To many who love primitive and pristine nature, Lake Powell is both a can’t-miss destination and something of a disappointment. It pretty much entirely surrounds the controversial issue of the Glen Canyon Dam. As a river guide once told us, “the best canyon in the world doesn’t make for a crappy lake.” More to the point, along with natural bridge, hole in the rock, and the surrounding area, this is a place you need to visit. The more daring among us will also find spots to cliff jump, but be careful. With varying water levels and shifting rocks, the area under the cliff needs to be thoroughly searched and all precautions should be taken.
With rare exceptions involving heavy, sediment-carrying rains, you won’t be disappointed by this lake’s nickname. The “Caribbean of the Rockies,” Bear Lake boasts a vibrant turquoise hue most of the time. This is one of Utah’s premier recreational lakes with plenty of opportunities for jet skiing, boating, fishing, swimming, and beaches. Skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing are popular wintertime substitutes. Apart from the lake itself, one of the best parts about this spot is its proximity to beautiful mountain and canyon views. Your family can enjoy the traditional lake experience they’ve come to expect, while adding in legitimate mountains and for a fraction of the cost of the more well-known spots in central and southern Utah.
With more than 1,000 natural lakes and with more than 500 of them supporting game fish populations, plus more than 400 miles of rivers and streams, this is a haven for multiple types of fishing during the summer and fall, as well as ice fishing in the winter. Find even more information from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. You can also plan your hiking adventure around certain key lakes. Mirror Lake is one of the picturesque and has basic camping and RV facilities. The hike up to Lofty Lake will give you views and reasonably easy access to the highest lake in the Uintas.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention that at the mouth of the Uinta Mountains, there are a series of reservoirs, Rockport, Jordanelle, and Deer Creek. These reservoirs serve as a major water and irrigation resource, in addition to more fishing and boating opportunities. During the summer, you can go from I-80 West through Kamas and take the highway all the way up to Evanston, Wyoming. Closer to home, you can do the I-80 (through Park City) to I-189 to Heber City down to Provo and back up to Salt Lake City on I-15.
Utah Lake provides all the traditional trappings of lake recreation. Fishing, boating, camping, as well as hiking and mountain biking in the surrounding areas are a treasure enjoyed by the Utah Valley. The key to being a good neighbor when using this lake? Mind your boat cleaning and decontamination certification. Invasive mussels, the STD of the Sea, are a real problem.
If the east side of the Wasatch Front is known for its mountain hiking and climbing, the west side is known for the Great Salt Lake—even if you have to drive north first to get to the best that the Great Salt Lake has to offer. Antelope Island offers its brand of Utah history, hiking, camping, photography and pioneer-focused experience. There are food stands available during popular times. If you can get past the shores of the lake away from the shallow waters and stench of rotting shrimp brine, you’ll find that the Great Salt Lake can be a unique to teach someone how to swim. In the high-salinity water content, you’ll actually float on top of the water.
Much like how the Uinta Mountains and Mirror Lake Highway are best from July through September when there’s reliable road access, there’s also a sweet spot to visit the Great Salt Lake. The timeframe here is February through April, when there are warm patches but not sustained warmer temperatures that signal the release of that year’s crop of biting gnats. As well as several weeks from November through early December, when the weather is still relatively warm. You can also look to snowshoe during the winter months when many people are off skiing in the mountains.