An Insider’s Guide to Ogden

Causey Reservoir is the perfect place to enjoy a solitary lunch on an isolated shore.
Causey Reservoir is the perfect place to enjoy a solitary lunch on an isolated shore. Intermountain Region USFS
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Ogden, Utah, is a glorious conundrum. It’s just as likely to see cowboy hats as it is to see spandex or business casual. Beat-up Subarus with mountain bikes on the roof drive next to giant pick ups and German cars. The city is, at the same time, old-west and historic, yet modern and chic. Forbes Magazine has called it one of the best places to raise a family, and a top place for business and careers. It also made National Geographic’s Top 10 list of Emerging Ski Towns.

Its history ranges from a rough-and-tumble pioneer outpost, to a major transportation hub, to the hip, funky town it is today. Originally named Fort Buenaventura, Ogden is the oldest settlement by Europeans in Utah. Prior to that, several Native American tribes called the area home for generations.

The list of outdoor adventures available around town is mindblowing. Right off the bat, there are more than 266 miles of hiking trails. Ranging from casual strolls to full-blown peak ascents, hikers can gaze at wildflower-strewn vistas and photograph amazing waterfalls; there is something for everyone. The best part? Many of the hikes begin right from town, no driving to some far-off trailhead.

Biking options are endless in Ogden.
Biking options are endless in Ogden. Intermountain Region USFS/Doug Wewer

Mountain bikers already know some of Utah’s other cities well. While Moab and Gooseberry get all the press (and all the crowds), Ogden has quietly developed into a legit cycling destination that has remained a bit off the radar. Again, with the wonderful convenience of starting right from town, riders can choose from relatively flat and flowy cruises to lung-busting climbs capped off by techy, white-knuckle descents. If looking to go big, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest sits just adjacent to the city, offering up even more mileage and adventure. Need to work those skills? Check out the bike park, accessible from the 9th Street Trailhead. Built with progression in mind, there are multiple lines to choose from, from easy greens to gnarly double blacks, so riders can jump, drop, huck, wall ride, pin, and flow to their heart’s content.

Part of the reason the region was originally so perfect for settlement is the fact that it sits at the confluence of two great rivers, the Weber and the Ogden. What helped early pioneers farm their land back in the day, makes for excellent paddling for all skill levels. The Huntsville to Ogden section of the Ogden river is five miles and ranges from Class II-V. And, the area proudly boasts up to Class IV action right in town. In fact, there are actually three kayak parks nearby, one with Olympic-style slaloms.

Looking for a more leisurely float, or to get some fishing in? Two nearby reservoirs, combine to offer up 13,000 acres of freshwater to anglers trying to nab large and smallmouth bass, crappie, tiger muskie, perch, bluegill, and walleyes. To avoid motorboats, head to Causey Reservoir, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a solitary lunch on an isolated shore, the lake is lined by scenic cliffs and secluded canyons.

Ogden sits right at the confluence of two great rivers, the Weber and the Ogden.
Ogden sits right at the confluence of two great rivers, the Weber and the Ogden. Alan Cressler

Climbers are certainly not left out of the mix here, either. Whatever kind of climbing: sport, multi-pitch trad, top roping, and even ice, the area's crags have it all. With more than 350 routes ranging from 5.6-5.14, there is plenty for all. Don’t have a rope or a ton of time? Check out the aptly named Boulder Field. More than 100 problems are accessible from town, allowing you to grab a quick pump during a lunch break.

The fun doesn’t stop when it’s time to swap shorts for sweaters, either. Utah, as a whole, has a well-earned rep for some of the best snow in the country, and Ogden is right there. Within a mere 20 minutes from downtown, visitors can choose between three world-class ski resorts and carve turns into some of its whopping 450 inches of annual powder.

Eventually, everybody needs a rest day. Lovers of the stories of the past are basically required to head to the vintage Union Station, located in the Historic 25th Street District. It houses an exhaustive railroad exhibit, the Browning Firearms Museum, a cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and a classic car collection. It also happens to have not one, but two art galleries. For more modern history, the Hill Aerospace Museum should not be missed, and kids love the Dinosaur park and the Treehouse Children's Museum.

Ogden has museums and parks galore, but make sure to check out Hill Aerospace Museum.
Ogden has museums and parks galore, but make sure to check out Hill Aerospace Museum. Eric Salard

With all this action, visitors work up quite an appetite. The number, variety, and quality of food choices in town is mind boggling. From haute new-American cuisine, to down-home family cooking to a round-the-world tour, downtown Ogden is a foodie heaven. Even Hollywood has recognized it. Kirt’s is a classic ’50s drive-in that has retained its vintage charm, it appeared in the classic teen movie Drive Me Crazy. Just don’t leave town without heading to Jeremiah’s for the local delicacy: the Utah scone. Similar to indian fry bread, this heavenly treat is eaten with honey butter.

And then, rest. Again, choice is the name of the game when it comes to lodging. Stay in a teepee at historic Fort Buenaventura, the settlement that started it all, or stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. Everything from quaint, antique inns and romantic B&B’s, to modern, stylish urban hotels for every budget happily await weary guests with a friendly smile.

Fortunately in Ogden, one doesn’t have to choose between being a history buff, boutique hunter, gastronome, nightlife lover, and an outdoor athlete. One visit, and it’s easy to see why people have found it easy and enriching to stay here over the centuries.

Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.

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