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Utah Travel Tips

Wanna relax? . . . Really relax? As Brigham Young said when arriving in Utah, "This is the place." Grab your swimsuit and head to the Great Salt Lake, the only inland sea in North America, where the salt content -- three times that of the ocean -- enables you to float on your back while reading the entire New York Times, orWar and Peace, for that matter.

Do mountains thrill you? . . . "This is the place." Utah's got 'em. Aplenty. The northeast has the Wasatch Mountains running north to south, while the Uintas run east to west, crisscrossing the state in snow-capped peaks.

Does the dry desert suit your fancy? . . . "This is the place." The western third of the state is the Great Salt Lake Desert, containing some of the flattest land in the United States, with occasional mountains and ridges thrown in just to keep things interesting.

Does river fun flow through your veins? . . . "This is the place." Go east and enjoy the benefits of the Green River, Colorado River, and San Juan River as they continue to carve deep canyons through the plateaus. And if multicolored canyons, buttes, mesas, and strange, marvelously sculptured rock formations appeal to the shutterbug in you . . . drive southwest to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, or southeast to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

When you want to escape from the mundane . . . "This is the place" to see the fuull splendor of Mother Nature's flamboyant side.

STATE TOURIST INFORMATION: (801) 538-1030

SALT LAKE CITY

A crisp, clean city where sparkling skyscrapers and fabulous church spires compete with the snow-capped mountains that reflect in the silvery sheen of the Great Salt Lake.

Statehouse (801) 538-3000

You can see it from the interstate, high on a hill, against a backdrop of white mountains: the majestic State Capitol, reigning over the pristine Salt Lake City below. Built in 1916, this large, imposing building made of gray granite and marble with a copper dome on top, only took two years to complete. Inside is a cheerful tapioca pudding color, with creamy white floors, and curlicue columns like frosting curls. White marble staircases flank the left and right of the main foyer, presenting a mirror image of each other. The entire first floor looks like a wedding cake.

Tip: We always try to lunch in the statehouse cafeteria to see how the state government nourishes its workers, which, in a way, represents how the state feels about its residents. Some statehouse "cafeterias" are just vending machines and a few plastic tables. Others, like this one, have grills, salad bars, cold and hot meals, and a delightful, comfortable dining room.

Temple Square (801) 240-2534

Imagine a walled block of churches, temples, tabernacles and religious monuments, surrounded by a quiet pedestrian courtyard. That's Temple Square. Turn into this square from the bustling sidewalk out front and immediately feel the serenity envelope you. People quietly walk by, talking in hushed tones as they admire the exquisite architecture and divine inspiration of this lovely interlude from city life and strife.

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK (801) 259-8161

Towering, teetering rock formations daze and amaze the tourist with names like the Three Penguins, the Tower of Babel, The Organ, and Balanced Rock (a big rock that looks like a giant Faberge egg balancing on the tip of a needle rock). In addition to these rock sites, off course, are the natural arches -- the greatest concentration of sandstone arches in the world-- over 2,000 of 'em ranging in spans from three feet to 300 feet. The most famous, is the slender Landscape Arch, longer than a football field, and more slender than ET's finger. Next is the Delicate Arch, which looks like a big sandstone ring fell out of the sky and landed delicately, precariously, on the precipice of a 500-foot drop.

DEAD HORSE POINT STATE PARK (801) 259-2614

The neck of Dead Horse Point, only 90 ft. wide, drops 2000 ft. down jagged canyons to the Colorado River below. Cowboys used this area as a "natural corral" for capturing wild horses. But one neglectful cowboy forgot his wild mustangs and the poor, penned animals died of thirst, thus the sad name of the park.

Tip: Dawn or evening sun presents this state park in its most magnificent glory. Be sure to explore all the little trails that seem to lead nowhere, because each one shows an entirely different personality of the park. We were here at dawn and saw about 15 different carloads of people empty out, follow just one trail to the picnic area, get back in their cars and drive off, thinking they saw Dead Horse Point. They most assuredly did not.

CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK (801) 259-4351

Just beyond Dead Horse Point, a few miles up the road is the "Island in the Sky" district of Canyonlands National Park, a broad mesa wedged between the Colorado and Green rivers. A place where you can gaze forever at the expansive view -- 100 miles out -- and see canyon after canyon carved by the Colorado and Green rivers. Or, hike below, along the riverbed and feel the towering presence of jagged canyons all around, as well as some beautiful snow-covered mountains: La Sal Mountains in the east, Abajos to the south, and the Henrys in the southwest.

OUR CAMPSITES FOR THE WEEK:

Century Mobile Home & RV Park, Ogden (801) 731-3800

This campground shares a narrow entrance with a truck depot that has semi's rumbling in and out all day and night. The noisy interstate highway on the opposite side keeps pace right outside the RV's bedroom window. Neon lights from an overhead sign blink incessantly through our kitchen window like the classic cheap hotel scenes of a 1940's detective movie. Didn't care for this overrated (Trailer Life gave it a rating of 8/8/8) and overpriced ($24 per night) campground.

Arch View RV Camp Park, Moab (801) 259-7854

An extra-wide entrance welcomes us into a wide open area with a log cabin office/store. Cabins share spaces with RV's in this large, open campground with fabulous views of Arches National Park, Castle Rock, and snow-capped La Sal Mountains. Great location, too. Right next to Arches National Park, and just 1/4 mile to Rte. 313 that leads to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park. And just 9 miles into town along a winding road with spectacular views.

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