* MOAB: The annual Easter Jeep Safari, coupled with ideal weather for mountain biking and hiking, makes spring one of the busiest times of the year for Utah's top spring-break destination. And that means planning ahead is essential. Green River and Dead Horse Point state parks take camping reservations. So do a number of private campgrounds. A motel reservation is a must, and you may have to stay in Green River or Monticello during the busiest weeks. Moab is popular for good reason: because it offers plenty of outdoor activities, including climbing and Jeeping, family-oriented hiking in Arches and Canyonlands, and a town built for tourism.
* LITTLE SAHARA RECREATION AREA: The Bureau of Land Management-owned sand dunes west of Nephi can handle a large crowd. Depending on the weather, as many as 30,000 people can converge on the area to camp and ride all-terrain vehicles, dune buggies and dirt bikes on the sand. While a few areas are fenced off to let kids play in the sand, the big spring activity here is motorized recreation. Expect concessionaires at Sand Mountain, where there is always room for one more camper. This isn't the place to go if you're looking for peace and quiet; motorized vehicles seem to be running 20 hours a day, somewhere on the dunes.
* ST. GEORGE: While the crowd of high schoolers that converges on Utah's Dixie and St. George Boulevard over Easter weekends has shrunk in recent years (largely due to strict law enforcement), many kids and families still come to St. George for Easter. In addition to the street party, there are plenty of activities for adults and families, including golf, mountain biking, hiking, boating and fishing, as well as gambling in nearby Mesquite, Nev. As in Moab, the big problem may be finding a room anywhere near St. George. Cedar City could be the best option.
* SAN RAFAEL SWELL: This large BLM-managed area in central Utah, south of Price, is ideal for dispersed recreation and is especially popular with locals who have coined the term "Eastering" for this spring ritual. Expect to see large campgrounds made up of families and friends in places where dispersed camping is allowed. ATV use is heavy, but there are some nice places to hike as well. Facilities are limited, so plan on bringing water and everything else you might need.
* SPRINGDALE-TORREY-TROPIC-ESCALANTE-BOULDER: Moab isn't the only gateway community to a popular national park or monument. These three towns all have busy spring seasons. Springdale, near the entrance to Zion National Park, offers nice motels and budget properties, and has good shopping and access to the Zion shuttle system. Torrey is near Capitol Reef National Park, a popular family destination where the park campground is usually full early in Easter week. And, while Bryce Canyon is too high and cold for many spring-break visitors, Tropic, Escalante and Boulder provide towns close to popular state parks (Kodachrome, Anasazi and Escalante), the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon national parks.
Head here to get away from
the spring-break crowds
* SKI AREAS: While the ski season winds down by the middle of April, snow is still decent, and most of the state's resorts stay open through at least Easter weekend. Many outdoor enthusiasts are hunting for sunshine and warm weather, so the slopes tend to be less crowded over break.
* VERNAL: As at any Utah spring-break area, weather can be a big question mark in eastern Utah, especially at a slightly higher elevation. But the world-class State Field House of Natural History is a hit with dinosaur-loving kids, motel rooms are easier to come by and less expensive and, if the weather is good, hiking at nearby Dinosaur National Monument can be as satisfying as at places such as Arches or Zion, without the crowds. If the weather is good, golf is also an option.
* PRICE: Carbon County is an underrated family destination. Price has nice motels, several with indoor pools and hot tubs. Visit the Railroad and Mining Museum in Helper, or the CEU Museum with its dinosaur and early Utah life exhibits in Price. The Desert Wave Pool has a bubble and is open year-round. Price has a number of good ethnic restaurants. The town is also close to Nine Mile Canyon and its rock art sites, as well as the San Rafael Swell.
* LAKE POWELL: Utah's largest reservoir is more of a Memorial Day through Labor Day destination, and is often ignored as a place to visit in the spring. But there are good deals on houseboats, spring fishing can be excellent and the weather can often be good for folks seeking early-season boating opportunities. The water may be too cold for swimming, but WaveRunner and personal watercraft enthusiasts can use their wet suits.
* THE KNOLLS: The Bureau of Land Management is slowly improving facilities at this sand dune-oriented off-highway vehicle destination just east of Wendover, Nev. While it can be crowded on spring weekends, it isn't as well-known as Little Sahara and can be a little less crazy for those looking for a good place to ride in the spring.
Five Utah travel Web sites
* http://www.utah.travel: This is the official Utah Travel Council site, and it is activity-oriented. Request a Utah Travel Guide on here; it's the best free resource there is for Utah travel.
* http://www.stateparks.utah.gov: There is information about all of Utah's state parks, and you're able to make camping reservations and see what spaces are available on the weekend you hope to visit one of the state's parks.
* http://www.recreation.gov: If you'd like to make a reservation at a national park, forest or Bureau of Land Management facility, this is the place to do it.
* http://www.Utah.com: This site has info on just about any Utah tourist destination including skiing, national parks, rafting, golf, Temple Square and hot deals.
* http://www.nps.gov: This is a wonderful site for a breakdown of America's national parks and monuments managed by the National Park Service, including those in Utah.
Five major spring events
* MOAB JEEP SAFARI: The annual Moab Jeep Safari is March 31 to April 8. Participants test their own four-wheel-drive vehicles on a number of trails, which are rated by difficulty. The event is sponsored by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers. For information, call 435-259-7625.
* FAIRVIEW SHOOTOUT: The Fairview Shootout in Fairview Canyon is a popular late-season snowmobile event that includes drag racing and hill climbs. Snowmobile vendors also are at the shootout. For information, contact Bruce Cahlamer at 801-393-1010.
* ST. GEORGE ART FESTIVAL: The annual St. George Art Festival is April 6-7 (Easter weekend) on Main Street between St. George Boulevard and the Tabernacle. It features a variety of art and artists from the western United States as well as food, entertainment and children's activities. For information, call 435-634-5850 or log on to http://www.sgcity.org/artfestival.
* HURRICANE EASTER CAR SHOW: The annual Hurricane Easter Car Show is over Easter weekend at Hurricane High. The show usually draws around 350 cars, trucks and motorcycles. The event is sponsored by the Hurricane Valley rotary club. For information, log on to http://www.stgeorgechamber.com.
* SNOWBIRD'S EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE AND EASTER HUNT: Snowbird's Easter Sunrise Service and Easter Hunt is a tradition for many along the Wasatch Front. Tram rides to Hidden Peak depart from 5:30 to 6:45 a.m. At 7 a.m., a nondenominational Easter service is held at the top of the scenic mountain peak as the sun rises over it. For information, log on to http://www.snowbird.com.