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Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News
Zion National Park

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.

East of Ogden, there is a 100-foot waterfall considered one of the most beautiful natural falls in the state. West of town are the marshes of the Great Salt Lake, which hold a number of interesting birds. The Bear River Bird Refuge west of Brigham City features a museum and walking tour out into the marsh.

A ride over the old Pony Express Trail from Faust to Wendover, through old towns like Callico and Gold Hill, in an interesting day trip through Utah's western desert. Traveling the area gives visitors a real appreciation for the early riders.

Antelope Island is a good one-day trip and offers a number of activities, including hiking, biking and viewing wildlife, like buffalo deer and bighorn sheep.

Another option is to tour one of Utah's 27 scenic byways or 58 backways. Things to see along the way include scenic wonders, early Indian rock art, geological formations, beautiful reservoirs and the painted desert rocks and sand. A book is available through the Utah Travel Council that outlines routes and features.

For those with bicycles, there are a number of tours and rides open in almost every county in the state.

Some of the counties even have put together books showing trailheads, elevation changes, distance and scenic stops.

This is also a popular time of the year for casting lures and baits. Some of the best fishing of the year typically occurs in the spring. Fishing is excellent and water temperatures are tolerable at Powell. Some fishermen are reporting catches of 50 or more 4-pound striped bass in a day. The largemouth and smallmouth bass are said to be in the best shape in more than a decade.

All of the state's boatable waters will be open, but boaters can expect company on the water. Because of the heavy boating traffic, drivers will need to be even more aware of safe boating rules.

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 state Route 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.

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.

There are a number of Web sits that people can visit to get more information about recreational opportunities in Utah. They include www.utah.com; www.utahtravel.gov/tourism/offices.htm; www.outdoorutah.com and www.wildlife.utah.gov/fishing.

E-mail: grass@desnews.com