s unusual design is said to have come to Brigham Young while he was contemplating a hollowed-out eggshell. After the facility was completed it was considered an architectural wonder of its day, leading Frank Lloyd Wright to dub it “one of the architectural masterpieces of the country and perhaps the world.” Nearly 1.5 million feet of lumber was chopped in the nearby Wasatch Mountains to complete the project. The grand 11,623-pipe Tabernacle Organ, which pipes are made of hand-carved wooden staves, is one of the largest and sonorous organs in the world.
You’ll enjoy your trip to the Great Salt Lake more if you understand the history and science that put it on the map. The Great Salt Lake is what’s left of pre-historic Lake Bonneville. It’s the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River.
Great Salt Lake is salty because it is a terminal lake, meaning its water does not flow to the sea. The only way water can leave is by evaporating. When that happens, the salt gets left behind. Too salty for fish, only algae and brine shrimp live in the lake. Flies in the area are a common complaint, but they are a primary food source for the many birds that migrate to the lake.
Since the water is so salty, it’s easy to float, making swimming a must do for many visitors. White sand beaches, and typically its lack of flies make Antelope Island State Park a popular place to take the plunge.
More Things to Do in Utah
Founded in 1894 to gather genealogical records and assist members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) with family history and genealogical research, the Family History Library is the largest library of its kind in the world. Its main purpose is to fulfill one of the LDS Church’s fundamental tenets: to baptize and perform other saving ordinances on deceased family members. However, many individuals use the library simply to research their ancestry and chart their genealogy.
The library’s collection includes more than 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials and other formats; and over 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources. The library is open to the general public free of charge. It maintains 100 full- and part-time professional staff, as well as some 700 trained volunteers, to assist visitors with their research.
Lake Powell is a reservoir located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, lying on the border of Arizona and Utah. It is known for its wealth of sandy beaches, sparkling blue water, and red-rock landscapes. It is the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States, measuring 24,322,000 acre feet (30 km³).
Some of the lake's famous features include the Glen Canyon Dam (located in Arizona) and the Rainbow Bridge, one of the world longest natural bridges (located in Utah). If you are a recreation enthusiast, a trip to the lake is definitely worthwhile; Lake Powell is excellent for boating, water skiing, jet-skiing, kayaking, and fishing. In addition, there are prepared campsites at all of the lake's marinas, but you are free to camp wherever they like.
According to local legend, this breathtaking mesa with incredible panoramic views of Canyonlands National Park and the roaring Colorado River, was once home to wild mustang herds that old-school cowboys worked tirelessly to break. Today, Dead Horse Point State Park attracts hikers, photographers and mountain bikers seeking out rugged terrain, epic scenery and untouched natural wonder. Intrepid trails offer thrill-seeking bikers a raging shot of adrenaline, while shorter hikes up well-marked paths lead to epic views of some of the country’s most beautiful scenery.
Visitors agree that the Corona Arch is one of Red Rock Country’s most spectacular sites. With its swoop of natural sandstone that stretches up towards a thrilling mountain pass, Corona Arch proves a highlight for travelers to the Moab area. The technical trail, which scales smooth rock walls and requires a ladder and cable to ascend, is a difficult but doable adventure that grants visitors epic views and a hard-earned sense of accomplishment. More adventurous travelers and daredevil outdoorsmen can repel from the top of Corona Arch in what can only be described as a serious natural rush. But a visit to this popular destination is still worthwhile for the faint of heart who prefer to take in beautiful views of the arch from the ground up.
The red Moenkopi sandstone peaks of the Fisher Towers are one of the most photographed sites in Utah. Their rigid summits stretch high into the open skies and on clear days, the juxtaposition of red rock against brilliant blue makes for an imagine that’s worth making the trip just to capture.
Outdoor enthusiasts and avid climbers say challenging passes like Finger of Fate, Titan Tower and Stolen Chimney make Fisher Towers is a destination for thrill seekers, and they caution that the dangerous twists of the famous Cork Screw tower are not for the faint of heart either.
If you’re a daredevil, an adrenaline seeker, a photographer—or a bit crazy—then there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the trail to Angel’s Landing. Along with the Narrows and the hike to Kolob Arch, Angel’s Landing is a backcountry pinnacle that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That said, the trail to the top of Angel’s Landing is as controversial as it is beautiful, as the steep drop-offs and uneven footing create a hazardous trail that winds its way up to one of the best lookouts in the park. On the trail’s final half-mile, hikers must navigate a narrow ridge that has vertical drops of nearly 1,000 feet. Thankfully, there is a comprehensive system of anchors, chains, guardrails, and handholds that aid in climbing the ridge, but it’s imperative when hiking to watch your step and have solid footing at all times.
Bragging rights belong to Arches National Park, as it contains the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world—2,000! But what you see today is dramatically different from what existed a million years ago. The massive rock formations that lure visitors to the national park were once buried underground, brought into plain sight by erosion.
Visitor centers are like one-stop shopping spots when it comes to learning about all the great things national parks have to offer. Employees and volunteers can recommend what’s best to do based on how much time you have to spend. While at the Arches Visitor Center, check the schedule for ranger-led programs during your stay.An assortment of activities ranging from short evening programs to guided walks and three-hour strenuous hikes are also offered in spring through fall.
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