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Best Undiscovered Ski Resort
It actually is discovered—by people driving north from Las Vegas or Los Angeles, anyway. However, spoiled Wasatch Front skiers mostly have yet to encounter the pure powder, challenging back-country skiing and "close, yet remote" ski experience that Eagle Point offers. Head 18 miles east off Interstate 15 and you'll find the resort tucked up into the beautiful Tushar Mountains of central Utah.
150 S. West Village Circle, Beaver, 435-438-3700, EaglePointResort.com Hungry? Eat your fill at the historic Arshels Café in downtown Beaver.
Box Elder County
Best Landlocked Country
Boasting a giant golden squid against a red background, the official flag of the not-quite-official country of Zaqistan flies over two remote acres in northwest Box Elder County. Those acres were purchased in 2005 on eBay by Zac Landsberg, who promptly declared secession from the United States. Zaqistanis are most proud of their various commissioned art objects. Citizenship and passport information available at CUAC in Salt Lake City.
Somewhere between Montello, Nev., and the Great Salt Lake, Zaqistan.com
Thirsty? Pack your own. The No. 1 import to Zaqistan is water.
Best Old West History
Native Americans, mountain men, pioneer settlers and much more are experienced via exhibits and guided tours (and even building rentals) at this living-history facility spanning regional history dating back to 1820. Two popular annual events are the Pioneer Day Festival and the Old Ephraim Mountain Man Rendezvous held each July. Try the special Valentine's Dinner in February featuring dinner, live music, a kissing booth and a horse-drawn carriage ride.
4025 S. Highway 89-91, Wellsville, 435-245-6050, AWHC.org
Road weary? It's only 70 miles from Salt Lake City, but if you need caffeine, hit Caffe Ibis Gallery and Deli in Logan.
Best Cattle Round-Up
Looking to get your inner city slicker up and at 'em at a real, working cattle ranch? Assuming you can tolerate the 9,000-foot elevation—and the bone-jarring beauty that comprises the remote 10,000-acre Tavaputs Ranch—this is your chance. Tavaputs is home to some of Utah's greatest wild creatures—not just cattle, but black bear, elk, deer, hawks and eagles, too. If you're into hiking, horseback riding or ATVs, you might never find a better wedding destination.
Near Price, 435-637-1236, TavaputsRanch.com
No beef? Stop into the Cowboy Kitchen in Wellington. They have some of the best lamb in Utah.
Flaming Gorge Reservoir
We're not saying this is the best spearfishing in Utah, but the best in Daggett County is located in Manila, where the water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir meets the road. According to state record, the biggest spearfished smallmouth bass, tipping in at 4 pounds, was caught here. A bonus: There's no limit on taking the invasive, non-native burbot, though be warned—the best chance for burbot is in the winter. Visibility ranges from 6-30 feet. How's your aim?
Highway 191, Manilla, FlamingGorgeCountry.com
Law breaker? Route through Evanston, Wyo., and stock up on some beer.
Best Mountain Biking
With 13 miles of mountainous trails, this scenic ride is a favorite among Utah bikers and hikers. Though only minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, Mueller Park remains somewhat of a Wasatch Front secret. However, Salt Lakers can be snobs, you know. Riders (or walkers) can choose to ease the challenge by taking shorter out-and-back options. The views are jaw-dropping and the trails serene.
Mueller Park Road, Bountiful
Après Bike? Can't go wrong at Kitty Pappas Steak House on Main Street in Bountiful.
Best Old-Timey Meal
Authentic soda-fountain lunch counters are few and far between. One of the best remaining in Utah is at Marions Variety in Roosevelt. Part general store, part eatery and part history lesson, Marions is sure to bring back memories of a simpler time. Milkshakes and malts are good bets, as are the burgers and sandwiches. But, unique? Try a canned soup. Yeah, it's on the menu. Yeah, it used to be a thing.
29 N. 200 East, Roosevelt, 435-722-2143
Bassorama? Wet your lures, spinners and buzzbaits at Starvation State Park.
San Rafael Swell
There are a number of locales in Emery County that might lay claim to some of the best bouldering anywhere. Oh, uh, bouldering is bounding upon and climbing the hell out of giant rocks and outcroppings that most of us have too much sense to try. But if you do, scores of world-class near-death experiences await in the San Rafael region. And people from all over the world do just that.
Jurassic Park? The Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is noted for its Jurassic-era dino bones.
