Exploring the forgotten West and Utah’s wonderful parks
Exploring the forgotten West and Utah’s wonderful parks

Sam Johnson

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When people think of the West, they usually think of California or some old Wild West movie. Those were my thoughts as well. On previous trips west, I’d never ventured outside large metropolitan areas. I’d never done anything like the road trip I took around Utah in the summer of 2010.

The attractions we set out to see were all natural, not manmade. No theme parks or crazy sculptures. No skyscrapers or museums. Our destinations were National Parks and freshwater lakes. They were some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

My parents and I were headed to Utah for a family reunion. We flew into Salt Lake City and drove a huge loop to the bottom of the state and back. Along the way, we visited Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in the south before circling back to Bear Lake in the north. And we did it all in just over three days.

Zion National Park

On the first day we spent hours upon hours in the car before the red rock and brown dirt turned to steep mountains and green trees. Zion National Park was our first stop and we spent most of our day there for good reason. It was beautiful.

We started with the amazing river that runs through the enormous valley that is Zion. We hiked upstream in between steep towering cliffs that began at the river bank (pictured in header photo). I have never felt so engulfed in such an open area.

Next, we hiked five miles to Angel’s Landing. It took around 5hours! The first couple miles are on a nice paved path. Then you quickly ascend a steeper and steeper trail until you are climbing up rocks using only a chain attached to metal posts stuck into the rocks.

Angels Landing hiker Feature

It was so frightening that my dad had to stop and wait formy mom and me to finish by ourselves. The extreme nature of the hike was completely worth the view of the Zion Valley at the end.

Zion Angels Landing

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park involved a lot more ‘looking at the scenery and landscape’ than hiking its trails and paths. While we still hiked a bit, the best views were from above the canyon on the lookouts at the beginning of all the trails.

The most amazing view that Bryce Canyon has to offer is the overlook of the Natural Amphitheater on the park’s east side. Bryce Canyon is a great place to see many different types of rock and land formations, not to mention a great sunrise.

Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

Bear Lake

We spent the final day winding through steep peaks and valleys and past little ski towns that were quiet for the summer. Great scenic driving and wildlife made the long drive to Bear Lake bearable.

Bear Lake’s turquoise-blue water is surrounded by lush green and brown mountainsides that plunge directly into the water of the east side of the lake. The lake offers boat and jet-ski rentals, fly fishing, and numerous beaches. Plus, the many small towns positioned along the lake are home to great restaurants and golfing. There is a reason Bear Lake is referred to as the Caribbean of the Rockies.

Bear Lake

I didn’t know what to expect with my trip to Utah, but I left more than pleasantly surprised. What a remarkable state!

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