Utah is home to five National Parks, six National Forests, seven National Monuments, one National Historic Site, two National Recreation Areas, and 41 State Parks—all within a day's drive of Salt Lake City.
The Grand America Hotel is the perfect jumping off point for your explorations. The Wasatch National Forest sits on Salt Lake City's doorstep, with numerous trails and fishing spots less than 30-minutes drive away.
Just over Emigration Canyon on the east side of the city lies the Ashley National Forest, where sparkling alpine streams and lush high mountain valleys contain a sportsman's paradise of wildlife. In the late spring and early summer, the high country is carpeted with dazzling displays of wildflowers.
Southern Utah's scenery is very different, but no less spectacular. Dramatic landscapes of soaring red rock pinnacles, spires, hoodoos, and natural stone arches dominate the landscape in Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. The trails at Canyonlands National Park take you to the very edge of dizzying vistas, where the Colorado River is but a tiny, winding ribbon thousands of feet below.
The Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument, located 20 miles east of Vernal, near Jensen, offers Utah's most dramatic dinosaur display. It is a time capsule preserved in an ancient river sandbar. Here, the fossilized remains of over 2,000 bones have been exposed in a 200-foot-long wall, now enclosed as a permanent exhibit. This is the only place in the country where the public can see dinosaur fossils embedded in rock, but the Visitor Center has been closed for reconstruction, so call ahead.
If you're headed south, be sure to stop at Thanksgiving Point. The world's largest dinosaur museum, the North American Museum of Ancient Life, is located here. With more than 60 mounted dinosaur skeletons and thousands of ancient fossils, the museum showcases the various prehistoric eras and offers hands-on learning activities. The museum also features a six-story 70 mm movie screen and theater, featuring a variety of 3-D movies and other specialty films.
The adventurous driver can take the road less traveled through some of the most magnificent scenery to be found anywhere. The Flaming Gorge, a Uinta Scenic Byway, climbs through foothills and major geologic formations until it reaches the 1-billion-year-old exposed core of the Uinta Mountains near the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
Closer to Salt Lake City, the Alpine loop offers stupendous views of Mount Timpanogos and other glacier-carved peaks as it winds through the rugged alpine canyons of the Wasatch Range. Both drives can be easily done in half a day in a passenger car.
From green hideaways surrounded by golden aspens to dramatic desert backdrops, Utah's National Parks and open spaces have something for everyone to marvel at and enjoy!