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Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

In the midst of trying to plan summer activities, be it for a day or a week?

Indications are that more Utahns, with the high price of gasoline and continually shrinking time schedules, are planning to stay within their own borders this summer.

Certainly, there are lots of things to do and places to see within the state. So many, in fact, it's impossible to know or even remember all the opportunities.

"With what the partners in tourism have produced, along with what the state has produced, there's not an experience within Utah that people can't learn about and benefit from in their travel planning," said Leigh von der Esch, deputy director for the Division of Travel Development.

"Not only those who are moving into the state, but also those who have lived in Utah all of their lives. Towns, destinations, hotels and local groups are also posting information on their Web sites. There's just so much you can do spontaneously here in Utah. People can leave on a Friday afternoon, for example, and create a vacation to find the rest and rejuvenation they are looking for in this busy world."

Under these conditions it helps to know, or at least have a little insight into, the happenings before you go traveling about the state this summer.

Whether those plans are for a day or a week or any time frame in between, there are a number of publications that can offer ideas, information, suggestions and tips on where to go, where to stay and things to do. And, best of all, most of the publications are free.

Among them:

Scenic Byways and Backways — free

This is a must for anyone's library. The 90-page book highlights the most scenic, the most historical, the most interesting driving routes in the state.

There are 26 scenic byways charted within the book, starting with Logan Canyon and finishing up with Dead Horse Point Mesa.

The book also plots 58 scenic backways or roads less traveled, starting with the Central Pacific Railroad Trail and finishing with the Mojave Desert/Joshua Tree Road.

Included in each byway drive are directions, what to see and do, the time it will take to drive, a small map, a couple of pictures taken along the route and information numbers.

Along with a map and picture of each backway, there is also travel information, report on road conditions and notes on scenery and attractions.

The book is available at the Travel Council bookstore across from the Capitol and at visitor's centers at state parks.

Utah Wildlife Viewing Guide — $5.95

The book pinpoints 92 of the best and most accessible viewing areas for wildlife within the state.

It identifies sites according to travel region. For example, the first area is Bridgerland and the first stop is the Woodruff Cooperative Wildlife Management Area near the Utah/Wyoming border.

Information includes a description of the area, viewing information, land ownership and the name of the closest town. It also identifies the animals visitors are likely to see.

Which, of course, makes it nice for the individuals who are more interested in birds than big-game animals and vice-versa.

The last viewing area, No. 92, is the Cisco to Moab Drive, which follows the riparian corridor along the Colorado River.

The book is available at the Travel Council bookstore and at the Natural Resources bookstore on the main floor of the Natural Resources building at 1594 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City.

There is also a little booklet, which costs $1, at the resources store that provides a checklist of all the animals an individual might encounter in Utah. It's a great way to keep kids busy on long trips, looking for and identifying different birds and animals.

Utah State Parks Field Guide — free

This is a book put out by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation that lists all 43 of the state-owned parks, along with location, services, phone numbers and brief description, all in alphabetical order.

It opens with the Anasazi State Park Museum in Boulder and wraps up with Yuba State Park on the shores of Yuba Reservoir. A series of symbols denotes services at each site, such as camping, hookups, showers, biking, boating, golf, off-highway trails and water activities, to name a few.

This book is a must for anyone who wishes to explore some of Utah's most scenic areas. It also gives readers a brief look at rules, regulations and reservation policies.

The small book is available at any of the state park locations, as well as at the Travel Council bookstore.

Outdoor Utah Vacation Guide — free

This is a guide put out by Red Oelerich and Monique Beeley and is packed with travel ideas.

There are stories within the publication broken down into the five travel regions, starting with the Southwest and ending in the Central region.

Stories range from best new events in 2004 to rock climbing to rafting.

Available Web sites include www.outdoorutah.com, www.bicycleutah.com, www.backcountryutah.com and www.whitewaterutah.com.

The guides are available through the Utah Travel Council — www.utah.com — and through the various travel regions and at visitor's centers statewide.

Camping and Picnicking on the National Forests of Utah — free

This is a small 16-page booklet that provides all the general information an individual would need to plan stays on forest-service land, starting with a mileage chart between locations.

