To reach Boulder, Utah, population 200, fly into Las Vegas and then drive northeast for four hours. You'll pass by two of the most spectacular national parks in the country, Zion and Bryce Canyon. There's no better place than Boulder, a two-gas-station, two-restaurant town, to begin experiencing Utah's wild side, but don't forget your hiking boots. The nearest place to buy a pair is Escalante, 45 minutes away.
where to stay
Boulder Mountain Lodge 20 N. Hwy. 12; 800/556-3446 or 435/335-7460; doubles from $69. This rustic 20-room lodge makes roughing it easy. Llama-assisted trekking or SUV rides across Utah's rocky plains can be arranged.
Eagle Star Ranch 330 E. Boulder Pines Rd.; phone and fax 435/335-7438; doubles from $65. A 350-acre working cattle-and-horse ranch, whose four guest rooms (all with private bath) overlook Long Canyon.
where to eat
Hell's Backbone Grill at Boulder Mountain Lodge; 435/335-7464; dinner for two $40. Organic produce and locally raised beef are the basis of the Southwestern fare.
Boulder Mesa Restaurant 155 E. Burr Trail; 435/335-7447; dinner for two $35. Comfort food served in a log cabin.
where to go
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park 435/826-4466. The steep, mile-long Petrified Forest Trail has a view of the surrounding stair-step plateaus.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument 435/826-5499. Terraced mountains best appreciated by hiking the Hole-in-the-Rock canyon or the Burr Trail. At Lower Calf Creek Falls, an easy six-mile hike leads past beaver ponds and wetlands to a 126-foot waterfall.
Capitol Reef National Park 435/425-3791. The Navajos called it "the Land of the Sleeping Rainbow." Easy walks through lush apple, peach, and cherry orchards. --Dara Y. Herman