Big, bold, beautiful Utah
Think of America and Utah may not be the first state that springs to mind. But the multi-coloured canyons and desert plains are the epitome of the Wild West. Much of this spectacular scenery is public land, making Utah the ultimate destination for outdoor pursuits.
Jump on a mountain bike and hit hundreds of miles of jaw-dropping trails, racing through sandstone canyons and over plateaus with soaring vistas. Scale towering cliffs and surreal rock formations, sculpted by the elements into spires, arches and totems over millions of years. Rattle and roll through river rapids in a white-water raft. Hike or horseback ride through mile upon mile of mesas, hoodoos and desert dunes that shift from ochre to pink to rust as the sun moves across the wide-open skies. Or test your physical abilities to the limit in some of the world’s best terrain for canyoneering — a challenging sport that requires trekking, climbing, rappelling, swimming, and nerves of steel.
Traces of civilisation in these starkly magnificent landscapes date back ten thousand years. You’ll find pictographs and petroglyphs carved into the rippling rock face, if you know where to look. Stay at Amangiri (a meditative sanctuary surrounded by nothing but nature) and you’ll be guided through one of the most geologically dramatic places on earth by those who know it best: the Native American Navajo tribe.
If you’d rather combine contemporary culture with the thrill of exploration, check into Sundance Mountain Resort, Robert Redford’s mountain retreat. As well as skiing, snowboarding and every other outdoor activity under the sun, guests enjoy live bands, book readings, screenings, and, of course, the famous film festival in late January. Whether you’re there for the slopes or the celebrities, it’s an immersion into the all-American way of life.
Who better to eulogise that way of life than Jack Kerouac? In his classic chronicle, On the Road, he wrote: “As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border, I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, "Pass here and go on, you're on the road to heaven.”