Adventure for All in the Heber Valley
- Posted On
- Apr 08, 2010
By Alexandra Fuller
Photos Monique Beeley
Jaw-dropping mountain views, green farmland ribboned with a clear river, two charming small towns with unique shops, restaurants and resorts, plus world-class summertime recreation. Add to this mix laidback friendliness reminiscent of simpler times and a location only 45 minutes from a major international airport and you get one of the world's premier mountain recreation destinations. Welcome to Utah's Heber Valley.
Nestled under the impressive shadow of the Timapanogos massif and flanked by two mountain reservoirs, the relatively small Heber Valley offers a startling diversity of warm weather recreation options within a very short drive. In a two-day window, a visitor to the Heber Valley could conceivably enjoy all of the following: hiking, mountain and road biking, fly fishing, boating, golfing, horseback riding, hot stone massage, soaking in mineral hot springs and dining in any number of locally owned cafes and restaurants. Here's how to fit it all in:
Morning One: Mountain Biking or Hiking
The Dutch Hollow area of Wasatch Mountain State Park offers panoramic vistas of the entire valley, plus miles of thoughtfully designed singletrack trails for all levels of hikers and bikers. The rolling Cottontail Trail winds through a wildflower meadow, and loops around a lookout point with an interpretive map sign. For more advanced riders, The Boneyard loop and The Barrel downhill offer challenging technical riding with playfully banked turns and steep descents through fragrant sagebrush. For guided bike or hike adventures on more remote trails, check out the Adventure Haus at Midway's Zermatt Resort or the Midway Adventure Company.
Afternoon One: Guided Fly Fishing
Considered one of the top 10 trout streams in the Rocky Mountain region, the Provo River courses through the Heber Valley, offering blue ribbon catch-and-release opportunities for fishing newbies and veterans alike. Four Seasons Fly Fishers and Trout Bum 2 both offer experienced guides and instructors who intimately know every bend and ripple of the Provo River. Both outfitters offer half and full-day angling sessions, with gear and snacks included.
Sunset One: Golf
No need to stop the fun now; cap the day with a sunset session on the links. Within a 10-mile radius are five 18-hole courses, offering something for every ability level and course style preference. The Homestead Resort's 7,000-yard, par 72 mountain course was designed by PGA Senior Tour Pro Bruce Summerhays and boasts northern Utah's only GPS yardage system. Wasatch Mountain State Park is home to two of Utah's most popular public courses: the challenging Mountain Course where golfers are likely to spot roaming elk, wild turkeys and other wildlife, and the gentler Lake Course with its pastoral beauty. An official competition venue during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Soldier Hollow offers 36 holes of championship golf on the appropriately named Gold and Silver courses.
After the Action: Resorts
The Heber Valley is home to several unique resorts and B&B's. One of the oldest is The Homestead Resort, which in addition to lodging, dining and conference services, boasts warm mineral soaking pools and the unique attraction of a 55-foot deep limestone cavern with 95-degree natural mineral water for swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving. Designed to resemble a Swiss alpine village, Zermatt Resort has won 14 Utah Best of State awards and is renowned for its luxurious spa. Charming bed-and-breakfasts pepper the valley; one favorite is The Johnson Mill. Others are listed here: BBIU.org
R & R: Spa Treatments
After so much action, some pampering is not only deserved, but necessary. The Spa at Zermatt Resort in Midway offers an extensive menu of Swiss and mountain-inspired treatments, from an Edelweiss Extract Massage to a Swiss Walnut and Pine Body Polish. All spa guests enjoy full access to the amenities of the resort's deluxe Wellness Center, including indoor/outdoor pool & hot tub, aromatherapy steam grotto and modern fitness center with gigantic picture windows overlooking the Wasatch Mountains. For the ultimate reward, the 90-minute Mountain Springs Hot Stone Massage uses custom-blended essential oils and heated basalt lava stones to soothe tired muscles and lull the body into a state of bliss. Delicious.
Morning Two: Family Fun
While the Heber Valley offers plenty of adventures for adults, there's no shortage of diversions for the whole family. In the National Forest lands above the valley floor, Daniels Summit Lodge offers guided horseback riding through stands of aspen trees and wildflower meadows for everyone eight years and older. Suitable for kids of all ages, the historic Heber Valley Railroad offers scenic rides in an old-fashioned train, as well as outings that combine a train ride with adventures like river rafting, horseback riding or hay wagon ride and cowboy barbeque dinner.
Afternoon Two: Get Wet
Whether visitors prefer lakes or rivers, thrills or chills, water abounds in Heber Valley. In addition to fly fishing, the Midway Adventure Company offers white water river trips on the lower Provo River for adults and kids three years and older. Or, to experience the river's action up close, try an inner tube float trip. Only a few minutes from both Heber and Midway, Deer Creek Reservoir beckons with over 3,200 acres of clear water and on-site powerboat and jet ski rentals. For a quieter outing, explore the rich bird habitat—home to osprey, bald eagles and sand hill cranes—along the lake's edges in a kayak from Zermatt Adventure Haus.
Sunset Two: An Evening Stroll
Wind down for the evening with a gentle stroll. From the Wasatch Mountain State Park Visitor's Center, enjoy mountain and golf course views along the one-mile walking path to Huber Grove, an historic settler's homestead with a 130-year old apple and pear orchard. And during autumn, visitors can pick several heritage apple varieties for $3 per bag. For valley and lake views, the Deer Creek Trail starts at Soldier Hollow and winds for eight level and easy miles above the river delta and lakeshore. Be sure to bring binoculars to take advantage of the excellent bird watching.
After the Action: Dining
After so much adventure, visitors are sure to have worked up an appetite. Both of the primary towns in the Heber Valley—Midway and Heber City—offer locally owned restaurants and cafes in a range of prices and cuisines. In Midway, the Bear Dance Café has casual pub fair and an upstairs sports bar. In Heber, Snake Creek Grill is a favorite for diners and food critics alike, with its homey comfort food with an innovative twist and an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. On Main Street, Spin Café boasts barbeque and other Americana favorites, plus really good gelato. And, Tommy's Texas Barbecue has authentic smoked entrées. Don Pedro's Mexican Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, dine in or carry-out. A popular local favorite is Dairy Keen, "Home of the Train", a "Best of State" award winner for burgers and shakes.
R & R:
No need to return frazzled from vacation. End the getaway with a relaxed body and spirit by indulging in a yoga class from Heber City's excellent local studio, Lotus Leaf Yoga. The experienced instructors offer a range of classes for every ability level, including the therapeutic Restore/Meditation, which calms the nervous system and brings the body into a relaxed state. For those who still haven't had enough action, the Fusion Flow class combines a heated room with fluid movement to energize and detoxify. Classes are offered daily; check the website for the seasonal schedule.
For details about summertime visits to Utah's Heber Valley, visit www.gohebervalley.com.
-article by Alexandra Fuller