Adventure Guide: Road Trippin’
With the coronavirus pandemic narrowing options for summer vacations, many Parkites and visitors are doubtless looking to the outdoors for opportunities for socially distanced adventure. It’s easy to find in Park City (see our world-class trails system, for instance) but there is no summertime tradition quite like loading the family into a car for a road trip.
Here are some of the top destinations for those eager to hit the open road.
Mirror Lake Highway
Looking for outdoor thrills but don’t want to stray too far from Park City? The Mirror Lake Highway, which begins in Kamas and climbs through the Uinta Mountains before reaching the Wyoming border, can’t be beat. Whether you want to spend the day kayaking at one of the many picturesque lakes along the route or take the RV out for an extended camping trip, you’ll find limitless adventure on what is the highest paved road in Utah. The eponymous Mirror Lake is one of the most sought-after destinations, and for good reason: It’s pretty much the definition of an alpine paradise. If you’re in the mood to work up a sweat, another popular highlight is nearby: Bald Mountain trail, which takes hikers to an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet and offers a panoramic and expansive view of the Uintas. If you go, one tip — don’t leave the camera at home.
Not that there’s a dearth of majestic wilderness within the borders of Summit County, but if you live in Park City — or even if you’re just visiting — how can Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks not be on your summer checklist? Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef are all within a five-hour drive from Park City, each offering a unique experience that can only be described as awe-inspiring. Additionally, Yellowstone and Grand Teton to the north are also nearby. Before booking a hotel reservation or a campsite, though, it’s wise to become familiar with the restrictions the parks have implemented in response to the coronavirus, and to consider the possibility of crowds as people from all over the country search for outdoor vacations in a time of social distancing. You don’t want to return home with the coronavirus — or inadvertently expose anyone else to it.
Not quite ready to rough it? Get your glamp on and experience many of the joys of camping without, you know, actually camping. Fortunately, there are a ton of places to glamp in Utah. Conestoga Ranch near Bear Lake is one popular option, offering tents and covered wagons packed with all the creature comforts of a hotel, as well as activities like horseback riding and even yoga classes. Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort is another alluring destination. Nestled on the eastern border of Zion National Park, the resort has an array of lodging options along with activities ranging from canyoneering to zip lines. Some of the best glamping sites in Utah are a little more off the beaten path, however, and can be found through nightly rental companies like Airbnb, so it’s worth doing some online searching to find the perfect spot.
Nine hours from Park City by car on the Utah-Arizona border sits Lake Powell, one of many Utahns’ most beloved summer getaway destinations. Want to feel the August sun beating down on you, with the refreshment of a dip in the water just steps away? This is the place. And sure, you can pitch a tent, establish home base in an RV near the lakeshore or book a hotel nearby. But for a true aquatic experience, consider renting a houseboat and live on the lake for a week or two. Standing on the deck and watching the sun fall in the distance over the glimmering water is not something you are likely to ever forget. You can even tow a smaller boat or a wave runner and really get the adrenaline pumping. Some houseboat rentals even allow pets, so Spot can take part in the family vacation.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
An outdoor adventurer’s utopia, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah has it all: guided hiking tours through slot canyons shaped over millions of years, boundless ATV trails beckoning to be traversed, climbing on dramatic rockfaces, horseback riding — and the list goes on. You’ll be exhausted by the end of the day but wake up the next morning ready for more and will leave counting down the days until your next visit. Anyone going to the monument, however, would be remiss not to spend some time learning about its history. American Indians lived in the area for hundreds of years, and the monument contains numerous heritage sites that are available to the public.
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