Choose a holiday in Utah and it's like casting yourself as the star of your own Western movie. The landscapes here are straight out of 'How the West Was Won- with sweeping mountains giving way to parched deserts, red rock canyons and rugged gorges. Stare out across the rocky terrain and you might fancy you catch the sound of a gun battle. But that's just an echo of the past because the Utah of today is more of a giant outdoor playground, with some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth.
Utah is blessed with jaw-dropping sights. There's no less than five spectacular national parks, seven national monuments, seven national forests, and two national recreation areas to be amazed by. And that's just for starters. There's also fascinating cities like Salt Lake City to discover and the kind of outside action that will have fans of the Great Outdoors drooling in anticipation: hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, white water rafting, off-road driving and superb skiing all go with the territory.
The towering red sandstone buttes of Monument Valley have graced the backdrop of many a John Wayne movie; but they're just one of Utah's stand-out sights. Bryce Canyon has waves of multi-hued pinnacles that seem to shape-shift as the light changes. Arches National Park is scattered with over 2,000 soaring natural stone arches. Canyonlands has crowds of 'hoodoos' - impossible-looking spires capped by huge boulders. And Zion National Park is a heavenly vision of waterfalls and emerald pools.
When you've had your fill of the desert, head over to Lake Powell in Glen Canyon - so massive that its shoreline is longer than the entire west coast of the USA. But whatever you do on holiday in Utah, just make sure you get out there and enjoy the view.
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Moab is one of the best bases for adrenaline-filled outdoor adventure. Mountain bikers can tackle miles of challenging sandstone trails in preparation for the mother of them all - the 10-mile Slickrock Trail. There's fantastic white water rafting on the Colorado and Green rivers. And a network of snaking dirt track roads make for one of the hottest 4x4 off-road driving spots in the country.
ZION NATIONAL PARK
A jewel among Utah's national parks, Zion's ethereal landscape is a sight to behold and pure paradise for rock climbers. Don't miss The Narrows, where the gap between sheer 2000-foot-high cliffs is so narrow you have to walk through the shallow waters of the Virgin River - nor the Emerald Pools Trail with its hanging gardens, gushing waterfalls, and glowing green water.
Utah is one of the USA's top ski destinations. Of the state's 14 resorts, Snowbasin and Beaver Mountain are family friendly, with skiing for all standards; Alta is for serious downhill action and has plenty of challenging runs; and Park City has not only the softest powder but the best après-ski.
DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
Straddling the Utah-Colorado border and strewn with gorgeous mountains, canyons, and ravines, this park is home to the largest number of Jurassic dinosaur bones ever discovered. You can see the giant remains embedded in the rocks and learn about the huge reptiles that once roamed here, as well as hiking the trails and rafting on the river.
You can see the soaring free-standing arch depicted on Utah licence plates in the Arches National Park. So-called because continued erosion puts its future in danger, it's an icon of the state and a must-see on a holiday in Utah. After all, when you come back, it might be gone.
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