Emily Waltman at Devil’s Castle, Photo Credit Casey Hyer
Elephant in the City, Vol. 2: Adventuring in Utah’s Great Outdoors
Elephant in the City is a Yalecrest Homes blog series exploring the funny, awkward and serious questions about moving to and living in Salt Lake.
I typically find that new clients moving to Utah fall into two camps. The first is the outdoor enthusiast: someone who has most likely vacationed here, knows the terrain and can’t wait to immerse themselves in everything the Wasatch Mountains—and Utah—has to offer. The second, and I fell into this category when I moved from Southern California: those who have heard about the skiing, the mountain biking, the climbing, the camping, and the hiking, but really have no idea where to start.
For the novice, average and advanced outdoor enthusiast, we’ve compiled a list of top-notch apps and resources that we (and a few of our neighborhood experts) use to plan their outdoor adventures along the Wasatch Front (and beyond).
If you are one of the lucky few who have been exploring our mountains for a while now, we’d love to get any insider tips your willing to share in the comments section below. Comments entered before October 31, 2018 will be entered to win a $40 gift certificate to Ruth’s Diner up Emigration Canyon (you can ride your bike there). It may just help someone on the path to a lifetime of adventure!
Skiing and Snowboarding
An economical time to start skiing and snowboarding is during January’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. Beginning skiers will find $49 deals that include rentals, lessons and a day pass. Ski Utah, in cooperation with local resorts, posts season long learn to ski and snowboard programs that include $5-$10 ski days after 3:00 pm at Alta, and 5-free Park City/Epic Resort passes for kids K-5th grade.
Ben Emory, marketing manager at Ski Utah, highly recommends the 5th and 6th Grade Passport Program which gives 5th graders 3-day passes and 6th graders a 1-day pass at each of 14 local resorts. The passport is $45 and has coupons that include free or discounted rentals and discounted parent passes.
Anyone interested in skiing more than 4-5 times a season should strongly consider buying a season pass. Most resorts offer tremendous discounts to locals, with even more savings if purchased before Labor Day. Some resorts even offer installment plans when you purchase in the spring for the following season.
If you’re unsure which resort is right for you, this Resort Comparison is a great place to start. Local favorites are Brighton if you have kids (10 and under ski and snowboard free, but it can get crowded on weekends and holidays). Alta is for skiers only and has some of the best powder and terrain along the Wasatch Front, but can also be hard to access on busy days. Snowbird is your place if you’re looking for steep and deep while Park City and Deer Valley offer acreage and cushy resort amenities.
Emory also recommends seasonal ski or snowboard rentals for beginners. He has a few season rental partners he recommends, but plenty of ski shops around the valley offer this service as well. Like ski passes, you’ll want to pick up seasonal rentals in the early pre-season for the best selection.
If you are ready to buy your own equipment, you can find great deals at local ski swaps. Ski Utah has this handy ski swap calendar; swaps usually start in September and run through October. We also want to give a plug to our neighborhood ski outfitter, The Sports Den. They offer high-end demos and rentals if you are considering taking your ski (or mountain bike) gear up to the next level.
If you are a beginning mountain biker, you will find most ski resorts provide mountain bike rental, lift passes and instruction. Deer Valley Mountain Bike School is a great place to start with afternoon and twilight clinics for adults and children. Snowbird has fantastic women-only clinics from June to mid-August.
Young Riders, a youth mountain biking program in Park City, hosts bike swaps and provides weekly programs and camps for burgeoning bikers. Registration opens the end of March and fills up quickly.
Middle and high schoolers interested in biking will find most public and private schools offer after-school mountain biking clubs. East High Mountain Bike Team welcomes 7th-12th grade bikers at any level.
A more cost-effective way to start mountain biking is to find a second-hand bike on KSL.com and start riding. TrailForks, a mountain bike trails app, provides highly-detailed maps and reviews of local trails; start on their beginning trails close to the Valley and move on to more advanced trails when you are ready. MTB Project, an REI co-op, offers trail maps, race information, and forums on mountain biking by location. You can also revisit some of the resorts you rode as a beginner and try on their more advanced trails for size.