Best Hike Payoff
Calf Creek Falls
As if driving along Highway 12 wasn't stunning enough, anyone who travels southern Utah knows getting off the pavement is always better. So it is with the 6-mile round-trip hike (easy, but hot in the summer) when hikers are rewarded with a money shot to beat all: water cascading more than 200 feet over several mossy tiers into an idyllic pond that offers its bounty of cool water on tired toes. Instagram awaits.
5.8 miles out and back, Highway 12, 9 miles south of Boulder
Not a hiker? Again, the views along Highway 12 are stunning. They alone are worth the drive.
Best Movie Backdrop
If you're watching the HBO series Westworld, what you're basically seeing is a commercial for some of the most stunning scenery in Utah—that which surrounds the famous uranium-mining, river-running and bike-riding town of Moab. Dead Horse Point (Thelma and Louise died here), Fisher Towers, Castle Valley and two of our national parks—Arches and Canyonlands—loom as backdrops to nearly every outdoor Westworld scene. Bike or float if you want, but bring your camera to find Dolores and The Man in Black.
Afraid of Heights? Visit Hole in The Rock, a home and trading post carved into sandstone just 12 miles south of Moab.
Best Odd Couple
Neil Simon Festival, Cedar City
Who'da thunk that a city slicker playwriting sophisticate would have his work memorialized during an annual festival in little ol' Cedar City, Utah? Well, Richard Bugg—a theater professor with but $500 in his pocket at the time (2002)—for one. Bugg started the Neil Simon Festival on that shoestring budget, and 15 seasons later, it's growing into one of the state's must-see events, riding nearly the same rails as did the nationally recognized Utah Shakespeare Festival in the same city. Broadway bound, indeed.
Heritage Center Theater, 150 N. 100 East, Cedar City, 435-267-0194, SimonFest.org
On Golden Pond? Navajo Lake, just 26 miles from Cedar City, is a southern Utah treasure.
Best Buggy Riding
Little Sahara Recreation Area
Before modern ATVs, there was the dune buggy. Though also technically an ATV, a dune buggy was at one time a more personalized mash of steel and rubber. While one doesn't see a classic buggy as often as before, as good a place to find one as any is at the 200-square-mile Little Sahara Recreation Area where buggies, ATVs and motorbikes alike rip-roar all over the shifting, soft sand dunes—a remnant gift left over from when ancient Lake Bonneville dried up.
Highway 6, 4 miles southwest of Jericho, BLM.gov
Feeling lucky? Fortunes were made and lost in the mines at Eureka. Stop for some very old Utah history on the way to Little Sahara, just 18 miles down the road.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
There's a lot to see and do in Kane County (visit old Western movie sets, delight in the town of Kanab, relax at Duck Creek), but year after year, the BFAS rises to the top of our list. Plain and simple: We love animals and BFAS does so well at loving them, too, that its reputation is national. The sanctuary offers tours, cottages, vegetarian food (natch), and a home for around 1,600 animals of every stripe needing love and a safe haven.
Angel Canyon, Kanab, 435-241-7601, BestFriends.org
Go Native. Nearby Moqui Cave offers visitors a chance to learn from 1,000-year-old Native American artifacts, plus offers the twist of a dinosaur-tracks display as well.
Best County Seat Name
Makes sense, doesn't it? To name both a county and its largest city after the U.S. president who held office when the city was founded in 1851, but whom precious few can name: Millard Fillmore, our 13th president and our country's last Whig Party president. Fillmore—the site chosen by Brigham Young due to its central location—was once the capital of the Utah Territory. The original Utah Territorial Statehouse still stands and is a major reason to visit this classic pioneer town.
Interstate 15, 145 miles south of Salt Lake City, FillmoreCity.org
Home Cookin'. Cluff's Carhop Café serves President Eisenhower-era-style meals and milkshakes.
Best New Outdoor Concert Series
Blues, Brews & BBQ
It was only a matter of time before Snowbasin—home base to many Alpine events during the 2002 Winter Olympics—grew into a year-round resort in the same manner as its southern cousins, such as Snowbird and Deer Valley. And while the Blues, Brews and BBQ series isn't exactly new, it is just now growing into its ski boots. Acts this past summer included area favorites like James McMurtry and Hot Buttered Rum. The resort also features free live music each summer Sunday.
