Big Family Fun Without the Big Price Tag (Or Hours in the Car)

There’s no shortage of family-friendly trails to enjoy in Heber Valley.
There’s no shortage of family-friendly trails to enjoy in Heber Valley. Heber Valley Tourism/Monique Beeley
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Cradled by the picturesque Wasatch Mountains in north-central Utah, the Heber Valley provides the perfect setting for a fun and relaxing family vacation on a budget. With three main towns to visit—Park City, Midway, and Heber City—a collection of state parks and reservoirs for outdoor recreation, and readily accessible scenic excursions in the surrounding area, there’s something everyone in the family can enjoy. That appeal to the whole family—along with affordable lodging options and its close proximity to Salt Lake City—has made the area a popular destination for family reunions. No matter how many family members are in your group, you’ll find spectacular outdoor settings that are less than an hour from Salt Lake City. Here’s a start on what you can expect on a trip to Heber Valley.

Where to Stay

Since 1886, the Homestead Resort in Midway, Utah, has welcomed visitors to the region. Generations of families have made regular trips to the resort, which serves as an excellent home base for exploring Heber Valley. The beautiful, iconic inn offers guest rooms and suites in the main building, and two- and three-bedroom condos are scattered around the property to accommodate larger groups. All condos have a full kitchen and daily housekeeping, and visitors have access to all of the resort’s amenities. A trip to Homestead Resort means access to indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, horseback riding, fly fishing, and championship golf and one of Utah’s top mountain courses, Crater Springs.

Take a tip in the unique Homestead Crater, a geothermal spring that’s located on the property within a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock. An opening at the dome’s apex brings in sunlight and fresh air while the mineral water remains consistently between 90 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit. The incredible geologic formation is worth visiting even if you don’t get wet. For those who do want to indulge, you can go swimming, scuba diving, or snorkeling in the crater—or just take a relaxing soak.

Daniel’s Summit Lodge in Heber City, Utah, is another property with a rich history in the region. Originally won in a poker game, the lodge is nestled in the Uinta National Forest and filled with rustic elegance and amazing views. You won’t have to travel far to find incredible hiking, mountain biking, and fishing at the nearby Strawberry Reservoir. Some family members can find adventure riding ATVs on the nearby trails, while others may prefer to spend some time relaxing in the spa. The four-season lodge also features an on-site restaurant, guided horseback tours, and watersports, including windsurfing, water skiing, and pontoon boats.

Got a big family? That’s not an issue with the Silver Springs Lodge in Heber City, Utah, which can accommodate more than 40 people. This luxury lodge features 10 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, a game room, a media theater room, and a private pool and spa. Outside the home there’s plenty of room to play, with a large nearby pond for canoeing and fishing. You’re also just minutes away from trails for hiking, mountain biking, and ATVing. It’s become a popular spot for both family reunions and destination weddings, with staff available to assist with the planning if desired.

The property is also located close to the historic Heber Valley Railroad, which features 16 miles of track between Heber Valley and Vivian Park in Provo Canyon. The one-and-a-half hour trip (one way) features some of the most spectacular views in Utah, and a number of seasonal activity rides are also available, including the Monday Night Train, the North Pole Express, the Murder Mystery, and the Rafts ‘n’ Rails, which combines river rafting with the train ride.

Hiking in Heber Valley

No matter where you stay, you’ll find an abundance of some of the state’s top hiking trails. Just outside of Heber City in Wasatch Mountain State Park, you’ll find the Heber Valley Overlook Trail, a family-friendly path that takes you on a 2.4-mile loop with a modest 300 feet of elevation gain. But don’t let the trail’s lack of elevation gain and short mileage fool you: This overlook hike offers a lot of bang for your buck. With sweeping vistas of Heber Valley, the Provo River, and Mt. Timpanogos, this popular trail is a great way to see the natural beauty of the region. The trail is accessible in the warmer months, typically April through October, and offers spectacular wildflower viewing during peak blooms.

