Quick tip to newcomers: Getting outdoors is the key to surviving in Utah. From the powder snow to the fabulous red-rock formations and national parks—for most of us, it's the main reason to be here.
Photo by Adam Finkle
A climber, biker, skier and self-descibed hippie, Charlie Sturgis began his outdoor industry career 37 years ago, working for Wasatch Touring in Salt Lake City. In 1986, he joined White Pine Touring in Park City, eventually becoming an owner and growing the shop from a seasonal endeavor to a year round mountain bike/nordic ski shop.
Mountain biking had just come into its own and trails were limited to a few hand-cut routes on private land. Seeing the need for more trails, Charlie helped found Mountain Trails Foundation in 1992. After many years as a volunteer activist for the nonprofit, he sold White Pine Touring and in 2010 became executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation. With Charlie's leadership, Mountain Trails has been successful a its mission to develop and promote local trails.
Park City boasts more than 350 miles of world-class trails and, last year, was designated an IMDB Gold Ride Center. The recognition, Charlie says, goes to a community that decided to work together to build a great human-powered amenity."
5 Ways to Dig into Utah's Spectacular Outdoors, Stay Healthy and Pass It On to Another Generation.
1) Don't go anywhere without a down jacket.
Charlie owns five puffy coats and makes sure one is packed along in any season. You never know when Utah weather will turn foul.
2) Fitness follows fun.
Charlie believes that if fun is your goal, the fitness will follow. While not knocking the indoor fitness scene, he feels getting outdoors is the path to a happy and healthy life.
3) Swim in a desert water hole.
There's something magical about a swimming hole in the middle of the desert especially for soaking stiff calfs after a hot hike. Two of Charlie's favorites: Calf Creek in the Escalante area and Mill Creek Canyon in Moab.
4) Reach for the peaks.
There's no better way to appreciate Utah's outdoor magnificence, than seeing it in a 360° view from the top of a mountain. A favorite: Bald Mountain, in the Uintas, just off Mirror Lake Highway. In 2-3 hours, on an easy trail, you ascend to the nearly 12,000-foot peak.
5) Join Mountain Trails Foundation.
Charlie is not shy about pitching for his team here. Min $10, mountaintrails.org
Our idea of the perfect swimming hole includes a short hike, cool water and the obligatory rock to jump off of—the Mountain Dew fantasy. Pine Creek has all three. Located in Zion National Park, you hike along the gurgling creek to this stunning pool of earthly delight. If you crave something more spectacular, drop into the Crater. A natural spring feeds this natural wonder hidden in a 55-foot hill at the Homestead Resort. The water reaches temps in the 6os-perfect for a therapeutic dip or to learn scuba diving. Factoid: Scenes in the 2010 movie 127 Hours were filmed in the Crater. 700 Homestead Dr., Midway, 435-654-1102
You don't have to travel to Cali or Hawaii for the thrill of riding a wave. Ogden-based Flowrider offers an indoor wave pool, where high-volume pumps generate a continuous sheet of flowing water. It's only $20 for an hour-long session, which includes use of a surfboard.
Get Your Gear On
Three major trail areas and plenty of camping makes Vernal, a great MTB alternative to being mobbed in Moab. altitudecycles.com
There's a pannier full of reasons Park City became the gold standard of the International Mountain Biking Association, including a cohesive interconnected network of trails. But it doesn't hurt to have Canyons Mountain Bike Park, which basically functions as a "Do not attempt this at home!" test track. With hand-built ladder-and-bridge wood features and lift service, it can create an adrenaline junkie in a day.
Where the Wild Things Are
Take a digital photography safari to Antelope Island (buffalo, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, porcupines, chukars, northern harriers, bighorn sheep and, of course, antelope) or Bear River Bird Refuge (tundra swans, peregrine falcons, snow geese, snowy plovers, American white pelican and seemingly half the ducks on the planet). Or just leave the camera at home and actually look and remember the experience. fws.gov, stateparks.utah.gov
Into Thin Air
Why spend half a day on the approach? With the Snowbird Tram Ride, you get up to altitude in minutes. Then you can jump right into a lung-scorching high-alpine terrain hike.
