Thanks to its scenic location between the Wasatch Mountains and freshwater Utah Lake, not to mention its vibrant cultural scene, Utah Valley promises an action-packed trip. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, unique and varied local food, or a family-friendly vacation, there’s something for you in this exceptional stop along the Wasatch Front. Utah Valley is totally doable in a three-day weekend, and at the end, you’ll already be planning your next visit.
Maximize your time in Utah Valley by taking an early flight into Salt Lake City, the closest airport. Utah is big, and it’s worth renting a car to make the most of your time here, especially since some of the best sights are up the many Utah Valley canyons. From SLC, it’s about an hour’s drive south to Provo, your base camp for the weekend.
The region is known for the towering Mount Timpanogos, but you can see it from a different point of view at the Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Open only during the snow-free months, the national monument gives you access to the extensive (and stunning) cave system under the mountain. You can take a guided hike (or, for those feeling adventurous, an introductory caving tour). The three caves deep inside Mount Timpanogos are connected by man-made tunnels created by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, and you’ll learn all about their history.
You can continue exploring the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains—this time from above ground—by driving the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, a popular route through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Beginning at the mouth of American Fork Canyon, the road traverses 20 miles of incredibly rugged Wasatch Range, finishing up in Provo Canyon. Along the way, passengers can take in views of Mount Timpanogos, the Lone Peak Wilderness, and vast groves of aspen trees. A $6 pass to the recreation area is good for three days, and allows visitors to stop at the numerous vistas and picnic areas along the way.
Once you’ve finished up the afternoon’s exploratory mission, check out downtown Provo’s excellent dining scene. Communal features a farm-to-table philosophy and family-style serving that will give foodies a taste of what Utah Valley has to offer, agriculturally speaking, while Black Sheep Cafe fuses Native American, Mexican, and Southwestern flavors for unique dining experience. After dinner, head to Rockwell Ice Cream Company for a sweet treat (and some flavors you’ve definitely never tried).
Continue your outdoor exploration by taking in one of the area’s best known sights—Bridal Veil Falls. Head up Provo Canyon to reach this 1.5-mile hike, which is all on paved trails, making it a good option for families. The 607-foot waterfall is stunning, and there’s a picnic area if you need to refuel after the hike.
Next, head to Sundance Mountain Resort, the world-famous ski area, cultural center, and home of the Sundance Institute and film festival. Its owner is actor Robert Redford, and, attention movie buffs, Jeremiah Johnson was filmed near the resort. There’s plenty of hiking to stretch your legs (more than 10 miles of trails), and ziplines for the thrill-seekers. If you’re up for another waterfall hike, the trail to Stewart Falls (about two miles) is an excellent option. When you’re finished, enjoy a meal at the Foundry Grill.
You can continue exploring Sundance Resort and maybe catch a show? The Sundance Summer Theatre features an incredible setting at the Eccles Stage Outdoor Amphitheater, which is surrounded by pine trees and features a postcard-perfect view of Mount Timpanogos. The season runs from late July to mid August.
You’ve got a lot to get done on your final day in Utah Valley. Start with Thanksgiving Point, where you’ll find manicured gardens, two museums, an interactive farm, and regular festivals and events. There’s more than enough here to spend a day here, but there’s a lot more you want to hit before heading home. You can also grab a bite to eat at the excellent Harvest at Thanksgiving Point, which serves lunch and dinner featuring locally sourced ingredients. Also while you’re in Lehi, check out the Outlets at Traverse Mountain, which is a fun place to get some great deals before you leave.
Of course, this doesn’t even touch on the summer festivals that have become so popular in Utah Valley. You can plan your trip to coincide with America’s Freedom Festival over Independence Day weekend, one of the country’s biggest 4th of July celebrations. Balloon Fest is held in conjunction with the Freedom Festival, attracts more than 25,000 people come out to see the dozens of hot-air balloons. In September, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival brings some of the country’s best-known storytellers to Utah Valley for a one-of-a-kind celebration.
As you can see, three days isn’t enough time to squeeze it all in. That’s OK, you can save what you miss for the next trip.
Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.