Memorial Day: Avoid the crowds and explore some out-of-way places

Published: Thursday, May 24 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

Zion National Park

Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News

The nice thing about Utah is that if a person chooses to avoid crowds, he or she can, and it doesn't take much time or planning to do it.

There are:

• More than 400 miles of raftable rivers.

• Roughly 23 percent of the state is high-elevation country, featuring some of the most majestic mountains anywhere, and probably twice that amount of country in rugged, rocky desertlike area.

• There are 42 state parks, five national parks, six national monuments, two national recreation areas and one national historic site.

• There are more than 400 public and private campgrounds.

• Utah has about 1,000 fishable lakes and a similar number of streams and rivers.

• There are hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails, many rated as being among the best in the world.

It would, in fact, take a lifetime to discover all of the wonders Utah holds.

Understandably, most people head for recognizable places, which is why many of the state parks will be full, as will be most of the national parks and recreation areas, while others will have room available.

Among the not-so-well-know spots:

Consider visiting one of the smaller communities like Bluff, Mexican Hat or Monticello to the southeast, Vernal and Duchesne to the east, Logan to the north, and Parowan and Cedar City to the south as home base for tours.

Down in the southeast corner, possible stops could include Canyonlands, Natural Bridges National Monument, Edge of the Cedar state park, Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley.

West of Monticello is an island of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, complete with high mountain streams, camping areas and dense forests.

A little north is Moab, home of river running, mountain biking and for the movie buffs, old movie sites of such classics as "Wagon Master," made in 1949 with Ben Johnson and Ward Bond; "The Comancheros," made in 1961 with John Wayne and Stuart Whitman; and "Against a Crooked Sky," made in 1975 with Richard Boone and Stewart Peterson, as well as a whole list of more recent movies.

Biking is, of course, what Moab is most noted for. Expect the popular Slickrock Bike Trail on the outskirts of town to be busy. But there are some interesting hiking and biking areas that won't be crowded.

A little more to the north is Nine Mile Canyon, east of Price, that is one of the state's best Indian rock art exhibits, both for pictographs (painted) and petroglyphs (chipped). The art is different in that the early artists exhibited a special style: Animals are shown in greater detail and human figures are presented with elegant dress and accessories.

Not as well known as some of the parks, but no less intriguing, is the San Rafael Swell area south Price. It offers some spectacular canyon hikes.

About 35 miles south of town is the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. Since 1928, more than 12,000 bones, linked to 70 prehistoric residents, have been found and cataloged. In the town itself is the Natural History Museum.

Along the eastern border of Utah is Jarvie Historic Ranch. Restored for visitors, this old ranch features several early buildings, a stone house, dugout, blacksmith shop and corrals.

Few people know about Fantasy Canyon, which features sandstone formations that, with a little imagination, become everything from live animals to personal acquaintances. Fossilized rhinoceros bones and turtle shells have been found in this area.