Situated in the rugged foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, Heber Valley is a place with a lifetime of adventurous outdoor activities right at its doorstep. The quiet mountain towns of Midway and Heber City are your gateway to Utah’s "Little Switzerland," whose nickname applies as much in the summertime as it does when the snow flies. Whether you like to explore by bike, ATV, or on your own two feet (and whether you prefer to be on land, water, or in the air), you’ll find something to your taste in Heber Valley. Here are seven reasons to make it your first stop next summer.
Thanks to its proximity to the rugged Wasatch Mountains, Heber Valley has no shortage of hiking access for all ability levels. Your first stop should be Wasatch Mountain State Park, nestled in the Wasatch foothills. For a $7 admission fee, you’ll gain access to 22,000 acres of pristine Utah landscape. Check out the Dutch Hollow System’s Heber Valley Overlook, a 2.4-mile, out-and-back hike with views of the valley and the Provo River. The 22-mile Coyote Canyon Trail is a great place to peep wildflowers, including the Utah state flower, the Sego Lily. Advanced hikers in good physical shape can opt for a bigger climb, like the 12.7-mile roundtrip hike up Mount Timpanogos, which gains more than 4,500 feet in elevation. (The views are worth the effort.)
2. Mountain Biking
Heber Valley is surrounded by incredible mountain bike trails. Wasatch Mountain State Park’s Dutch Hollow Trails are known for their mountain biking. The 12-mile WoW (Wasatch over Wasatch) trail is a fantastic ride for intermediate bikers. Outside the park, the 12-mile Strawberry Narrows trail skirts the Strawberry Reservoir and has rolling hills for much of the way. The 16-mile Soapstone Basin Loop is a local favorite and offers views of the High Uintas. For serious cyclists, Deer Valley Resort also runs lift-serviced downhill mountain biking during the summer months. The Wasatch Trails Alliance builds, maintains, and advocates for area trails; you can purchase maps at the state park visitor center for $5.
Fishing in Heber Valley is a year-round pastime, and you’ll find that the rainbow and brown trout are out in force during the warm summer months. For easy access, head to Center Canyon, about eight miles west of Heber City. The four-mile trail up the canyon crosses Daniel’s Creek several times. The Currant Creek Reservoir, on the outskirts of Wasatch County, is stocked with brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout. The Provo River, too, is known for its blue-ribbon fishing. Several local outfitters, including Rocky Mountain Outfitters, also offer half- and full-day fly-fishing trips, where a profession guide will show you the best spots to cast.
4. Horseback Riding
What better way to take in the Old West than from the back of a horse? Midway-based Rocky Mountain Outfitters is a concessioner for both Wasatch Mountain State Park and the Homestead Resort, so you’ll have access to a huge range of guided experiences. Sunrise and sunset rides are a great option during the summer, when temperatures are soaring, because you won’t be riding during the hottest part of the day. To really rest and relax, consider a package that includes a yoga session. Kids as young as eight can join in the fun.
Utahns love their off-road vehicles, and Heber Valley is no exception to the rule. With nearly 50 miles of riding available, the Strawberry Peak OHV Trail is a local favorite. The Mill Canyon Complex is an ATV playground, too, with 75 miles of well-maintained trails ranging from beginner-friendly to very difficult. The 20-mile intermediate Cummings Parkway ride is popular for its views of Heber City and Mount Timpanogos. If you’re not equipped with your own vehicle, numerous local outfitters rent ATVs and side-by-sides, and some, like New Heights Rentals, even deliver them to the trailhead for you. One outfitter, Wasatch Excursions, has a concession to guide in Wasatch Mountain State Park, so if you’re not quite ready to head out on your own with a rental vehicle, a guided trip is an excellent option.
6. Railroad Adventures
The historic Heber Valley Railroad is a must-see attraction for visitors to Heber Valley. The branch line ran freight and passengers from its completion in 1899 until the mid-1960s, then reopened as a scenic railroad. The main depot, where you’ll start and end your trip, is conveniently located in Heber City. Rides range from an hour and a half to a three-hour round trip, and the 16 miles of railway wind up into Provo Canyon for spectacular views of the river and surrounding mountains. In addition to its standard scenic rides, the railroad offers adventure packages during the summer, allowing passengers to pair their ride with a six-mile rafting trip down the Provo River or a high-adrenaline zipline tour of the Wasatch Mountains.
The Provo River, just above Heber Valley, offers Class I and II rapids for rafters who know their stuff (and those interested in signing on with a guided excursion with a Midway-based outfitter). Aside from the rapids, though, Heber Valley has plenty of flatwater boating opportunities. The 17,000-acre Strawberry Reservoir offers access to tons of side trails, and you can spend days exploring its shoreline. (It was also home to Utah’s record-holding trout, which tipped the scales at over 26 pounds.) Strawberry Reservoir is known for its sailing conditions. Boat rental is available at the Strawberry Bay Marina (call ahead for reservations). Non-motorized boats are allowed on the tiny Mill Hollow Reservoir, and Deer Creek State Park, at the base of Mount Timpanogos, makes an idyllic setting for a day on the water.
Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.