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With the biggest, most beautiful and most pristine landscapes
in North America, UTAH has something for everyone: from brilliantly
colored canyons, across endless desert plains, to thickly wooded
and snow-covered mountains. This unmatched range of terrain,
almost all of which is public land, makes Utah the place to
come for outdoor pursuits , whether your tastes run to hiking,
off-track mountain biking, whitewater rafting or skiing.
Southern Utah has more national parks than anywhere else in
the US; in fact it has often been suggested that the entire
area should become one vast national park. The most accessible
parts - such as Zion and Bryce Canyon - are by far the most
visited, but lesser-known parks like Arches and Canyonlands
are every bit as dramatic. Huge tracts of this empty desert,
in which beautiful pre-Columbian pictographs and Ancestral Puebloan
ruins lie hidden, are all but unexplored; seeing them in safety
requires a good degree of advance planning and self-sufficiency.
In the northeast of the state, the Uinta Mountains remain uncrossed
by road and form one of the most extensive wilderness areas
in the US outside Alaska, while Flaming Gorge and Dinosaur preserve
more desert splendor. Though the northwest is predominantly
flat and dry, the granite mountains of the Wasatch Front tower
over state capital Salt Lake City - a surprisingly attractive
and enjoyable stopover - while Alta, Snowbird and the resorts
around Park City offer some of the best skiing in North America.
Led by Brigham Young, Utah's earliest Anglo settlers - the
Mormons - arrived in the Salt Lake area in 1847, and set about
the massive irrigation projects that made their agrarian way
of life possible. At first they provoked great suspicion and
hostility back east; Congress turned down their first petition
for statehood in 1850, in part because of the religious significance
of the proposed name, Deseret , a Mormon word meaning "honeybee"
(the state symbol is still a beehive, to denote industry). The
Republican convention of 1856 railed against slavery and polygamy
in equal measure - had the South not intervened, civil war with
the Mormons was a real possibility. Relations eased when the
Mormon church realized in 1890 that it had better drop polygamy
on its own terms before being forced to do so. Statehood followed
in 1896, and a century on, seventy percent of Utah's two-million-strong
population are Mormons. The Mormon influence is responsible
for the layout of Utah's towns, where residential streets are
as wide as interstates, and all are numbered block-by-block
according to the same logical if ponderous system.
Despite Brigham Young's early opposition to the search for
mineral wealth, Mormon businessmen became renowned as fiercely
pro-mining and anti-conservation. Only since the early 1980s
- once the uranium bonanza was definitely over - has tourism
been appreciated as a major industry, and former mining towns
such as Moab developed facilities for wide-eyed travelers smitten
by the lure of the desert. Increased tourism has also led to
a relaxation of Utah's notoriously arcane drinking laws ; In
most towns, at least one restaurant will be licensed to sell
beer, wine and mixed drinks to diners, and it may also be licensed
to sell beer in its bar or lounge. Beer is also sold in a few
other locations, but to drink stronger liquor you'll have to
become a member of a " private club "; most sell temporary
membership for a token fee. Take-out bottled drinks, including
beer, can only be purchased in State Liquor Stores.
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