3925 E. Snowbasin Road, Huntsville, 888-437-5488, Snowbasin.com
U Pick 'Em: Driving from Ogden, hit Huntsville's Shooting Star Saloon for a burger. From SLC, do the same at Taggart's Grill.
Best Bank-Robber Roots
Butch Cassidy's Boyhood Home
Every Utah county east of what is now I-15 seems to lay some claim to the legacy of the famous and beloved outlaw, Butch Cassidy—born in 1866 in Beaver as Robert LeRoy Parker. The cabin in which he was raised was built several years later by his Mormon pioneer family just over the way in Piute County. From that humble start, something triggered young Butch—along with trusty sidekicks like The Sundance Kid and Kid Curry—to rob tens of thousands of dollars from Western banks. It wasn't the scenery that did it.
Highway 89, Circleville, CirclevilleUtah.org
Twofer: If you need a place to stay, try Butch Cassidy's Hideout Motel in Circleville.
San Juan County
Best Red River
The San Juan
When discussing Utah's three notable rafting rivers, the lovely San Juan River nearly always comes in a distant third behind the Green River and the Colorado River. Could be that it's far away and too remote for many, but river guides know better. The San Juan gave birth to modern-day rafting, moves downstream deceptively fast, boasts stunning scenery, delivers riders to Native American petroglyphs, has some nice, wavy rapids and is considered a safer ride for families.
Most adventures begin in Bluff, BluffUtah.org
Red Meat: Venture to The Swingin' Steak in Mexican Hat where your meat literally rocks back and forth over the fire pit.
Best Summer Retreat
Only two Utah counties are less populous than Rich County, but that just counts full-time residents. Check back in the summer when the jewel of Rich County—beautiful and deep blue Bear Lake—brims with second-home residents,
vacationers and weekend revelers. They relax in the abundant natural beauty of the lake, but they also come to golf, hike or bike (an easy bike trail circles the entire lake). It's noted for water sports, on which there is no limit. Plan on getting wet.
Highway 89, Garden City, BearLake.org
Broadway Beckons: Check out the always-popular local theater productions at the Pickleville Playhouse in nearby Pickleville.
Salt Lake County
Best Star Base
For decades, Utah school kids have marveled at the learning exhibits produced by the amazing staff at Clark Planetarium. Children today stand mesmerized at a Foucault Pendulum in the same manner that their great-grandparents did at the former Hansen Planetarium before man landed on the moon. The Hansen begat the more spacious Clark Planetarium in 2003 when the facility relocated to the Gateway, and the famous star-shows projected in the Hansen Dome Theater never miss a quark. With a recent makeover, the planetarium has its telescopes aimed at future Utah generations—perhaps those headed to Mars and beyond. An imagination factory, Clark is a very special reason to love Salt Lake County.
110 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, 385-468-7827, ClarkPlanetarium.org
Best Salt Lake County Representative in the U.S. Congress: None.
Best Football Pipeline
By any measure, Snow College consistently ranks as one of America's best. It's affordable. It has a high graduation rate. Former students rave, its teacher-to-student ratio is excellent—and so is its football team. After two years, many of those Badgers grow into University of Utah Utes. Here's just a short list of those gentlemen: Garett Bolles, Star Lotulelei, Matt Asiata, Sunia Tauteoli, Pasoni Tasini, Evan Moeai, plus Murray's own James Aiono and Riley Richmond. Go Badgers (and future Utes).
150 College Ave., Ephraim, 435-283-7000, Snow.edu
FORE! The 18-hole course at Palisades State Park in Sterling is one of Utah's best tracks.
Best Big Macks
Some of the biggest fish caught anywhere in Utah are at Fish Lake. Besides the familiar rainbows, browns and splakes (a hybrid of brook and lake trout), anglers are often surprised to learn that the lake is also a fishery for perch and pike. But everyone knows it's the lake trout—the mighty mackinaw—upon which Fish Lake stakes its claim. Though even larger macks are found at Flaming Gorge, monster-sized lake trout are the calling card of this gem of a mountain lake.
State Route 25, Richfield, FishLakeResorts.com
Fireworks: The annual Fourth of July parade in Richfield is a perfect slice of Americana pie.
Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail
After shuttling to the Park City region for more than 100 years, the Union Pacific Railroad abandoned the line. Utah's Division of Parks and Recreation stepped in, along with A&K Railroad Materials, and in just a few years, Utah's first non-motorized rail trail was born. By foot, horse, ski or bike, the nearly 30-mile trail offers users a scenic treat easily accessed by all residents of the Wasatch Front.
