Utah’s Heber Valley is a four-season, outdoor-centric destination ideal for adventurous families. It’s a welcoming place for kids to explore, with accessible trails, train rides, ice castles, water and snow sports, and all manner of destinations that have something for all ages. Heber Valley is a great vacation destination in the summer or winter, less than an hour’s drive from downtown Salt Lake City and just minutes from the popular tourist destination of Park City. Here are some of the best activities you can do with the family, whether you come in the snowy season and or the heat of the summer.
1. Visit the Midway Ice Castle
The Midway Ice Castle has quickly become one of the state’s top winter draws—and you can see why it’s so popular with the kids. Built each year by hand, the castle features 5,000 icicles that are colorfully lit each night. Meet the enchanted ice princesses as you enter the castle (feel free to take pictures with them), and start your tour of the impressive structure. Wear boots, as the floor is made of crushed ice. You’ll find pint-sized ice slides for kids to race down, and hot cocoa stations are available to help you stay warm. As will the show put on by the Fire Performers, who are at the castle Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. You’ll see a high-energy show with fire breathing, fire spinning, and other feats with the hot stuff that will be sure to impress all ages. Just be sure to book your tickets online in advance as time slots sell out fast.
2. Heber Valley Railroad
What kid doesn’t love a train ride? And chances are they’ve never experienced anything like the Heber Valley Railroad before. The railroad was important in the region as until 1899, residents in Heber Valley used it as their primary link to the outside world. The railroad is still in operation today, but it now has become the most scenic and fun way to get an up-close look at the incredibly beautiful valley. A trip on the railroad is like a step back in time. For kids, themed train rides are offered throughout the year, including the Princess Train, the Wizard Train, a Chocolate Lovers Train, and a Wild West Train. On some rides, the train stops midway through the ride and old-west train robbers board to threaten to steal the parents "gold." Each Monday night, a family-friendly 90-minute ride is available through Heber Valley to the shores of the Deer Creek Reservoir, and it includes sing-alongs, food, treats, and other surprises—all at an affordable price. Arrive early to see the Old West gunfight prior to boarding.
Kids love to fish, and while there are limitless options in the region where you can drop in a line, Wasatch Mountain State Park makes it easy and fun for the kids. Visitors can rent poles for just $3 per day, and bait is available for purchase at the Visitor Center. Plus there’s a fish cleaning station right next to the parking lot to take care of your catches. For older kids, several local guide services are available to help you find the top spots to fish depending on the time of year. The Fish Heads Fly Shop, located on Main Street in Heber City, and Rocky Mountain Outfitters both offer options on the Provo River, one of the best sources for trophy trout in the country.
4. Tubing and Cross-Country Skiing
In the colder months, Soldier Hollow is your base area for winter sports. This venue served as the cross-country and biathlon event course in the 2002 Winter Olympics, and today is still a premiere location for wintery fun. Young kids will love it because of the tubing hill, the longest one in Utah with 1,200 foot-sliding lanes. The parents will love it because of the magic carpet conveyor that takes people and tubes back to the top of the hill with ease. The seven groomed tubing hills mean that there is never much of a wait. Pay for two hours of time on the hill, with unlimited rides, and it’s even available at night under the lights. Multiple events are scheduled here in both winter and summer, including US Ski and Snowboard cross country championship races, allowing families to watch talented athletes compete and train. And for those who enjoy cross-country skiing, the trains are expertly groomed daily, making them perfect for skiers of all ages.
In the summer, easy rides with the family are the way to go. You can rent bikes in Midway from Midway Adventures, and then use their handy maps to access looped trails directly from the rental shop. Choose from among mountain bikes, hybrids, tandem bikes, and trailers for the perfect option for your family. You’ll may end up just staying in Midway, riding from shop to shop and enjoying all the amenities of this quaint town known for its Swiss heritage. Or hop on the Midway to Heber Bike Path, which starts in front of Midway Adventures. You can take the 3.5-mile paved path all the way to Heber, and it features a covered bridge over the Provo River. The Wasatch Mountain State Park is also just down the street—and a great spot for a picnic. Older kids looking for a challenge can go further afield with the bike trail systems at Deer Crest and Deer Valley near Park City, only a short drive away. The Soldier Hollow ski trails area also open for mountain biking during the summer months.
6. Homestead Crater
Want to swim in a crater? Of course you do! The Homestead Crater is a 55 foot beehive-shaped limestone rock filled with naturally flowing hot water. Kids can snorkel in it, parents can relax and soak in it, and everyone is happy. The crater is located on the Homestead Resort grounds, a property worth considering to be your home base for your Heber Valley stay. The grounds are charming and families can reserve suites for extra space.
7. Zip lining
Zip line the longest route over water in the world right in Heber Valley. Zipline Utah takes families through five lines total to get back to the start, with the Screaming Falcon Adventure course taking the prize for for the longest continuous zip line course in the world— two miles long without your feet touching ground. You’ll experience aerial bridges and up to 500 stairs on your adventure. Provo Canyon Adventures offers the area’s best tree-top canopy tour, and it features zip-line experiences for kids as young as 7 years old. You can also combine your zip line ride with stand-up paddleboarding on the Provo River or horseback riding in the Wasatch National Forest.
8. Aqua X Zone
Never heard of this water park located at Jordanelle State Park? It’s newly opened and already a hit with families, for good reason: this floating playground of inflatable slides, tunnels, tubes, rafts and trampolines will keep the whole family entertained for hours. It’s open during the summer season for swimmers age six and up—and it’s adventure your kids will never forget.
Originally written by RootsRated Media for Utah Office of Tourism.