Southern Utah: The New Outback?

You won't find shrimp on the barbie in Capitol Reef or Dixie National Forest

During my trek to the backcountry of southern Utah in March, I didn't find any kangaroos. There were no dingos running wild and there certainly was no chain steakhouse adorned with factory produced boomerangs. Why, then, did Tony Perrottet call the area America's outback in The New York Times on Sunday?

Like with any comparison, similarities can be drawn. For example, both places are largely uninhabited. That is, if you stay away from areas in Utah like Delicate Arch and Zion National Park and avoid traveling during the tourist-choked summer months. Both, too, are full of dry red expanses where nothing but the hardiest brush can survive.

To our dismay, there were no quirky tribes like the Aborigines wandering the canyons of Utah. There were plenty of Mormons, however, who were so kind in giving us directions that we forgave them for not playing the didgeridoo. Less tasty than the Bloomin' Onion was Utah's blooming cactuses—trust one of my curious hiking buddies—and the unforgiving outback in Australia boasts an area far larger and wilder than any Utah backcountry.

In general, it's the spirit of the outback that breathes through the plunging canyons of southern Utah. The landscape is enough to render one speechless with rock walls ranging from bone white to raw steak red, stretching out to the horizon until they converge with an impossibly blue sky. With no signs of civilization, it's hard to remember that cities do exist just beyond the canyons and for a moment—if you ignore your GPS—you just might forget where you are.

With wide expanses and precious solitude, maybe the sign at the state line deserves a revamp. Southern Utah: No rules, just right.

—Morgan Keys

America's Outback: Southern Utah (The New York Times)

Image credit: Skylar Fast