Cascade Springs has accessible paved walkways and boardwalks to help families see the scenic falls.
Cascade Springs has accessible paved walkways and boardwalks to help families see the scenic falls. Heber Valley Tourism

In the Uinta National Forest, Cascade Springs is another must-do spot for families. This stunning deciduous forest features an array of natural springs, waterfalls, and streams situated just outside of the center of Heber City. Take in the beauty of Cascade Springs by driving the Alpine Loop Scenic Backway, which takes you through Provo Canyon before looping back into Heber City. Add the half-mile nature walk within the park to get a closer look at the springs and waterfalls. The trail is great for all ages and abilities, featuring paved walkways and boardwalks in a delightfully scenic setting, especially during the fall months.

Mountain Biking Trails

Located just southwest of Midway, Utah, is the Dutch Hollow Canyon Trail System, which features a series of interconnected singletrack loops, each about one to three miles long. In total you can find more than 14 miles of unique trails, which start at an altitude of 5,750 feet and rise to 6,800 feet. But you don’t have to do a lot of climbing (unless you want to), as there are smooth, relatively flat trails for beginners. If you want to challenge yourself, there are plenty of options that feature tight singletrack with roots, rocks, and stumps, in addition to the climbing.

Take a Scenic Drive on Guardsman Pass

Experience endless views of the valleys below on a scenic drive through Guardsman Pass.
Experience endless views of the valleys below on a scenic drive through Guardsman Pass. JR P

Experience vibrant fields of wildflowers, lush forests of evergreen and aspen trees, and seemingly endless views of the valleys below on a scenic drive through Guardsman Pass. This route is easily accessible, situated seven miles north of the town of Midway on the southern edge of Wasatch Mountain State Park. To see the forest at its best, plan a drive through Guardsman Pass in the autumn, when the aspens turn an impressive golden orange color and the oak trees like up with bright red hues.

Take in the Views on Mirror Lake Scenic Byway

Another option starts outside the town of Kamas, Utah (just east of Park City): The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway heads into the breathtaking Uinta Mountains toward Wyoming. The drive takes you along the Provo River and offers plenty of opportunities for photographing the views at scenic overlooks, picnicking, taking short hikes through the forest, or camping overnight to extend your stay. The entire road is paved—though it is closed in the winter due to its high elevation and heavy snow—and spans 56 miles from the town of Kamas to the Wyoming border.

Explore Jordanelle and Strawberry Reservoirs

Stand-up paddleboards provide a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy the reservoirs.
Stand-up paddleboards provide a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy the reservoirs. Heber Valley Tourism/Monique Beeley

Two major reservoirs serve the Heber Valley and are excellent destinations for watersports. The Jordanelle Reservoir is just minutes north of Heber City was constructed in 1992, and it’s become the go-to spot for boating, water skiing, and wave runners. You can rent equipment through either Uinta Recreation or Jordanelle Marina Rentals. The area also features sandy beaches, day-use cabanas and a playground, making it the perfect spot for younger kids. At the southern end of Heber Valley, Strawberry Reservoir is go-to spot for fishing.

Ziplining

Heber Valley has two ziplining options that will thrill the whole family. Zipline Utah, located in Deer Creek State Park, features an open-air zipline course that includes wide-open views of the Deer Creek Reservoir and the surrounding mountains. Adventurous types will want to try the Screaming Falcon course, which features a 3,900 foot zipline over Rainbow Bay, the longest zipline ride in the world over this size body of water. The course also includes a total of 10 ziplines and seven aerial suspension bridges. Zipline Utah is targeted at older kids, with a minimum size of 75 pounds to ride.

While offering plenty of thrills on its own, Adventure Zipline Utah in Provo Canyon offers tree-top canopy tours that are accessible for younger adventurers with a minimum weight of 45 pounds. But those seeking excitement will find plenty to love here as well here in the Wasatch Mountains overlooking the Provo River.

Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.

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