Utah's Complicated Great Outdoors

Perhaps the first two characteristics that come to mind when someone mentions Utah are “Mormons” and “the great outdoors.” Although Alaska and California are tied for the most national parks (with eight each), Utah has five national parks and is not even among the ten largest states. Because California is twice as big as Utah, and Alaska is eight times as big, the fact that Utah ranks third in number of total national parks speaks to the diversity of outdoor recreation that can be found in the Beehive State. Outdoor recreational activities—which can be found on mountains and ski slopes and sand dunes, in canyons and lakes and rivers and hot springs, beside waterfalls, and deep within forests and caves—are vital to Utah’s economy. Such sites need to be protected so that hikers, skiers, rock climbers, kayakers, and campers will return year after year. Although some of Utah’s great outdoor sites are under threat, all of its sites have fascinating histories that most visitors and nature enthusiasts wouldn’t even know about. Those outdoor adventurers who are interested in adding an extra layer of insight on trips through canyons, up mountains, or to Utah’s national parks should read on.

When a 1955 storm blanketed the Wasatch Mountains in eighteen fresh inches of snow, a U.S. Air Force pilot lost control of his B-25 and crashed into eastern flank of Mount Timpanogos. Although search parties were sent, no survivors were found. Decades later, remnants of the aircraft can still be seen by hikers.
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Bridal Veil Falls is a gem of Provo Canyon Utah. Its legends remind visitors of tales of love and loss, reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. Furthermore, its history is connected to the tallest mountain on earth, as well as a record-breaking aerial tramway that made even the most committed daredevils dizzy.
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Located an hour-and-a-half drive east from Salt Lake City—10,400 feet (3200 m) above sea level in Utah’s Uinta Mountains—is Camp Steiner, oftentimes referred to as as the Holy Grail of Scouting. At Steiner, “hundreds of boys have earned thousands of merit badges since it opened in 1930.” Before its transformation into a Boy Scout camp, the mountains around Steiner were mined for gold in the late…
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After climbing, camping in, or hiking through the National Parks that surround Moab, visitors might want to eat at a family-owned restaurant—The Sunset Grill. Before its transformation into a restaurant, this complex was the mansion of multi-millionaire uranium miner Charles Steen, a visionary prospector whose rags to riches (and back to rags) story still resonates with those who have seen the…
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Inspired by a vigil in the Alps, Brigham Young University’s annual Timpanogos hike, which began in 1912 and lasted for more than sixty years. Its organizer, Eugene “Timp” Roberts was BYU’s first director of physical education. The earliest hikes brought men and women together in an era when women were expected to remain indoors and allowed participants to feel equal on the face and summit of the…
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Moab, known in the 1950s as the “Uranium Capital of the World,” is now better known as the home of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. However, hikers, campers, rock climbers, and mountain bikers who visit Moab ought to be aware of the town’s connections to uranium mining. Every day, 136 containers of radioactive waste are transported alongside the highway that visitors take to get to either…
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