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America's 5 Most Geographically Interesting Cities

Published: 10/27/2017
By Scott Beyer, Forbes — There’s a bit of rivalry right now between Denver and Salt Lake City, and it is not hard to see why. They are the two fast-growing beacons of America’s Intermountain West, experiencing economic prosperity despite their wildly different cultures and political philosophies. Nestled into this debate about sports, food, beer and culture is one about which city has the better geography.

The debate is interesting, since both Denver and Salt Lake City sit on the east and west ends, respectively, of the southern portion of the Rocky Mountain Range. Denver is about 30 miles away from the actual mountains, meaning breathtaking real-life panoramas are available throughout the metro. The most interesting panorama I found was from an elevated road in the neighboring eastern suburb of Aurora. From just a few miles away, I could see the Denver skyline—impressive in its own right—sitting as a mere speck before a massive mountain vista, off in the distance, that stretched as far as was visible to the north and south.

But I’m still going to pick Salt Lake City, because it is more proximate to the mountains. SLC’s portion of the Rockies is known as the Wasatch Range, which has peak elevations of over 13,000 feet. Some of these mountains tower down over SLC and Provo, just 45 miles south. The easternmost neighborhoods of both cities actually work their way up into the foothills.

This proximity also causes water runoff, helping explain why there are large lakes that leapfrog these cities to the west – including the Great Salt Lake past SLC, and Utah Lake past Provo. While the Utah Lake is a freshwater lake, the Great Salt Lake is salty, writes, because “it does not have an outlet. Tributary rivers are constantly bringing in small amounts of salt dissolved in their fresh water flow. Once in the Great Salt Lake much of the water evaporates leaving the salt behind.”