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Utah is billed by the tourist board, rather dramatically you might think, as "The Greatest Shown on Earth"; but when you come face to earth with the majestic splendour of the Rocky Mountains, the colourful Canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau and the remote desert ranges of the Great Basin you will recognise the drama in the land itself.
Few places in the world combine such spectacular terrain covering over 84,000 square miles. The state is centred in the heart of the American West and is surrounded by Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
A patchwork of varied landscapes - canyon country, rugged mountain ranges, national and state parks, salt flats, old mining towns and even bright city lights make for a varied holiday. It is filled with natural wonders and hidden treasures and experiences that appeal to everyone from the solitude-seeking explorer to the family wanting a relaxing getaway.
Utah's climate is about as diverse as its natural wonders, providing lots of sunshine with low humidity in the summer to freezing winters with guaranteed snow for its ski resorts in winter. In fact in Salt Lake City, sunny skies prevail an average of 237 days per year.
An intriguing history dates back to the Mesozoic Era - some 230-65 million years ago, with many fossilised remnants of various types of dinosaurs being found, especially in the eastern and southern parts.
Ancient Puebloan cultures (the Anasazi and Fremont Indians) had an agricultural lifestyle here from around 1 A.D. to 1300, then the Utes and Navajo tribes lived across the area prior to the arrival of the explorers, and pioneers that settled in the state.
During 1847, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly known as The Mormons) migrated to the Salt Lake Valley seeking religious freedom and still have an influence on the politics and way of life in the state. Utah became the 45th State of America in 1896.
Public lands are one of Utah's greatest treasures. Nearly 80% of the state is managed for public use by federal and state agencies, with 5 national parks, 7 national monuments, 2 national recreational areas, a national historic site and over 40 state parks, between them providing millions of acres of forests, deserts and grasslands.
The national and state parks have places that attract many visitors, especially the Arches national park with the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches; Bryce Canyon with thousands of delicately carved spires called 'hoodoos' that rise in brilliant colour from naturally formed amphitheatres; Zion, Utah's oldest national park with its soaring towers and monoliths; and Canyonlands, offering views down thousands of feet to the Green and Colorado rivers.
However, if its solitude you're looking for, Utah's wilderness areas are the places to visit. They come in all shapes and sizes and range from secluded forests to wide deserts. They are nothing less than a landscape of magic and hiking through these wild places provides some of the most amazing scenery in the world. Most important though is that state control ensures that they are kept for us now and also won't be spoiled for future generations.
Winter in Utah is sensational for skiing. Its high mountain ranges supply some of the best facilities for skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and other winter activities. There are also sufficient resorts to accommodate visitors that want to participate in such great experiences, with plenty
of apr?s ski facilities too.
There are various ways to travel around Utah and with petrol much cheaper than in the UK, hiring a car is probably one of the best ways to see the naturally awesome splendour the state has to offer. However, there are also good rail and bus services that allow you to see the scenery without the driving. Utah is also easy to reach by air, with most major airlines offering direct flights to Salt Lake International, the state's main airport.
Accommodation of every sort is available in Utah whether you are looking for a mountain cabin, a house boat, a luxury hotel or even a camping spot in the wilderness and excellent information is available locally.
Having recently spent just 10 days driving around Utah, I was amazed at what the state had to offer. I participated in kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, swimming, white-water rafting, and even took a ride in a 'hummer' over rock outcrops I never imagined a 4x4 could be driven over. I went bird watching, drove amongst a herd of buffalo, watched to beavers by night and actually saw the Milky Way as I never have seen it before. But I also relaxed in museums, visited the Winter Olympic venues, attended a superb open air concert, swam in resort pools and ate and drank some of the best food and wine I had ever tasted.