Yo Ho Ho, Dude!
Bonneville School of Sailing on Utah Lake will let you take the helm for two hours, ask questions, try some master-and-commander tacking and jibing and maybe even a heave-to. (Don't even think about mutiny.) It's a great way to find out if sailing is for you at $95 per person. Warning: Utah Lake is the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi and Indians and pioneers chronicled sightings of sea monsters and mysterious water babies.
Keep Utah Crazy Wild
From oil drilling to housing developments, Utah's wildlands are always at risk from some short-sighted greed scam or another. Do your bit to save some wild for the next generation of risk takers. Here's a couple places to start: Utah Wildlife in Need fights to help Utah's native wildlife and at-risk species. If you've never seen a California condor, river otter or black-footed ferret, there's an all-too-real possibility you never will. Friends of Great Salt Lake is working to preserve and protect the much-put-upon Great Salt Lake ecosystem through education, research and speaking up for our misunderstood namesake.
Release Your Inner Troglodyte
Timpanogos Cave National Monument is an opportunity to get in touch with your inner Neanderthal or at least Barney and Fred. The cave, with its wide rooms and flood-lit coves, is not claustrophobic, but it stays cool year-around, so bring a jacket or sweater (unless you can regrow your primate pelt). The interior decoration, all done by water, is beautiful, if a bit gaudy with gravity-defying helictites, delicate mineral draperies and fragile anthodite crystals. Open May-September.
Get a Hot Foot
In Arches National Park awaits the hike of a lifetime. Fiery Furnace is a mind-blowing labyrinth of narrow passages meandering among towering sandstone walls. You can do it on your own with a permit, but we'd recommend a ranger or private guide who will lead you to the coolest parts-not to mention get you out (did we mention it's a labyrinth?). The Furnace has no trails, signs, or cairns. GPS units do not work well due to the towering sandstone walls. Navigating its complex passages requires physical agility and careful observation.
In the Rough
At Wasatch Mountain State Park you can combine your love of the outdoors with your addiction to the sport of wimps. Pitch your tent or park your RV in Pine Creek Campground and reserve a tee time at one of the 18-hole courses nearby.
Climb In. Then Climb Out.
Momentum's new climbing gym in Mill Creek is state of the (inside) art. 220 W. 10600 South, Sandy, 801-990-6890
Clockwise from top: 1) Mucus Wakesurf Board, for beginner to intermediate riders, $650, Sheels. 2) Yakima Rocketbox Pro12, to get your gear where you're going, $380, Kirkhams, SLC. 3) Saloman TechAmphibian shoe, comfortable, in and out of the water, $95, REI. 4) Coleman 40-hour citronella candle, keeps all of those pesky bugs away, $11, REI. 5) REI camper first aid kit, clear foldout compartments that help you find things fast, $80, REI. 6) In nova disc golf discs, great alternative to the sport of wimps (traditional golf), $15-20, REI. 7) Reef leather fanning flipflop, complete with bottle opener in the sole, $58, REI. 8) Cotopaxi Inca 26L backpack, versatile hydration/laptop sleeve, $109, cotopaxi.com. 9) Citrus Zinger, add a lemon or orange to your water, $16, Sheels. 10) Sawyer mini water filtration system, attaches in line to your water bladder, $25, Kirkhams. 11) Halo 28 Avalanche airbag, uses a unique fan inflator (jetforce) instead of compressed air, $1,100, Black Diamond. 12) Oakley Vault eyeglass case, keeps your specs safe when you crash and burn, $25, Sheels. 13) Calloway Solaire golf clubs, engineered specifically for women, $700, Sheets, Sandy.