Although the Wasatch Range shares the same desert climate as the Great Basin, which it rims, these craggy peaks rising to more than 11,000 feet cause storms moving in from the Pacific to stall and drop massive amounts of precipitation. The result is a 160-mile stretch of verdure that is home to 2 million people, or three-fourths of all Utahns. Although its landscape is crisscrossed by freeways
and dappled by towns large and small, the vast Wasatch still beckons adventurers with its alpine forests and windswept canyons. Those who visit follow in the footsteps of Native Americans and in the wagon-wheel ruts of Mormon pioneers and miners.
As the meeting place of three geologically distinct regions—the Rocky Mountain Province, the Colorado Plateau Province, and the Basin and Range Province—the Wasatch Range combines characteristics of each. Within this one compact range you'll find broad glacial canyons with towering granite walls, stream-cut gorges through purple, tan, and green shale, and rounded red rock bluffs and valleys.
Uppermost in many people's minds is the legendary skiing found at resorts such as Snowbird, Alta, and Park City. But this region is truly a year-round destination. Bright-blue lakes afford fantastic boating, sailing, windsurfing, and waterskiing opportunities. Some of the West's best trout streams flow from the high country. Add to this the picturesque mountain communities, miles of hiking and biking trails, and truly spectacular alpine scenery, and you have a vacation that's hard to beat.
The snow stops falling in April or May, and a month later the temperatures are in the 80s. (Locals joke that if you don't like the weather in spring, wait a minute and it will change.) Spring may be the shortest season, but it's one of the most interesting. You can ski in the morning, and then play 18 holes of golf or hike through fields of wildflowers in the afternoon. In summer, water-sports enthusiasts of all stripes flock to the region's reservoirs, alpine lakes, rivers, and streams to fish, water-ski, windsurf, sail, and canoe. The Wasatch Mountains also draw people on foot, bike, and horseback seeking respite from the heat of the valley.
Fall's colors rival those of New England. On a walk through a forest or drive along a scenic route, you'll see the yellows, reds, oranges, and golds of aspens, maples, and oaks against the deep evergreen of fir and spruce. Fall drives along the Alpine Loop east of Provo or up Pine Canyon out of the Heber Valley are autumn traditions.
You can also find cultural activities and entertainment at every turn. The Sundance Film Festival, hosted by actor-director Robert Redford, attracts movie stars and independent filmmakers from all over, and gets bigger every January. Major recording artists of all types play both indoor and outdoor venues along the Wasatch Range. The number of nightclubs is increasing, featuring everything from blues and jazz to folk and rock; and Park City offers an ample variety of nightlife possibilities.