PROVO Too often, Utah County gets a bad rap. Not because of a losing football season or road construction but because "there's nothing to do."
What you know:
The four main focal points within the county would have to be Brigham Young University, Utah Lake, Sundance and Mount Timpanogos.
But even then, the four seldom get full credit.
BYU is, indeed, known for athletics, but it is also home to some of the finest museums within the state.
The school also offers a full range of athletic camps, some in the summer and a few in the winter, which make it possible for people to improve in whatever area of sports interests them. For example, Jeff Judkins, one of the most respected coaches in Utah, has been offering summer basketball camps for both boys and girls for 28 years.
There are camps for everything from dance to golf to mother-daughter/father-son activities.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument is located in American Fork Canyon. There is a campground at the base of the mountain that allows access to a paved trail to the cave that is about 1 1/2 miles long and climbs about 1,065 feet. The monument was established Aug. 10, 1933. The limestone cavern is noted for helictites, water-created formations that grow in all directions and shapes.
The hike to the top of Mount Timpanogos is yet another popular activity. It takes about eight hours to reach the summit, but the hike and views are rewarding. Likely visitors along the way are Rocky Mountain goats. The most popular route is the Aspen Grove Trail, which starts just past BYU's Aspen Grove. The hike is about 16.6 miles round trip.
The second most popular route is Timpooneke Trail, which starts at Timpooneke campground. This route is about a mile longer than Aspen Grove.
Camp Floyd State Park is another of the more known attractions. For three years 1858-61 men from Johnston's Army bivouacked at Camp Floyd near Fairfield, waiting for a Mormon rebellion. It never happened. The inn has been restored and looks as it did back in the late 1800s. Today, the park holds, among other things, a museum showing relics of the time period and a commissary.
Bridal Veil Falls is one of the state's more scenic wonders, starting with a 607-foot double waterfall that settles on the valley floor and feeds into the Provo River. It is also an access point to a extended trail system that runs down to the mouth of Provo Canyon, then continues on all the way to Utah Lake.
The trail is paved and is both scenic and accessible for hiking, biking, walking or jogging.
Sundance is a year-round recreational center, probably best known for its involvement with arts and crafts and winter skiing. The resort also offers a range of summer activities such as nature hikes, hiking and biking trails, fly fishing, horseback riding and a number of programs for children.
The Provo River is one of the state's few sections of blue-ribbon trout waters. Next to Strawberry and Scofield reservoirs, it is Utah's third most popular fishing site, best known for its stock of wily browns and its scenic beauty.
Most of those living in Utah know about Thanksgiving Point, located a little south of Point of the Mountain. Once a dairy pasture void of trees, it is now a revitalized green belt with gardens, a golf course and more than 20,000 trees, shrubs and plants.
What you don't know:
While people do stop and visit the Village at Thanksgiving Point, there is a lot more to see than most people realize. There is, for example, a small garden at the Village, but on the northern tip of the championship golf course is the 55-acre Thanksgiving Garden. There are a number of individual gardens, including Fragrance, Rose, Monet and Butterfly, with trails that lead to the center where there is a giant complex of nine man-made waterfalls.
The $24 million Dinosaur Museum is one of the largest in the country with respect to the number of skeletal displays. There are more than 60 within the 122,000-square-foot building. A high point for most visitors, especially the younger ones, is an exhibit that features two T-rexes in mortal combat.
For children, there is a discovery garden and an animal park.
The championship golf course is recognized as one of the best in the state and is part of yet another secret "There are 11 championship courses within Utah County, and I don't think people realize we have so many and that they are some of the best in the state," Racker said.
Two of the newest are Sleepy Ridge on the shores of Utah Lake and TalonsCove.
While a lot of people know about Utah Lake, it is considered one of the most underutilized bodies of water within the state's boundaries.
It, too, has taken its bad raps over the years. Some suggest it was polluted by the now closed Geneva Steel, "but that's not the case. . . . It's a shallow lake, and that's part of the problem. It's a great recreation source, and all the water it received from the spring runoffs this year has helped a lot," Racker said.
Utah Lake is also considered one of the more underfished bodies of water. At different times of the year it offers great fishing for catfish, walleye and white bass.
While the Provo River is well known for fishing, few people, mainly the locals, recognize the river as a great rafting and tubing opportunity. People can climb aboard a small raft or tube at this time of the year and spend two hours floating from the mouth of Provo Canyon down to Utah Lake. The entire route is calm, flowing water with no rapids to negotiate.
The Uinta and the start of the Manti-LaSal national forests, located on the eastern boundaries of the county, offer a full range of activities, including camping, hiking and biking.
There are, in fact, two of Utah's scenic byways within the county lines Provo Canyon and Nebo Loop running through the forests.
The Provo Canyon drive runs between Orem and Heber and follows the Provo River most of the way. Part of the Nebo Loop is in Juab County and part in Utah County. It runs between Nephi and Payson, The road climbs up to 9,000 feet and offers great views of Utah Valley. This is an especially beautiful drive when the colors change.
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