I have visited the States several times and seen many of the “popular” destinations such as California, New York, and Florida, but I had not heard much about Utah. It was a friend who introduced me to the possibility of Utah as a vacation destination, but when I first booked my vacation I was still quite hesitant and afraid I would be slightly disappointed with my choice for a vacation. My expectations were quite low as I was hoping for some incredible snowboarding and the bar was set quite high after an incredible time in Whistler.
NOW let me tell you why I feel Utah is a BEAUTIFUL destination especially for active travelers like myself! I flew into Salt Lake City and drove to Park City for a few days of snowboarding. First off, the temperature was perfect! I’ve been snowboarding at a few places and my enjoyment for the sport is compromised when I am literally freezing, but the temperature hovered around 0 to -3 Celsius and it made for amazing conditions and the best powder I’ve seen. There were so many hills to explore and time did not allow me to test them all, but all the more reason to return to Park City again. Another plus was the lift lines were much shorter than what I had experienced in Whistler. If you love ALL winter sports, Utah continues to impress! I tried ice climbing and had an amazing time snowmobiling through the mountains. I’ll never select a destination just for great food, but luckily Utah did not disappoint in this category either! The Park City base area and surrounding Salt Lake City area provides all that Is needed for a comfortable stay, including accessible public transit, delicious restaurants and cafes, and several nearby grocery and liquor stores. If this is not enough, there is even the Utah Olympic Park that was built for the 2002 Winter Olympics, where guests can try the bobsled course and slide down the Olympic track.
Zion National Park
If all this isn’t enough to make you fall in love with Utah, just a few hours south there’s several beautiful national parks within driving range. I am not usually one to be excited about spending countless hours in a car during my holidays, but the 5 hour road trip south to Zion was both a breathtaking and memorable drive. It truly was a scenic, entertaining drive. It was incredible looking one way and seeing the mountains turn to red rock and turning around and seeing snow covered mountains in the background. Zion is a picturesque destination with incredible landscapes and waterfalls. Even the drive into the park has several road stops for photos. I did some research to help decide which hikes I should do and all pointed towards the world-renowned Angels Landing hike, so I decided to muster the courage to climb and see the unforgettable view I had heard so much about. This was a mentally challenging trek, especially for someone with a fear of heights! It really requires your full attention as you progress to the top and find yourself hiking over a narrow and highly exposed section of the mountain. This was not an easy journey and probably the scariest hike I have ever been on and I caution all to please take your time and be careful. Luckily there were chains, carved steps, and guardrails at certain sections that you can cling onto for dear life! It was definitely an intimidating hike and there were more than a few times I had to talk myself into continuing, but once I reached the top it was all worth it to me.
Pictures don’t do it justice but still take a look at this view!
The Emerald Pools
While there are many hikes worth your while at Zion, I would also recommend the Emerald pools trek, as it’s a much easier hike and can be done in a couple hours. It’s a much smaller energy and time investment than the Angels Landing hike, but still a rewarding payoff. There are 3 pools- lower, middle, and upper. Make time to explore them all, the final pool is a great area to stop and have lunch while enjoying a nice view. There are many hiking options available in Zion that will suit all preferences and personalities. An additional bucket-list hike I did not have the chance to explore is called The Narrows. The Narrows refers to a hike that occurs through the river, but due to dangerous water levels I was unable to do this hike when I visited. Gear can be rented for a fee to keep you dry and comfortable during this trek. Flash floods are more likely during certain times of the year, so if this is a must do for you, be sure to plan accordingly and select the best time of year to visit Zion National Park.
Bryce Canyon National Park
I previously mentioned that Utah has several national parks in the south and I was fortunate enough to have the time to visit another one called Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon provided an incredibly unique landscape from what I had seen in Zion. The rock formations are unlike anything I had seen before. The spire-shaped rock formations are referred to as hoodoos and this park is comprised of a collection of large natural amphitheaters. There truly is no place like Bryce Canyon! These areas can get cold and there can be snow. When I visited Bryce there was a decent amount of snow throughout the park, so be sure to plan and research accordingly. Unfortunately, I was not prepared and did not have the best gear to keep me warm and dry but focused on the amazing surroundings I was able to still enjoy my time in Bryce Canyon.
Other Destinations to Visit
I know I have already mentioned several great destinations in Utah, but Utah STILL has much more to offer. Southern Utah is home to 5 well-known national parks including, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. You’ve been warned… there are a lot of incredible things to do and see in Utah, so be sure to give yourself ample time to visit this stunning destination!