At the first opportunity, and the first hint of summer, Utahns head south . . . down to the red rock, cedar trees and desert landscape.

Easter Weekend seems to be when both come together. So, anyone heading south this weekend can expect to find all the things that make Southern Utah attractive - canyons, cliffs, rivers, lakes and an abundance of parks - and people.Lots of people will be out, especially in the more recognized areas, and in greater numbers if the weather is as good as predicted.

All of the state and national parks in the southern half of the state will be open. That's not the case for parks and camping areas in the northern half of the state. Snow still covers much of Wasatch State Park near Heber.

If there was one suggestion for those planning Easter outings, it would be: go early. Many of the state parks are already booked. National parks work off a first-come, first-served basis. Park officials agree, however, that afternoon arrivals will stand little hope of finding space.

The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation reports that many of the more popular southern parks are booked - Goblin Valley, Dead Horse Point, Snow Canyon, Quail Creek, Coral Pine Sand Dune and Escalante.

Best hopes of finding camping could be at Kodachrome Basin, Green River, Yuba and Palisade.

Parks not open include Scofield, Starvation, Steinaker/Red Fleet, Hyrum, Deer Creek and Wasatch.

Rockport will be open and water will be available at the boat ramp. East Canyon will also be open, but to primitive camping conditions. There will be water available at the dumping station. Utah Lake, Minersville and Willard Bay parks will be open.

State park reservation rules require a minimum of three-day reservation notice. Callers can check to find out if areas have openings, but within three days of scheduled arrival all camp sites are on a first-come, first-served basis. For information call 1-800-322-3770.

All of the state's national parks will be open. All of these parks work on a first-come, first-served basis.

At Arches, campgrounds have been filling by 11 a.m. daily. By the weekend, officials expect it to happen earlier. All trails are open and weather conditions have been cool. Guided walks into the "Fiery Furnace" will be given at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, plus 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Reservations for this walk are required.

The 30 campsites at Bryce Canyon are open, as are all hiking trails.

There are 70 sites open at Capitol Reef. The dump station, however, will not be open. Scheduled to start this weekend are the evening interpretive programs in the amphitheater and guided walks.

At Zion, 235 individual areas are open at Watchman and another 141 at South campground. There are also seven group (reservations needed) and five handicap areas. If the weather is good, park officials expect the park to be filled by Saturday afternoon.

The road to Lava Point in Zion is still snow-covered and closed. All of the higher trails are also snowpacked. All lower roads and trails are open, although some of the trails may be muddy.

Hiking through the Virgin Narrows is not recommended. Temperatures there are still too cool for a comfortable hike. Interpretive programs are being offered nightly at the visitors center.

There will be Easter sunrise services at two parks: 6 a.m. at Arches at the LaSal Mountain View Point, a 15 minute drive into the park, and at Bryce at Sunset Point at 6:30 a.m.

The weekend is also expected to get skiers and fishermen out of the house.

Utah is currently offering some of the best skiing of the season. Alta is reporting its deepest snowpack - 123 inches. Even Sundance, which typically receives less snow, is reporting 66 inches, which is more than 17 of 19 major resorts in Colorado.

Several areas will have Easter events. At Park City, for example, Easter will kickoff the Snowshine Festival. This will start with an Easter egg hunt on the hill Saturday and sunrise services Sunday. Special daily activities follow over the next week.

Fishing, too, will be a good activity. Better fishing usually starts when temperatures start to go up. Some of the best fishing usually occurs soon after the ice cover leaves a lake. (See fishing report on this page.)

Fish move into shallow waters when there is an ice cover and they are assured of better protection. They will remain in the shallows until water temperatures begin to rise. Also, fish become more aggressive after "ice-off." Fish food, bugs and insects, falls onto the ice and are then made accessible to the fish when the ice melts. After a winter of struggling to find a good meal, fish are suddenly presented with a banquet.

Golf is another activity that will attract players this weekend. Weather permitting, several golf courses in the Salt Lake area will be open for play. More of a certainty are the eight courses now in the St. George area.

And, of course, there's Lake Powell, always a favorite no matter the temperature or the season. Currently, water and air temperatures are, as one visitor said, "spring like."

One of the biggest motor events held in Utah is scheduled this weekend in Moab, when four-by-four owners from around the country converge there for the Moab Rally. Close to 1,000 four-wheel-drive vehicles are expected to participate in this year's event.

Several pre-rides are scheduled on Friday. The main drive will be on Saturday when guides take drivers on specially selected routes, ranging from mildly challenging to extremely difficult.

All in all, there are plenty of activities to mark the passing of winter and the coming of summer, and weather permitting there will be plenty of people out there enjoying them.