For more than 60 years, the staff at YMCA Camp Roger has been developing programs that get kids and teens off the couch and in the great outdoors. In doing so, its aim is to help the kids develop social skills that can foster confidence, independence, and leadership. In addition to traditional sleepover camps—where 6–10 kids stay in cabins at night and practice mountain biking, archery, hiking, and arts and crafts during the day—the camp offers focused programs such as creative arts or horseback riding. And if the clan needs a break from the housecat’s despotic demands, it can attend a family camp over Labor Day weekend.
Benjamin Allen believes outdoor pursuits can positively influence those in need. This belief has led him all over the continent, building a ropes course for an orphanage in Mexico and setting up two courses for troubled youth at Provo Canyon School, a bit closer to home. Wanting to share his knowledge of nature with the public, he set up a course, CLAS Ropes Course, near Utah Lake nearly 20 years ago. Benjamin and his crew have since erected more than 50 ropes courses around the country, continuing to inspect ropes and train others how to run them.
CLAS Ropes Course continues to grow each year, creating obstacles such as a giant swing that releases passengers 40 feet in the air, a 400-foot zipline that whizzes through forest canopy, and a "leap of faith," where adventure seekers jump from a treetop platform to a trapeze. A log balance beam hung 30 feet above the ground and a 24-foot-tall rock-climbing tower test agility and endurance, and a fleet of 20 canoes lets paddlers navigate a mile and a half of river. Many of these structures play host to team-building activities focused on developing a group's creativity and tolerance for hearing one another sing. Staff members tailor their instruction to families, dating groups, or athletic teams. They often apply their approach to athletes, such as a professional golfer who traveled all the way from Texas hoping to conquer her fear of not qualifying for tournaments. She defeated the log balance beam, departed victorious, and qualified during her next tryout two weeks later.
Though it began as a snowmobiling tour group in the early 1980s, the family owners of High Country Rafting quickly expanded their territory to the water, the trails, and the forest canopy. Conducting most of their trips on a 6-mile stretch of the lower Provo River and a 12-mile canyon-clad expanse of the Weber River, High Country's guides encourage locals and visitors alike to explore the area's rugged terrain and take in the natural treasures made possible by its ecosystem. The company frequently puts this love of the environment into practice, urging catch-and-release during fishing excursions and often lending their gear to others for trips down the river to collect drifting garbage.
The group's more than 20 guides lead rafting trips down the Provo River's class I and II rapids or the Weber River's class II and III rapids, pointing out local flora and fauna as well as unique rock formations along the way. Combination trips set out on a mountain train ride before rafting commences or add ziplining to a day of rafting, sending guests out of water and sweeping through overhead tree canopies over the Provo River. Prospective guides with High Country Rafting commit to internalizing the local rivers and terrain on their own before they're trusted with leading groups, ensuring each one knows how to handle excursion variables and what the river gods' favorite appeasing snack is on Tuesdays.
The passionate trio of guides at Open Water Fishing isn't content to compete with the swarms of amateur anglers vying for fish on the state's most popular waters. Instead, the team takes heed of their motto, "the fishing is best where fewest go." To that end, they gather up bait, tackle, and eager patrons at their home base in Provo and travel to five less-trodden rivers throughout Utah. During excursions, they'll show fishermen of all levels how to snare wild cutthroat trout on Upper Fish Creek, brown trout at Diamond Fork, or rainbow trout on Strawberry River. The guides practice catch-and-release, frowning upon the more popular catch-and-send-as-a-jury-duty-stand-in. They also provide snacks and drinks on every trip.
Once inside Anguish Asylum Haunted House, visitors will have to navigate a labyrinth of horrors, the scope and variety of which seem to have come from the interlopers' deepest nightmares. Some of the scares are familiar, such as demonic clowns, chainsaw-wielding maniacs, and sudden at-work visits from recent exes. Then, visitors may find themselves on a rope bridge over a snake-infested jungle, or become the mind-bending witness to their own birth. Even the forces of nature itself attempt to keep intruders from escaping, forcing them to navigate a category-five hurricane before they can exit.
It can be tough to visit dinosaurs and outer space in the same day without a time machine and a rocket ship. But Visit Salt Lake's Connect Pass provides a loophole. It grants access to 13 Utah attractions, encouraging families to explore Salt Lake City and beyond. Those using the Connect Pass can see savings of up to 80% on combined admission costs.
At Clark Planetarium, for example, visitors go far beyond the Great Salt Lake and Earth itself, becoming dwarfed by the cosmos inside the Dome Theatre. The Leonardo Museum brings them back to civilization by merging science and creativity with exhibits such as Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out and a Pixel Playland where kids can manipulate electronic artwork.
Other venues emphasize the beauty and fun found in the natural landscapes of our home planet. Red Butte Garden's 100 acres of local flowers, plants, and trees includes scenic hiking trails, whereas the Utah Olympic Parks lets you choose one of three outdoor adventure courses. And, for those intrigued by animals, Utah's Hogle Zoo presents wildlife that ranges from big cats to sea lions who nuzzle their keepers, similar to the dinosaurs at The Museum of Ancient Life.