Getting Oriented

With two mountain ranges, Mother Nature has neatly divided northern Utah into three major sightseeing areas, each with its own attractions. Ogden and Logan are the main towns that anchor the region. Thirty minutes north of the state capital in Salt Lake City, Ogden served as a major railroad hub in the 19th and 20th centuries, and goods, services, wealth, brothels, and religion all found their way on the rails to this once-rough town. Northwest of Ogden is the Golden Spike Empire, home to the union of transcontinental railroads in 1869 and a thriving agricultural community. Logan, northeast of Ogden, is a fun, thriving college town (Utah State University has 15,000-plus students) that has emerged from the land-grant school. Turquoise-colored Bear Lake straddles the Idaho border farther north.

Ogden City and Valley. The largest city north of Salt Lake City is Ogden, with more than 84,000 residents. Its growth was spurred by the coming of the railroads and Hill Air Force Base, but its 21st-century renaissance is oriented around the easygoing outdoorsy lifestyle here. Hiking, skiing, golf, kayaking, boating, and more are all available either within city limits or in the beautiful valley that lies 8 miles up the canyon.

The Golden Spike Empire. Heading north up I–15 from Ogden (or, if you're in no hurry, up Highway 89, where you'll find plenty of farm stands), you'll come upon the Golden Spike Empire. Pleasant farmlands in the shadow of the Wellsvilles give way to rolling sagebrush-covered hills and eventually the desolate salt flats of the Great Salt Lake. After a visit to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the Golden Spike National Historic Site, cut east through the Wellsvilles to Logan and the Cache Valley, soaking up the rural scenery along the way.

Cache Valley. North of and roughly half the size of Ogden is the beautiful town of Logan, home to Utah State University and the Utah Festival Opera. You'll want to devote a day or two to the thriving college town, including the university’s anthropology museum, which will give you a feel for the area's earliest inhabitants, and a stop at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art.

Bear Lake Country. It’s almost incomprehensible that a lake as blue as the Mediterranean exists in the Intermountain West—but it’s true. For sheer beauty, Bear Lake, half of which lies in Idaho, holds its own with Lake Tahoe or Yellowstone Lake. It’s not nearly as developed as either, with only a few small motels and campgrounds. But at 109 square miles, it will give you plenty to explore for a few days in the hot summer.

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