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Staying close to home July 4? Here's what to do

Published: Thursday, June 29 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Diamond Campground at Diamond Fork Canyon. Many of Utah's campgrounds will be open for the enjoyment of July 4 visitors.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

For some, the July 4 holiday will be a one-day affair. Others, however, may be able to plug in vacation time or pleas to the boss to turn it into a four-day weekend.

Whatever the case, with gas prices nearing $3 per gallon for the lowest grade, it's likely people are going to consider staying closer to home when making their travel plans.

That being the case, here are a few quick suggestions:

• About 23 percent of the state is high-elevation country, featuring some of the most majestic mountains anywhere. National forests stretch down the backbone of the state, from the Wasatch-Cache National Forest to the north to the smattering of Dixie National Forest lands to the south. Finding a vacant spot may be difficult but not impossible. Heading up high is a great way to beat the heat.

• There are 43 state parks, five national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas and one national historic site. They are spread all over the state. Finding one won't be difficult. Finding a vacancy may be hard, but there are towns nearby that generally do have vacancy signs out. The secret to visiting one of the parks is to arrive early and be patient.

• The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation reports there are still some camping areas open for the holiday. They are located at Antelope Island, South Eden at Bear Lake, East Canyon, Escalante, Fremont Indian, Goblin Valley, Green River, Kodachrome, Quail Creek,

Red Fleet, Sand Hollow, Snow Canyon, Starvation, Steinaker, Utah Lake, Wasatch Mountain and Painted Rock at Yuba.

• Reservations may be made up to two days before arrival by calling 322-3770 from within the Salt Lake calling area and 1-800-322-3770 from outside the area or visit www.state

parks.utah.gov. Calls to the national parks and monuments need to be made directly to the specific location.

• There are more than 400 public and private campgrounds in Utah. Many of these camping areas are close to popular attractions, such as a park or mountain retreat or townships offering July 4 activities for the family.

• Utah has about 1,000 fishable lakes and hundreds of miles of streams and rivers. Here again, finding a place to cast a worm or a lure won't be difficult. Most of the reservoirs are full, boat ramps are open and extra fish have been stocked in the more popular waters.

The latest report on statewide fishing opportunities can be found on the Internet at www.wildlife.utah.gov/fishing

• There are a zillion miles of biking and hiking trails within state boundaries.

Eight of Utah's 13 ski resorts offer uphill rides to hikers and bikers. They are Brian Head, Deer Valley, Sundance, Snowbird, Solitude, The Canyons, Park City and Snowbasin.

There are also an unlimited number of trails and backcountry roads open to biking and hiking within the state's national forests. Those planning to take motorized vehicles on the trails need to check with the individual forest districts to learn about restrictions.

There are a number of out of the way places within easy driving distance of the most populated areas. For example:

• The Bear River Wildlife Education Center opened this year. There is a 29,000-square-foot center offering unique wildlife experiences, ranging from the U-shaped observation deck with an overhanging parabola, which enhances the sounds of the marshes, to the pathway leading through the marshes to the indoor exhibit area. All this is intended to tell visitors why this area is so important to birds, why birds come here, how birds feed and reproduce, and why wetlands are a very valuable asset to the American public.