4 Best Hidden Gems in Heber Valley

Utah Deer Creek Reservoir
Utah Deer Creek Reservoir Michael Jolley
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The Heber Valley contains many hidden gems of Utah’s Wasatch Back. Enveloped by mountains in all directions, the valley boasts year-round recreational activities suitable for the whole family. Here are just four of the attractions that attract people to this amazing valley each year.

1. Heber Valley Railroad

The Heber Valley Railroad dates back to the late 1800s.
The Heber Valley Railroad dates back to the late 1800s. Edgar Zuniga Jr.

Have an interest in locomotives, live entertainment or simply enjoy scenic rides? Then the Heber Valley Railroad is for you. Originally built in the late 1800s to transport hay, sheep, cattle, and dairy products to the market, the Heber Valley Railroad now offers numerous entertaining, scenic, and informative train rides suitable for the whole family.

Depending on the time of year, you’ll be captivated by the themed entertainment on board, like a trip to the North Pole while sipping hot cocoa or a gun-fight and train robbery set to western music on The Cowboy Express. The Heber Valley Railroad’s standard scenic rides are available from late April through October, though their Monday Night train is available almost year-round.

Looking for a little more adrenaline? Try one of Heber Valley Railroad’s Adventure Trains, the Raft n’ Rails (available from June-August) or the Zipline & Train Ride (running from June-September). These half-day excursions combine a scenic ride on one of their trains and include an adventure of your choosing. The rafting excursion runs a 6-mile section of the Provo river through Class I and II rapids, suitable for the whole family. On the Zipline, you’ll get to experience a canopy tour over the Wasatch mountains and take in a bird’s-eye view of Deer Creek Reservoir. This tour is recommended for children aged 8 and up. Both adventures include a gourmet boxed lunch.

2. Homestead Crater

Did you know you can scuba dive in Utah? A dip in the Homestead Crater offers one of the most unique outdoor experiences in the state. The only warm scuba diving destination in the continental west, the Homestead Crater is a 65-foot deep geothermal hot-spring, with water pulling up from the ground two miles below. Hidden beneath a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone deposit, the Homestead Crater is protected from the elements and makes for an incredible year-round activity. The water remains at a comfortable 95 to 96 degrees year-round. Whether you want to learn to scuba dive, stay closer to the surface with snorkeling gear, or you are just looking for a relaxing soak in the warm water, the Homestead Crater offers a memorable experience for everyone.

3. Three of Utah’s State Parks

Deer Creek Reservoir offers a wide variety of water sports.
Deer Creek Reservoir offers a wide variety of water sports. Murray Foubister

With three state parks within its bounds, Heber Valley provides endless options for your recreational needs. Just 10 miles to the north, the Jordanelle Reservoir is known for its great boating, paddling, camping, and fishing. The Hailstone Recreation Area has designated RV & tent camping, cabanas, and pavilions available for day use and even offers two cabins for overnight rentals. Jordanelle’s Rock Cliff Recreation Area immerses one in nature with its boardwalks and interpretive trails that meander along the wetlands. More than 200 different kinds of birds and mammals live in this Rock Cliff area, including golden eagles, redtail hawks, deer, elk, and moose, making it a nature photographer’s dream. The Rock Cliff Nature Center is the perfect place for kids and adults alike, to learn about the ecosystem surrounding the park.

Deer Creek Reservoir, situated 11 miles to the southwest of Heber City, is perhaps lesser known than Jordanelle, but is an excellent choice for recreational watersports. The standard wakeboarding and waterskiing will entertain most, but if you’re up for a totally bold and unique experience, try a kiteboarding lesson with Uinta Kiting. Boat rentals and zipline tours are also available at Deer Creek reservoir.

The 23,000-acre Wasatch Mountain State Park is home to four majestic 18-hole golf courses, miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and more than 122 camping areas. The Soldier Hollow golf course offers two courses differing in intensity, but equal in their breathtaking views of Mt. Timpanogos. Wasatch Golf Course also offers 36 holes of pristine play, and its Mountain Course was named one of Golf Digest’s "Best Places to Play" in 2004. If golf isn’t your thing, the Dutch Hollow trail system has more than 20 miles of singletrack mountain biking that will satisfy a mixed level of riding abilities.

4. Midway Ice Castles and Cascade Springs

The Midway Ice Castles are an impressive winter sculpture that changes daily.
The Midway Ice Castles are an impressive winter sculpture that changes daily. Ted & Dani Percival

The Midway Ice Castles are something out of a dream. During the day, columns of ice pillars tower above you, emitting an enchanting blue glow. Visit at night, and you’ll be dazzled by a spectacle of neon lights, emanating through the opaque ice. The castle weighs about 25 million pounds, and more than 5,000 icicles are added to the behemoth daily. The initial designs were inspired by an ice cave that Brent Christensen built for his daughter in the front yard of his Alpine, Utah home. Since the ice castles are entirely weather dependent, you’ll have to visit their website to know when it’s open. Tickets do sell-out during the season, so try to get your tickets in advance of arrival.

In the summers, take a scenic drive on the Alpine Loop out to Cascade Springs. Though Utah’s mountain desert landscape isn’t typically known for its water features, Cascade Springs changes the tune as more than 7 million gallons of water run through the springs daily. Located in American Fork Canyon, Cascade Springs is an easy day trip from Heber Valley. Please be mindful of the approach road, as it is very narrow and not suitable for vehicles longer than 30 feet. The trails, however, are suitable for all ages and abilities, though only the lower trails are handicap accessible. Pay this place a visit if you’re looking for a peaceful mountain experience. You’ll be able to spot cutthroat trout and perhaps even some otters in the pristine Cascade Springs water.

Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.

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