In May I spent more time in the state of Utah than I ever had previously. Work took me first to Cedar City, in the southern corner of the state, and then a last-minute change resulted in me spending a few nights in the Salt Lake metro area. Sure, it was all business, but it did give me a bit more of a taste of the state.
Until this trip, my time in Utah had been very limited. In total, I’d spent one night in Salt Lake City over 16 years ago, and two in St. George for work. I guess I could count my visit to Arches National Park as well, but that happened when I was one year old. Flying hasn’t really been much different. My one time passing through SLC was on a Delta connection between the coasts.
Here are three things that I appreciated during my few days in the Beehive State:
I’m a sucker for mountain vistas. It should be no surprise that most of the destinations on my list are locales graced with lofty peaks, such as Switzerland, Norway and Armenia. Utah has some amazing vistas.
We have our share of mountains in California, but they don’t really provide the grand vista I really like unless you find yourself on one of the places I passed through last year (SEE: A New California Favorite Scenic Drive).
Provo is particularly lovely. So is Nephi. Both towns are hugged up against a backdrop of peaks. If I moved anywhere else, there would need to be mountains. I could see living in a couple of these locales in Utah (at least based on the scenery).
Seeing the Wasatch front once I got to the Salt Lake Valley made me want to plan a skiing trip for this winter on the spot. I didn’t, but I still have plenty of time to do so!
The National Parks
While I have sadly not experienced any of Utah’s National Parks, I would love to. I didn’t realize how many there are until I was browsing the map. Utah has the most national parks of any state in the U.S. after only California and Alaska, each of which have eight.
Planning out a circular route was something that took only a little time. Problem is, the actual trip needs to be at least 2-3 weeks to even be remotely worth it. You can hit Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches within Utah, and then finish off with Mesa Verde in Colorado before circling back into Arizona to see the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Stops at Four Corners and Monument Valley would also be a must.
One of these summers we’ll make a trip of it.
The 80 MPH Speed Limit
I’d never seen a speed limit sign with the numeral “8” on it until this trip. I take that back…I’ve definitely seen signs reading 80 kmh. But nothing in the U.S. I could tell it was a recent increase, based on the signage.
The 80-mph speed limit meant freeway traffic actually goes more like 90 mph. Or, in the case of a few cars, pushing 100. Utah essentially contains the American Autobahn. You catch up to heavily-laden trucks as if they are barely moving. It’s kinda scary.
When I pressed one of my colleagues about the 80 mph speed limit along I-15 from St. George until just before Provo, he simply said “we’re highly efficient here.” Can’t argue the point! But higher speed limits have long been associated with an increase in freeway traffic deaths.
It is quite odd to see a sign informing you that you have 225 miles left to drive and realize that you’ll be there in under 3 hours. I left Cedar City at 6:40 p.m. and arrived in Sandy, south of Salt Lake, at 9:25 p.m. This even included stopping for gas!
There are so many lovely places to see in the U.S., and Utah is definitely among them. I’d love to come back and see more of this state. New Mexico and Wyoming have been more on my radar lately. But maybe we just need to plan a trip between the two and include Utah as well.
Have you spent much time in Utah? Which is your favorite National Park in the state?
Featured image courtesy of Tobias Alt. Wasatch Range photo courtesy of 5of7 via Flickr. Both used under CC-BY-2.0 license.