Since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Utah has evoked images to the world of dramatic Rocky Mountain topography. The jagged wall of the Wasatch Front fills the mind's eye as vividly as Utah's Mighty 5® national parks, and the icons that populate them. Utah is certainly as well known for its red rock splendor, and the nation has recognized the importance of preserving that beauty with national park designations.
Thanks to four world-class ski resorts, the Cottonwood Canyons rightfully get a lot of attention. Mill Creek Canyon in Salt Lake is just a quarter-hour's drive from downtown, and an outdoor recreation paradise. Canyons to the north and south continue the epic outdoor tradition of the Wasatch Front. What is true about each of these incredible destinations individually is true of the greater Wasatch Front: were the range not so close to the population corridor of Utah, it could easily be a national park.
Wasatch Front Overview
Happily, we recognize the national park-caliber distinction and are great stewards of our incredible backyard gift, for those of us on the valley floor at the foot of the Wasatch Mountain Range or the high country Wasatch Back who call it home. Former mining towns are now winter resorts; their slopes epic downhill. The streams are often watersheds and the trails are lovingly maintained.
We've erected temples from the very rock these mountains gave. Seriously, the Salt Lake LDS Temple was built with granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon, remnants of which are now excellent bouldering routes. The list goes on. Mill Creek accesses one of the West's most respected mountain bike trails.
Provo Canyon gets you to Robert Redford's iconic and idyllic Sundance and world-class fly fishing. American Fork finds you at Timpanogos Cave National Monument and a breathtaking Alpine Loop Scenic Byway with access to remote mountain lakes or accessible Cascade Springs. Ogden and Weber offer more blue ribbon fishing and white-water rafting than you thought possible in a desert state.
Ultimately, it would be nice to list every single canyon and every single adventure available along the 80+ mile corridor from Ogden to Provo, but that would be an exhausting list. Here's a few highlights to get you started:
Lots to love up Ogden Canyon, difficult though it is to leave one of our favorite Northern Utah cities in Ogden. But, with plenty of trailheads, lodge retreats, rock climbing and a jewel of a reservoir in Pineview waiting a few miles up the Ogden River Scenic Byway, you'll soon find a new favorite thing about this beautiful county 45 minutes north of Salt Lake.
Back in the city, the Ogden River carves a beautiful route just blocks from downtown following a multimillion dollar restoration effort that has cleared the channel for Blue Ribbon fishing and kayaking in the water and hiking and running through the natural corridor out of the water.
Mueller Park and Mueller Park trail in Davis County's version of Mill's Creek is a recreation hotspot with lots of picnic action, hiking and one of the Front's most respected mountain bike trails. The shady trail has lots of climbing with singletrack and hard pack options over a seven-mile out and back or longer loop.
Salt Lake County
Thirty minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport and downtown Salt Lake, or right in the backyard of the southern end of Salt Lake County, Salt Lake's Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood canyons are natural gems of the highest order.
Home to four incredible ski resorts in the winter, the Cottonwoods are one-stop destinations for downhill action on The Greatest Snow on Earth® at Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude. The sheer number of runs and vast acreage means you'll find the exact terrain for what you're riding or skiing, and your level of adventure.
In the summer, the Cottonwood Canyons are safe havens for incredible climbing, bouldering, hiking, trail running, cycling and mountain biking, both on and off the resorts — and they're both designated scenic byways so the drive up is also downright pleasant. There are several classic books on bouldering and rock climbing to help you find the best routes in these canyons, and there are climbs for every skill level. The climbing community is strong, and while you'll join other climbers on these rocks, you won't find it overcrowded, giving you ample time to yourself to discover "the sublime joy of unlocking a difficult sequence of moves precisely at the threshold of one's ability."
There are multiple sublime joys beyond climbing to be uncovered in the Cottonwood Canyons. Sure, there are epic road biking climbs up the scenic byways. The top of Big Cottonwood accesses the highly respected Wasatch Crest trail. But sometimes it's nice just to take a shorter stroll among astonishing wildflowers in the middle of summer, like those on display at Albion Basin.
Stay in the city or retreat to canyon lodging where you'll have access to all the amenities and good times. Whether a longer hike into Lone Peak or Twin Peaks wilderness areas after some singletrack mountain biking or spa treatment after Oktoberfest at Snowbird, you've just found your sanctuary.
Like Salt Lake, Provo is blessed with virtually unparalleled access to incredible natural resources for outdoor enthusiasts. From American Fork Canyon to the north and Provo Canyon in its backyard (and a great road bike system between them), there is no shortage of Wasatch Front action in Utah County. Provo Canyon features a family-friendly road path and Bridal Veil Falls, a fantastic year-round destination that in the summer serves as the scenic backdrop for abundant biking, mountaineering, rafting and hiking opportunities and in the winter is a must-visit destination for ice climbers the world over. Look for bike and tube rentals as well as guide and snack services. Continue up for access to summer or winter events, dining, drinks or adventure at Sundance Resort, or continue further and find yourself in Heber Valley.
A Vibrant Urban Corridor for Business
Utah's renowned business friendly environment boasts one of the nation's most favorable regulatory climates that is truly supported by a stable and predictable State government: Pew States recently announced Utah is one of only four states to retain its AAA credit rating for the last 47 years, or ever since Standard & Poor's initiated the rating system. It's no wonder that multi-national companies like Adobe, Boeing, Royal Bank of Scotland, eBay and Merit Medical have chosen to expand in Utah.
And that's not mention Utah's low cost of living, unparalleled access to recreational opportunities and a top ten ranking for overall health and one of the nation's healthiest cities in Salt Lake.
As for the legacy of the Olympics, the impact ranges from the creation of the nation's first outdoor products and recreation "economic cluster" that helped draw to Ogden, Utah, the North American headquarters of Amer Sports to the very transportation infrastructure of Utah's populous and dynamic Wasatch Front.
Highway expansion and downtown light rail anticipated the Winter Games, but to prepare for the future impact of the nation's second-highest rate of population growth, Utah has developed and deployed one of the nation's most forward-thinking long-term multi-modal plans. In fact, recent years saw the completion of two major investment projects: the $1.2 billion state funded I-15 CORE highway expansion and the FrontRunner south commuter rail that completes a nearly 90 mile route along the Wasatch Front. The Utah Transit Authority also opened light rail line extension to Salt Lake International airport that has elevated Salt Lake's accessibility and truly established the place of Utah's capitol city among the globe's best.
All things considered, the Wasatch Front boasts accessibility and connectivity in its transportation infrastructure suitable for one of the world's top 15 new places for business. And at the end of a productive day, the outdoor mecca that is the Wasatch Front awaits, virtually in our backyard. Many trailheads are just a few minutes from downtown, accessing expansive national forest lands, even designated wilderness areas. For more information, visit business.utah.gov.
Utah Office of Tourism
Council Hall/Capitol Hill 300 N State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114