SALT LAKE CITY — Small towns have a magic all their own, and Utah is dotted with charming, picturesque places that will make you appreciate rural life in its many forms. Here are five Utah towns of fewer than 2,000 people that will make you want to unpack and stay awhile.
Spring City is in the heart of Utah, nearly two hours south of Salt Lake City. The entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its 1.3-square miles include locally-run businesses, restaurants and art galleries.
The coolest part? It's become something of a haven over the years for artists and it's not difficult to plan a trip around one of the town's events celebrating local art, music and writing.
Bonus: Forbes named Spring City one of the prettiest towns in America in 2010.
Garden City will probably be familiar to Utahns who grew up taking trips to Bear Lake. The resort town's location on the lake's shore makes it a popular vacation destination during the summer.
Bear Lake's bright blue waters and the activities that come with them are popular when it's warm, of course, but you can also make a trip during the winter to snowmobile, ski and even snowshoe. And don't miss out on Raspberry Days, held in August, to celebrate the area's well-known raspberry harvest.
Garden City is about two hours northeast of Salt Lake near the Idaho border.
Moving south, we have Springdale: the gateway to Zion National Park. The town is known to adventure-seekers and outdoors enthusiasts for the gorgeous red rocks that surround it and the local restaurants and shops you can stop by on your way into and out of Zion.
Don't let the "small town" moniker fool you: Springdale has a couple million visitors every year and caters to them with dozens of restaurants and cafes, spas and art galleries. It's worth a visit even if you don't plan to head into the park.
Head a couple hours northeast of St. George and you'll find Panguitch. Take a peek into the Old West with a stroll along the main drag, most of which is on the National Register of Historic Places and retains a Western theme.
Go during the second week of June for the Quilt Walk Festival, an annual three-day event in celebration of the settlers who saved Panguitch in 1864. The story goes that a short growing season cut off the harvest for settlers who were on their way east from Parowan. A group headed back to Parowan to get supplies for the starving settlers and had to travel over an 8,000-foot pass with deep snow. "The only progress that could be made over this frozen, crusted snow, was to lay a quilt down, walk to the end of it, relay it and walk again," according to the Panguitch Quilt Festival website.
If you're looking for a true escape from city life, Green River is the place to be. Raft through Desolation Canyon if you're feeling adventurous or visit the John Wesley Powell River History Museum to learn more about the history of exploration along the Green and Colorado rivers. Museum admission is $2 for kids and $6 for adults.
Green River is located in the eastern reaches of Utah, about three hours from Salt Lake City and four hours from St. George.
Editor's note: This story initially reported that the Panguitch settlers wrapped the quilts around their shoulders. It has been updated to reflect that they laid the quilts down and walked on them.
Steph Grimes is a writer and editor based in Las Vegas. Follow her on Twitter: @stephgrimes