This is Utah's playground, a year-round mecca for hikers, mountain bikers, golfers, boaters, anglers, and anybody else who just wants to get outdoors. Among the top spots for experiencing nature at its best are Cedar Breaks National Monument, a high-mountain oasis of towering pines and firs, with wildflowers galore; and state parks such as Snow Canyon, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, and Quail Creek.

The best seasons for outdoor activities here are based on elevation. In St. George and other lowlands, spring and fall are best, winter's okay, and summer is worst, because temperatures soar well over 100°F (38°C). However, not everyone says no to St. George in summer: Its desert climate makes it the golfing capital of Utah. The Sunbrook is considered one of the state's best courses, with a challenging layout and spectacular views of the White Hills, but you can stay a week in St. George and play a different course each day. On the other side of the seasonal coin, don't try to drive up the mountains to Cedar Breaks until June at the earliest or mid-October at the latest; the roads will be closed by snow.

A good way to see this part of Utah is on foot. Hiking trails abound throughout the Dixie and Fishlake national forests north of St. George. Several of the best trails are in state parks, particularly Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, and in the nearby national parks.

Biking here generally means mountain biking. Even when riding in the city, you never know when you're going to discover a great little trail turning off into the red-rock desert or up into alpine meadows. The best mountain biking is at Brian Head Resort. Both road and mountain bikes can take you to beautiful areas in and around Snow Canyon State Park near St. George.

For an area with so much desert, there's a lot of boating here: Utahns have created reservoirs to provide the desert and its residents with drinking and irrigation water. The best boating is at Quail Creek State Park near St. George; but for a bit more solitude try the relatively undeveloped Gunlock State Park, also near St. George, or Minersville State Park, west of Beaver. The top fishing hole in these parts is Quail Creek State Park, but there are plenty of smaller lakes and hidden streams in the national forests.

Off-road vehicles can simply be a means to get to an isolated fishing stream or hiking trail, or the adventure itself. The old mining and logging roads in the national forests are great for four-wheel exploring. Visitors with dune buggies will want to challenge the shifting dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, just outside Kanab.

An abundance of wildlife makes its home in this part of the state. Sure, you'll encounter deer, squirrels, chipmunks, and other furry creatures at Cedar Breaks National Monument and the area's national parks, but there's also animal life in the desert, including everyone's favorites: the luminescent scorpions at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and the Gila monster at Snow Canyon State Park, also home to numerous songbirds.

It may be hot down in the desert, but plenty of snow is perched up on those mountaintops, and the skiing is great at Brian Head Resort. In winter, cross-country skiers and snowshoers will want to head to nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument after the snow closes the roads to cars.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.