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Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Groups of people enjoy "river running" on the Colorado River near Arches National Park. The rivers are running wild, faster and much higher than they've been in years \\\\— good news for river runners.

Memorial Day travelers can expect few problems in exercising their weekend plans.

The one exception may involve water, a k a formerly snow. Reports this week are that only three of eight high-mountain passes, typically open by late May, will, in fact, be open. Snow still blocks the other five.

Open and free of snow will be the Monte Cristo Pass accessed through Ogden Canyon, the pass to East Canyon over Big Mountain and Wolf Creek Pass from Wasatch to Duchesne counties.

Not open are Guardsman Pass, the Mirror Lake Highway, the Elk Meadows road east of Beaver, the road from Brian Head to Cedar Breaks and the Alpine Loop.

Rushing rivers, too, may be a problem. Levels are high and are expected to get higher before they start to recede in June.

Those planning to camp on U.S. Forest Service lands should know that some of the higher sites are still snowbound and others may not have conveniences, such as water and rest rooms, open.

Holiday travelers shouldn't have trouble finding things to do. This year the range of activities, along with the experiences themselves, will be somewhat wider than in the past few years.

Take for example:

Skiing The only resort open is Snowbird, and it will remain open through Memorial Day, then will close and put an official close to the record 2004-2005 ski season. Hours are 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through closing. A lift ticket is $30. There is no shortage of snow this year. In fact, Snowbird is still reporting a 170-inch base. Reports are that it's a little crusty early, but softens up as the hours pass. Some of the best skiing is between 9 and 11 a.m.

As one skier said, however, "It's just nice to be out, in the mountains, skiing in a T-shirt, Levis and without hat or gloves." For information call 521-6040.

Camping Utah has five national parks, along with seven national monuments, two national recreation areas and one historic site. Along with that, Utah has 43 state parks.

Add all this to the U.S. forests and Bureau of Land Management lands and nearly 80 percent of the state is publicly owned and falls under federal or state control.

The two most popular sites are Zion National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Each is expected to receive more than two million visitors this year.

Campgrounds at the national sites will fill fast, especially those in the southern reaches of the state. The standard recommendation is to arrive early, but also have a backup plan in mind.

As noted, the deep snow that still covers the higher mountain passes will keep some of the higher campgrounds closed. Most of the mid- to lower-elevation campgrounds will be open.

As is typical for this time of year, those state parks in the southern areas of the state are the first to fill.

There are some openings for individual camp sites at Bear Lake and Starvation and some tent sites at Jordanelle Rockcliff.

There are group (25 or more) day-use areas at Millsite, Huntington, Palisade, Wasatch Mountain, Jordanelle, Snow Canyon, Deer Creek and Willard Bay. There are overnight group sites at Bear Lake and Green River.

For information on USFS camping opportunities, call 1-877-444-6777. For camping reservations to any of the state's parks, call 1-800-322-3770. For national park numbers, visit the state Web site at www.utahtravel.com.

Rivers — The rivers are running wild, faster and much higher than they've been in years. This is good news for river runners, but is reason for caution for those camping near running water.

The report early this week was that the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon was running at 51,000 cubic feet per second and was expected to get as high as 60,000 cfs over the next few weeks. Last year, Cataract barely made it over the 20,000 mark. Outfitters are reporting being flooded with callers looking for rides during high water.

One of the more popular river experience here in Utah is Desolation Canyon on the Green River from put-in at Sandwash down about 120 miles to the town of Green River.

Higher on the Green are the Yampa and Lodore Canyon river experiences.

The San Juan River, running nearly parallel with Utah's southern border, is one of Utah's calmer whitewater experiences. It does have what no other river in Utah does, however, sand waves. These are long stretches of roller-coasterlike waves that appear and disappear for no apparent reason.

Westwater is the last of the well-known runs and the shortest — about 17 miles in most cases. It is also one of the more exciting adventures, with several of the rapids equal to those on Cataract. The most famous of the whitewater sections being Skull Rapid.

For those looking for shorter runs, there are the dailies on the Colorado River above Moab. Along with the beautiful scenery, there are a number of small rapids.

For information visit the Web site at www.whitewaterutah.com.

Golf — The one word to best describe Utah golf is "variety."

There are courses in the mountains, in the deserts, within state parks, in the heart of the cities and in the fringes of small communities.

There are, today, more than 100 courses spread around Utah, from the Bear Lake Golf Course overlooking Bear Lake on the border of Utah/Idaho to the north, to the Coral Cliffs Golf Course near the Utah/Arizona border to the south.

They go from the par-3 holes at Fore Lakes in the heart of Salt Lake City, to championships courses strung out all along the Wasatch Front.

The range of settings is no less impressive, going from the beautiful mountain courses in Heber, to the red-rock backdrop in Moab and St. George, to tree-lined fairways at Bonneville.

All of the courses offer teaching professionals, rentals and carts.

For information, phone number and layout information of all courses here in Utah, visit the Web site at www.utah.com/golf.

Hiking — Considering the number of hiking opportunities, it's easy to see why people in Utah like to hike.

Many communities are now, in fact, incorporating hiking/biking trails within their master plans.

For the more active hikers, the list of opportunities is limitless. There are a number of books pointing out hiking opportunities. Information includes trailheads, distance, elevation changes, description of the area and points of interest.

Along the eastern benches of the Wasatch Front is the Bonneville Shoreline Trail that stretches 90 miles from Ogden to Spanish Fork, and is popular with cyclists, hikers and walkers.

A little further east is the Great Western Trail. The idea of a north/south trail from the Canadian to Mexican border, cutting down the backbone of Utah, has been looked at for many years. In 1990, trail building began in Utah. Over the next five years, at a cost of several thousand dollars and with the help of some 25,000 volunteers, 95 percent of the trail system in Utah was completed.

Other popular hikes include Lower Calf Creek, located along scenic U-12, which also passes Bryce Canyon National Park, to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Adams Canyon in East Layton, Wind Cave outside Logan, Mount Olympus east of Salt Lake City and Kings Peak, Utah's highest mountain, in the Uintas.

Those interested in finding hiking routes in Utah can go on to Outdoor Utah's Web site at www.outdoorutah.com, www.bicycleutah.com and www.utahtravel.com.

Biking — Among the lower 48, Utah ranks 21st in participation per capita in riding on paved roads, fourth for riding on dirt roads and fifth for riding single track.

There are a number of mountain-biking opportunities in Utah. Many of the travel regions have published books showing some of the most popular riding areas. The cycling guides, along with an Outdoor Utah Vacation Guide, are available through the Utah Travel Council, Salt Lake Visitors and Convention Bureau, and welcome centers and travel bureaus in the various communities around the state.

As with hiking, the biking options are limitless here in Utah. While Moab gets the most attention, other areas also offer unique experiences.

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Popular road rides include the 45-mile loop around Bear Lake, The ride around Pineview Reservoir, the 7 1/2-mile ride across the causeway to Antelope Island, the 65-mile ride along Mirror Lake highways between Kamas and Evanston, the ride through Nine-Mile Canyon outside of Price and the 100-mile loop around Utah Lake, the state's largest natural body of fresh water.

A popular ride for mountain bikers in the warmer months is along the old Union Pacific Railroad line between Park City and Echo, which is now a state park.

For information on biking opportunities visit www.bicycleutah.com or the state site at www.utahtravel.com.

These are but a few of the weekend possibilities. Each of the listed Web sites offers many more suggestions and opportunities.

E-mail: grass@desnews.com