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Park City and the Southern Wasatch Travel Guide

Plan Your Park City and the Southern Wasatch Vacation

Although the Wasatch Range shares the same desert climate as the Great Basin, which it rims, these craggy peaks rising to more than 11,000 feet cause storms moving in from the Pacific to stall and drop massive amounts of precipitation. The result is a 160-mile stretch of verdure that is home to 2 million people, or three-fourths of all Utahns. Although its landscape is crisscrossed by freeways

and dappled by towns large and small, the vast Wasatch still beckons adventurers with its alpine forests and windswept canyons. Those who visit follow in the footsteps of Native Americans and in the wagon-wheel ruts of Mormon pioneers and miners.

As the meeting place of three geologically distinct regions—the Rocky Mountain Province, the Colorado Plateau Province, and the Basin and Range Province—the Wasatch Range combines characteristics of each. Within this one compact range you'll find broad glacial canyons with towering granite walls, stream-cut gorges through purple, tan, and green shale, and rounded red rock bluffs and valleys.

Uppermost in many people's minds is the legendary skiing found at resorts such as Snowbird, Alta, and Park City. But this region is truly a year-round destination. Bright-blue lakes afford fantastic boating, sailing, windsurfing, and waterskiing opportunities. Some of the West's best trout streams flow from the high country. Add to this the picturesque mountain communities, miles of hiking and biking trails, and truly spectacular alpine scenery, and you have a vacation that's hard to beat.

The snow stops falling in April or May, and a month later the temperatures are in the 80s. (Locals joke that if you don't like the weather in spring, wait a minute and it will change.) Spring may be the shortest season, but it's one of the most interesting. You can ski in the morning, and then play 18 holes of golf or hike through fields of wildflowers in the afternoon. In summer, water-sports enthusiasts of all stripes flock to the region's reservoirs, alpine lakes, rivers, and streams to fish, water-ski, windsurf, sail, and canoe. The Wasatch Mountains also draw people on foot, bike, and horseback seeking respite from the heat of the valley.

Fall's colors rival those of New England. On a walk through a forest or drive along a scenic route, you'll see the yellows, reds, oranges, and golds of aspens, maples, and oaks against the deep evergreen of fir and spruce. Fall drives along the Alpine Loop east of Provo or up Pine Canyon out of the Heber Valley are autumn traditions.

You can also find cultural activities and entertainment at every turn. The Sundance Film Festival, hosted by actor-director Robert Redford, attracts movie stars and independent filmmakers from all over, and gets bigger every January. Major recording artists of all types play both indoor and outdoor venues along the Wasatch Range. The number of nightclubs is increasing, featuring everything from blues and jazz to folk and rock; and Park City offers an ample variety of nightlife possibilities.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Outdoor fun Regardless of the season, Park City is the epicenter of mountain adventure. Winter sports lovers know there are three alpine ski resorts, but equally compelling are hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails in the summer and winter. You come here to play, not to watch, whether your speed is a hot-air balloon float or an 80 mph bobsled run.
  2. Three top-tier resorts No place in North America has three resorts so close to one another, not to mention a trio as dynamic, luxurious, and unique as Deer Valley, Park City Mountain, and Canyons. Deer Valley has the well-deserved reputation as the resort with superior hospitality and dining—that happens to have thousands of acres of meticulously groomed trails as well. Park City benefits from its central location (you can literally catch the lift in the town square), and Canyons boasts more acreage than any resort in the area, so much that you can’t ski it all in one day. But the resorts offer not only skiing, but also year-round adventures and hospitality. Olympic spirit If you sense that you can feel the legacy of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games on Park City, it’s because this town probably boasts more Olympians per capita than any town in the country, if not the world. Most of the 2002 events took place in the Wasatch Range, including skiing at Deer Valley, snowboarding at Park City, sliding sports and ski jumping at the Utah Olympic Park, and Nordic events at Soldier Hollow. Nearly every U.S. winter Olympian trains in Park City at some point every four years. Sundance Resort At the base of snowcapped Mount Timpanogos, Robert Redford’s intimate Western resort pays homage to art and nature with artists in residence creating works before your eyes. You can ski here too, but mostly it’s the calendar of performances and speakers, plus the space in which to bond with Mother Nature, that brings guests back again and again.
  3. Old Town First laid out by silver miners in the late 1800s, Park City’s historic Main Street has dozens of fine restaurants, bars, galleries, and boutiques. Though always vibrant, Park City’s hub really gets hopping for big events such as January’s Sundance Film Festival and August’s Park City Kimball Arts Festival.

When To Go

When to Go

One of the best reasons to vacation in the Wasatch is that a short drive from the valleys to the mountains will make you feel like you're getting ...

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