The best place to begin looking for information on recreational opportunities in Utah is the comprehensive www.utah.com  website. The site contains information on most sports and activities and provides lots of links to outfitters and yet more sites.
Utah offers lots of backcountry for those interested in exploring the scenery on foot. One increasingly popular activity is canyoneering—exploring mazelike slot canyons. Hundreds of feet deep but sometimes only wide enough for a hiker to squeeze through, these canyons are found in the southern part of the state, particularly near Escalante and in the Paria River area. You'll need to be fit to explore these regions—and watch the weather carefully for flash floods.
Hikers will find great trails in almost all parts of the state. The rugged Wasatch Range near Salt Lake City  is a popular day-hike destination for urban residents of the Wasatch Front, while the lofty, lake-filled Uintas in northeastern Utah are perfect for long-distance trips. Much of the canyonlands of southern and southeastern Utah are accessible only by foot; visits to remote Anasazi ruins and petroglyphs reward the long-distance hiker.
Campers are in luck in Utah. The state has a highly developed network of campgrounds. During peak tourist season, make reservations or arrive at your destination early.
The Wasatch and Uinta Ranges are dotted with lakes and drained by streams that are rich in rainbow and cutthroat trout. Fly-fishing is a major sport in many mountain communities, and most towns have at least one fly shop and an outfitter anxious to take you out to a stream. Favorite fishing spots include Bear Lake, with good fishing for lake and cutthroat trout; Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green River, offering good fishing for lake trout, smallmouth bass, and kokanee salmon; and Lake Powell , with good fishing for catfish, striper, and bass.
There are dozens and dozens of golf courses across Utah. Notable courses dot the Salt Lake City  area and also lie near Ogden, Logan, Provo, and Park City . The state's greatest concentration of courses, though, is in St. George , in the southern part of the state. Perhaps it's rhetorical to wonder which comes first, retirees or golf courses, but St. George's excellent courses amid magnificent red-rock formations certainly have contributed mightily to the town's reputation as a retirement haven.
While guest ranches are the best places to experience a Western-style vacation on horseback, the ski areas at Park City also offer riding in summer. In winter, sleigh rides are featured.
Mountain biking has done much to put Utah on the recreation map. Trails in the slickrock canyon country near Moab  attract more than 150,000 biking enthusiasts a year, and now nearly all corners of the state promote their old Forest Service or mining roads as a biking paradise. There's good info for planning bike trips at www.utah.com/bike , and excellent biking guidebooks are available from bookstores.
In general, Utah summers are too hot for mountain biking. The peak season in Moab runs March-May and September-November.
Rafting or canoeing Utah's rivers is another favorite activity for tourists and adventurers. The most notable float trip is down the Colorado River  between Moab and the backwaters of Lake Powell. This multiday trip passes through Cataract Canyon, and for spectacular adventure it's second only to trips through the Grand Canyon. The Green and San Juan Rivers are also popular.
For these trips, plan well in advance, as spaces are limited and demand more than outstrips availability. In towns like Moab, Green River, Vernal, and Bluff, numerous outfitters provide exciting day trips that can usually take people with only a day's notice.
Utah is rich in curious stones, fossils, and gems. The lack of vegetation and the high level of erosion make rockhounding a relatively simple matter. One of the best places to plan a rock-hunting expedition is the Delta area, where you can explore for geodes, agates, garnets, and other treasures.
Skiing has always been excellent in the Wasatch Front ski areas near Salt Lake City  and Park City , and since the 2002 Winter Olympics, the world knows about Utah's uncrowded slopes, which provide some of the best powder skiing in North America.
If you've always wanted to ski or board Olympic-quality slopes, plan a trip to Utah: All the runs and facilities developed for the Olympics are still in place. For a good overview of Utah's ski areas and information on special package deals, check www.skiutah.com .
Utah is home to five major national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, and one national historic site. Three of the crown jewels of the national park system—Zion , Arches , and Bryce Canyon —are here, as well as the less-traveled Capitol Reef  and Canyonlands  parks. Just across the border in Nevada is Great Basin National Park, and just south in Arizona is the Grand Canyon . In 1996, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument  added 1.9 million acres of public land to Utah's inventory of scenic wild lands. These national park areas and national monuments are the state's largest tourist attractions.
The parks are all open year-round, though spring and fall are the best times to visit—you'll avoid the heat and crowds of high summer. The entry fee for the national parks has gone up greatly in the past few years; admission to Bryce Canyon is now $25 per vehicle. If you're planning on making the rounds of the Utah national parks, it's an excellent idea to purchase an America the Beautiful Pass ($80), which covers admission costs at national parks and other federal recreation sites.
Utah boasts 41 state parks, ranging from golf courses to fishing holes, from historic forts to Anasazi ruins. Entry fees to state parks vary, though in general there's a $6-9 per vehicle day-use fee at the recreational parks. Many of these have campgrounds; you can make reservations at 800/322-3770 or www.reserveamerica.com . For general information on Utah's state parks, contact Utah State Parks (801/538-7220, http://stateparks.utah.gov ).
Utah has an abundance of designated wilderness areas, which are closed to mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) to protect both the environment and the experience of solitude. Most designated areas lie within national forests or Bureau of Land Management lands, and many are free to visit without a permit; some have fees or require permits. The national parks and monuments require backcountry permits for overnight stays.