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Salt Lake City lies in the Wasatch Valley at the foot of the Wasatch mountain range, and if you're lucky enough to arrive by plane, you'll quickly see that its streets make up an almost-perfect grid and sprawl from the downtown center along the mountains all the way south to Provo and Orem and north to Logan. SLC proper is extremely manageable to navigate, though it's probably best to do so from a car, bus, or TRAX light-rail train as the streets are wide and blocks here are big. When Brigham Young established the city in 1847, his city officials wanted streets wide enough to turn an entire wagon team around. All the main streets on the grid are this wide, many of them in the downtown area now being used partially for mid-street parking. Getting around on foot poses thus a bit of a time issue. On the upside, SLC is known for its impeccable sidewalks, and you will find them on almost every street in the city.
The grid system of SLC makes getting around quite straightforward. The streets run north-south and east-west and spiral outward from the Mormon Temple in a grid plan. They are numbered as coordinates according to their position west/east and north/south of the Temple. So, if you are 4 blocks south of the Temple, you'd be on 400 South St., or as the locals say, 4th South. At 13 blocks east of the Temple, you'd be at 1300 East or 13th East. If you're at the corner of these two streets, you'd be at 4th South and 13th East, the corner where the University of Utah begins. The system is not nearly as complicated as it sounds once you get the hang of it. The trick is remembering whether you are east or west of the Temple--the mountains that are closer to the city are east; the mountains that appear further away are east. Most of the city is south of the Temple. There are only a few diagonal main streets in the city, Foothill Blvd. and Highland being the two major diagonal wayward streets.
Most of the canyons that surround the city have excellent roads that run through them, but of course, you'll need a car. There are buses that run in the winter up to the main ski areas in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons and shuttles to Park City. In the summer, the buses are less frequent. Thus, exploring Salt Lake City proper on foot is entirely possible, though it'll take time and patience (and a high tolerance for heat in the summer). Renting a car or taking a bus, though, is preferable, especially for getting up into the mountains that this place is known for.