It also lists all the national forests in Utah, provides a map of camping locations and offers recreation site information.

Within the Ashley National Forest, for example, there are 37 camping areas, offering everything from fishing to ghost towns to historic trails.

Within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest there are 57 areas listed, along with the map.

The book also gives phone numbers to obtain more detailed information on each forest.

The booklets are available at the various Forest Service headquarters and at the Travel Council store.

2005 Eastern Utah's Dinosaurland — free

Each of the travel regions within the state offer detailed guides to travel within the area, and this is but one.

This particular publication starts out with information on the various locations in the area to link up with dinosaurs, including the Dinosaur National Monument and the new Utah State Field House Museum in Vernal.

There is also information on fishing the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam, one of the most scenic and productive fishing spots in the country.

There is a calendar of activities listed, as well as a list of fly-fishing outfitters, area highlights, such as the rock art within Nine Mile Canyon, and a list of accommodations and phone numbers and Web sites to get more detailed information.

The booklets are available at businesses and visitor's centers within the travel regions and at the Travel Council store.

Salt Lake Visitors Guide — free

This is a valuable booklet for anyone, especially for those living along the Wasatch Front.

There are 114 pages of travel information within the booklet.

This is a perfect reference for those looking for a single-day or even extended activities. Offered within the booklet is a history of Salt Lake City, a section on activities "Just for Kids," statewide recreational opportunities and scenic wonders, such as national parks.

Probably the most important feature is that it not only identifies areas, but also gives directions and information sources with Web sites and phone numbers.

Access to Wildlife Lands in Utah — $9.95

This has become a popular publication because it identifies public lands and provides access information.

The state, through the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, protects more than 415,000 acres of key wildlife habitat, which is accessible to the public.

The book pinpoints 130 key locations within the five regions.

The first identified area is Locomotive Springs Waterfowl Management Area near the northern reaches of the state. The book provides a description of the area, locations, what wildlife visitors can expect to see, use and services.

The management area involves 18,000 acres of emergent marshes, freshwater springs and slow-moving sloughs. Popular activities include bird watching and fishing.

The last area listed is the Scott Matheson Wetland Preserve near Moab. It comprises 875 acres of river-bottom habitat. It is reported to be an "excellent" wildlife viewing area.

The book is available at the Natural Resources bookstore.

Utah Travel Guide — free

This booklet, produced annually by the Utah Travel Council, is a great resource for the state's travel opportunities, starting with detailed information on the various travel regions, and includes information on parks, monuments, public lands, outdoor activities, culture and guides and tour information.

The booklet is available through the Travel Council at www.utah.com or 1-800-200-1160.

And more . . . free

The display racks at the Travel Council bookstore are filled with various brochures put out by cities, businesses and travel regions to help in travel planning. For example:

Community Fishing is a booklet put out by the DWR identifying urban fisheries around the state, which are simply waters that are close to cities and towns that are stocked with fish. This would include everything from Willow Pond in Murray to Skylar's Pond in Cache County to Farmington Pond in Davis County. There are more than 40 waters identified.

Filmed in Utah is a brochure pinpointing the locations of some of the 700 movies that have been filmed in Utah.

Heber Valley Railroad is a brochure showing the various special events on the Heber Railroad, including Comedy Murder Mystery night trains, where passengers try to identify the villain, and the Sunset BBQ Special with bluegrass entertainment, and Vittles 'n' Fiddles Hoe-down.

Visitor's Guide to the San Rafael is a brochure offering information on camping, directions, dinosaur finds and history on American Indians in one of the most scenic, less-visited areas in Utah.

Wildlife Through the Ages is a brochure to go along with the Scenic Byway drive at Flaming Gorge. This area is identified as one of the richest yet discovered for ancient fossils and shows the various time periods on Earth from the Cretaceous to the Precambrian.

There are also brochures on the Utah Shakespearean Festival, Thanksgiving Point, Temple Square Events, Utah Symphony and Opera and Summer Travel Map on the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

It would pay for anyone planning summer activities to spend a little time in front the "free" brochures/booklet department at the Travel Council bookstore. Or look on the racks at the various visitor's centers around the state.

There's a lot to be learned about the state of Utah.

E-mail: grass@desnews.com