Beer here: Before or after that ride, visit Molly Bloom's Gastro Pub at Kimball Junction.
Best Horseback Riding
Tooele County is home to many miles of the former Pony Express trail, so it only makes sense that horsemen have long valued the variety of horseback riding to be found in Tooele County. From dusty trails along the valley floor to treks high into the Oquirrh Mountains, there are plenty of options. Many consider the very best of those choices to be the varied rides in the Stansbury Range, still fairly undiscovered and always rugged, wild and beautiful.
Ghostbuster: The not-quite-dead town of Ophir still evokes the wild, mining West.
Best High-Elevation Beer
Vernal Brewing Co.
So, so many people think microbrew pubs are only found in chic urban hoods. Not so. Evidence: Vernal Brewing Co., which not only feeds and fuels the hearty souls of Utah's coldest zones, but is also a crowd favorite at the annual Utah Beer Festival. With some of the more cleverly named beers around (Not Your Mama's Milk Stout, She's a Peach Wheat and .50 Caliber IPA), you'll easily find a matching meal before heading into the Uintas, floating the Green River or snagging a trout at Flaming Gorge.
55 S. 500 East, Vernal, 435-781-2337, VernalBrewingCo.com
For Flatlanders: Wet the lures for giant bass or bluegill at Pelican Lake, south of Vernal.
Best of Bob
Sundance Mountain Resort
Robert Redford has given much to Utah—notably the Sundance Film Festival. But in this corner, his greater gift is the transformation he delivered to the former Timp Haven resort after he purchased it and renamed it Sundance. Now, it's a fully developed ski-mountain and summer resort (try the zip line). Two longtime City Weekly favorites to be had at Sundance are dining in the Tree Room and imbibing at the Owl Bar. Classics.
8841 N. Alpine Loop Road, Sundance, 800-892-1600, SundanceResort.com
Best BYU Tweeter: Boney Fuller (@boneyfuller). Follow. Laugh. Repeat.
Best Hot Pot
Remember the scene in 127 Hours when James Franco and the gals jump from a cliff ledge to a body of blue water below? That was really a natural hot-spring pool inside the Homestead Caldera and, well, a few hundred miles from where the movie was set. No matter. Scuba divers have used the crystal clear waters for lessons and diving for years, and since it's located right at the popular Homestead Resort, locals have visited this unique 10,000-year-old hot pot for nearly as long.
700 Homestead Drive, Midway, 435-654-1102, HomesteadResort.com
Great Eats: Snake Creek Grill in Heber City is consistently rated one of Utah's best eateries.
Best Multi-Use State Park
Ranking third in size among Utah's state parks, this valued area near St. George offers OHV riders and water-sport lovers plenty of options. The dunes that give the park its name are a magnet for those who don't mind getting some dirt in their eyes, while the waters of Sand Hollow reservoir do likewise for those who don't mind some water smearing their make-up. Golfers join the fun at nearby Sand Hollow Golf Resort.
3351 Sand Hollow Road, Hurricane, 435-680-0715, StateParks.Utah.gov
Margaritaville: Springdale's The Bit & Spur is the place to wet your whistle in Zion land.
Best Rock Art
We are always torn when telling others about certain Utah treasures because some people, frankly, are jerks—especially the variety that defaces the art, devaluing the culture and history of Utah's first residents. The rock art in Horseshoe is no secret, though. It's fairly easily accessed (albeit leading to a strenuous hike) and is among the finest examples of rock art in Utah including the oft-photographed Great Gallery.
Aloha: The town of Loa—Hawaiian for "large and powerful"—was named by a Mormon missionary who served in Hawaii.
Best King Tut Legacy
Peery's Egyptian Theater
There were once more than 100 U.S. theaters inspired by and constructed in a style celebrating ancient civilizations. Grauman's Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles is the most famous of those that remain, and of that small number, Utah has two Egyptian jewels—one in Park City and one in Ogden. Ogden's Peery presents both film-centric events (like the Big Lebowski Festival) and live musical and stage performances. No matter the reason for attending, you'll be struck by the beauty of the structure and glad that is has survived.
2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden,
Pick a Wife: Ogden's Own Distillery produces the popular Five Wives Vodka, resulting in the best local advertising promotion in these parts.