The unparalleled beauty of Utah

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Unless you’re visiting the Sundance Film Festival or skiing at Deer Valley Resort, Utah probably won’t be your first choice of destination in the USA, but you’re missing out. There’s so much more to this state than meets the eye. With five breath-taking national parks, thriving cities, salt flats, a lively restaurant scene and year-round activities, now is the time to visit Utah.

Visit Utah’s 5 National Parks

Utah has five National Parks, each with their own individuality and natural beauty, but if you had to choose, which would you visit? Zion National Park is popular with hikers and wildlife enthusiasts. Home to a winding river and four life zones containing desert, forests, riparian and woodland, it captivates nature lovers with diverse landscapes, plant, bird and wildlife species. 

Bryce Canyon, by contrast, is akin to standing on a barren desert-like planet. The other-worldly terrain is packed with towering geological rock formations named hoodoos – a result of stream and frost erosion over centuries.

If you seek a place to stargaze you can’t fail to be impressed at Arches National Park. A wonderland of red rock, meandering trails and over 2000 natural stone arches, it’s a unique location from which to view Northern Hemisphere constellations thanks to low light pollution.

Alternatively, delve into the lives of indigenous nomads following petroglyph rock trails of Capitol Reef National Park or navigate the rapids at Cataract Canyon on a white-water rafting adventure in Canyonlands.

Arches National Park

Credit: Josemaria Toscano

Explore Salt Lake City Past and Present

With snow-capped Wasatch mountains as its scenic backdrop, Salt Lake City appears untouched by time. You can explore the impressive Salt Lake Temple – the iconic Latter-day Saints place of worship which took over 40 years to complete, venture to the observation deck of the Church Office Building for the best photos or even take a trip to the great lake itself.

However, those in the know come to Salt Lake City for its hidden speakeasies, buzzing cocktail scene and burgeoning farm-to-table restaurants. For interesting pre-dinner drinks, make a reservation at Bodega and be transported back to the Prohibition-era.

Beneath Bodega, an unassuming half bar/half grocery store, lies a secret basement speakeasy called The Rest. Exposed brickwork and vintage photographs are accentuated with low-voltage Edison lightbulbs and vinyl records are played so softly that you can have a conversation with your partner. Sip an Old Fashioned as you relax on comfortable leather wingback armchairs and imagine life in Utah during the 1920s and 30s.

Afterwards, head to Pago for dinner. One of the city’s hottest restaurants, it focuses on new American cuisine created with seasonal ingredients from local providers.

The historic Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah

Credit: Jason Finn

Visit the Home of Sundance Film Festival at Park City

Park City, Utah has been home to the Sundance Film Festival since 1978. In late January each year, fans of film and documentary descend on the historic silver mining town to glimpse new movie offerings and rub shoulders with industry professionals.

Most festival action occurs around the iconic Egyptian Theatre on Main Street. The theatre design was inspired by the 1920s discovery of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt and decorated with hieroglyphics, symbolism and scarab beetles prior to its opening on Christmas Day 1926.

When you’re not watching movies, sip loose leaf tea and soak up the magical atmosphere at Atticus Coffee, Book and Teahouse, sample local whiskies at High West Distillery or dance till dawn with music from renowned DJ’s and bands at Park City Live.

If you do plan to visit the Sundance Film Festival this year, why not do it in style? Millionaires Concierge offer a full VIP experience including luxury limo service, a 5-star dining, coveted movie premiere tickets and a luxurious suite in one of the finest hotels in the area.

Park City, Utah

Credit Johnny Adolphson

Ski and Stay at Deer Valley Resort

On the periphery of Park City lies upmarket Deer Valley Resort. One of Utah’s premier ski resorts, it boasts year-round outdoor activities and award-winning dining and entertainment. During summer months, hike through Aspen forests and follow trails through grassy meadows before enjoying lunch with a view. Then descend the mountain by bike, returning to the resort for a delicious meal and open-air concert.

Winter visits are undoubtedly busier, as this exclusive ski resort, less than a mile from Main Street, Park City offers a veritable feast of ski runs. With over 2,000 acres of open terrain packed with powdery snow, short runs, world-class lodgings and outdoor experiences, it’s the perfect place to be pampered.

Stay at the 5-star St. Regis Deer Valley nestled amongst the slopes. Here, you can savour acclaimed cuisine of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, relax in Remède Spa following a day of skiing or soak in the hot tub with majestic mountain views. End your day roasting s’mores and sipping a glass of fine wine by the open fire pit with new friends.

Deer Valley Ski Resort, near Park City

Credit: David A. Litman

Delve into the American Mid-west at Monument Valley

Akin to stepping onto the set of a western movie, the road to Monument Valley stretches before you like never-ending tarmac to an ethereal world. Imagine the sound of a guitar picking as you drive along the highway, for this plateau is a cluster of gigantic red sandstone buttes and home to ancient rituals of the Navajo Nation.

The 3-4-hour drive transports you through parts of Monument Valley you’ve seen in the movies with awe-inspiring panoramas from John Ford’s Point and Muley Point Overlook. ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ was the first spaghetti western to filmed here and more recently, Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer graced Monument Valley with their presence in the 2013 remake of ‘The Lone Ranger’.

The loop road can be busy with tourists, often with queues, therefore, it’s more rewarding from a photographic point of view to arrive before sunrise. When roads are busier, ditch them for a horse-riding experience and marvel at rouge rocky peaks and plains from a saddle, just like in days of the old west.

Monument Valley on the Border between Arizona and Utah

Credit: RomanSlavik.com

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Bonneville Salt Flats

Just 1.5 hours west of Salt Lake City, a 30,000-acre expanse of white salt crust awaits. Covering over 46 square miles, Bonneville Salt Flats are comprised of 90% common table salt!

The white blanketed landscape was formed when ancient Lake Bonneville began to recede and evaporate, leaving salt and other minerals in its place. It’s at its most spectacular after rain, when a thin layer of water forms atop the salt crust. The sky reflects onto the water creating an optical illusion of walking in the clouds, thus offering an insta-worthy photo opportunity.

If you wish to experience more energetic outdoor activities, it’s possible to mountain bike, quad bike, ride a motorcycle or hike across the salt flats, or for something more low-key stay a while and spend an evening stargazing with friends and loved ones.

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Credit: Nick Spinder

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