Climbing is definitely an outdoor sport where you need solid training before venturing into the canyons alone or with a group. Salt Lake has several excellent climbing gyms where you can get instruction or find climbing groups. The Front Climbing Club, and Momentum Climbing Gym offer a range of classes for all levels and ages and offer a wide range of outfitting gear. The Bivy app (mentioned again below) has a great list of local climbs that you can sort by classification and level of difficulty.
Hiking and Other Canyon Sports
Bivy is our favorite app for most local adventures. You can filter by trails, waterways and climbing, and then specify hiking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, trail running, cross country skiing, road biking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, climbing, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, canyoneering, bouldering and climbing. Their list of adventures is extensive and so are their detailed sorting options and adventure reviews. Other hiking apps that we give two thumbs up are HikingProject and AllTrails.
If apps aren’t your thing, we recommend a trip to REI or Kirkhams for local trail maps, books, personal tips or hired guides. They can also give you more information on fishing and camping if you are interested in extending your one-day hike to two, three or more.
Boating, Sailing and Sculling
Utah is ranked sixth in the nation for the amount of boatable water per capita. Within an hour’s driving distance from Salt Lake you’ll find seven boatable reservoirs: Jordanelle, Deer Creek, Pineview, Willard Bay, Utah Lake, Echo, and Strawberry. These lakes are accessible to boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boarders and sailboats. Many of the reservoirs will rent boats, and other equipment, by the hour or day. Drive a few hours north to the cobalt-blue waters of Bear Lake, a few hours south to scenic beaches of Lake Powell.
It is true that you can swim and float in the Great Salt Lake. The smell, flies and dirty water deter most. If you are set on floating in the lake, spend a day on the beach at Antelope Island; you’ll see herds of bison, antelope and wild horses along the way. Another way to explore the salty-side of the lake is with The Great Salt Lake Rowing Club. They offer sculling lessons on the lake as well as competitive and recreational teams. For those of a more artistic bent, we highly recommend a day-trip to see Robert Smithson’s world-famous earth art, the Spiral Jetty.
On the north side of the lake, you’ll find plenty of enjoyable beaches and boatable water on the fresh-water portion of the lake at Willard Bay. Surrounding Willard Bay, near the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, you’ll also discover treasure troves of wetland teeming with rare migratory birds.
Living the Luxurious Mountain Life
If your idea of a long day on the slopes is sitting by the fire, reading a book and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of wine, you are in luck. You don’t have to strap on skis, slide on hiking shoes or jump on a bike to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.
Deer Valley, Park City and Snowbasin offer world-class dining and spas. Any day is a good day to make a lunch or dinner reservation at Stein Eriksen Lodge or ride the funicular up to The St. Regis Bar and Lounge. Other favorites of ours: swimming on the rooftop at Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge; snowshoeing into the Yurt at Solitude for dinner; or picnicking at Deer Valley or Snowbasin during Utah Symphony’s outdoor summer concert series. There really are too many spectacular restaurants and hotels to count; we recommend discovering a few favorites and signing up for their promotional emails. Plan on amazing discounted room rates and meals during the off-season spring and fall months. A never-camper may want to test out their threshold for comfort at one of Utah’s top-5 glamping sites. We personally recommend the Conestaga Ranch at Bear Lake; but, be warned, it will spoil any camping experience you may have in the future.
A Note on Southern Utah
Hundreds of books, let alone a few lines in this blog article, have been devoted to exploring Utah’s spectacular southern lands. Visit Salt Lake has links to all of Utah’s national and state parks and their driving distance from Salt Lake. Park websites offer valuable vacation planning information, including seasonal closures. The number one thing to know before planning any vacation to Southern Utah is that campsites need to be reserved often 6 months to a year in advance and that many hikes and climbs require permits with the same lead time. You can make national park campground reservations at Recreation.gov and state park reservations here.
Hayes family adventuring around Utah
Murakami family hiking in Millcreek Canyon
Share your favorite hikes, trails, climbs, resorts, or other outdoor tips. Comments before October 31st will be entered to win a $40 Ruth’s Diner certificate.