The ‘Off-Season’ in Park City Is Just as Good as Ski Season
Everyone knows about Park City, Utah. At least, they think they do. When you tell your friends you spent a long weekend in Park City, they’ll probably pepper you with questions about the slopes. Indeed, at an elevation of 7,000 feet and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Park City is best known as a ski town. Even the famed annual Sundance Film Festival takes place in the middle of ski season. But if you’re exclusively visiting Park City in the winter, you’re only seeing a small part of it.
As winter transitions into spring and summer, the area takes on an entirely new character, defined by myriad warm-weather activities that will make you wonder why you haven’t been coming to Park City during the “off-season” all along. Whether it’s fly-fishing on the Provo River, zip-lining at the Utah Olympic Park, horseback riding through the mountains, or grabbing a local brew at one of the city’s year-round restaurants, the warmer months are actually the best time to visit. Here’s why the term “off-season” really doesn’t apply to Park City.
You don’t need snow to enjoy these mountains.
When you think about “mountain towns” out west, you might envision fluffy powder, epic jumps, and cozy ski lodges. But a real mountain town doesn’t simply shut down when spring rolls around. When the Park City mountains close to skiers, it isn’t long before hikers and bicyclists take their place.
There are several trails here that any outdoors enthusiast should add to their list, especially the Round Valley Trail System just northeast of town. This moderate hike brings you through 700 acres of open space and is great for both walking or mountain biking. The Silver Lake Trail is somewhat more advanced but well worth it if you’re in decent shape. The trail begins at the Deer Valley Resort’s Silver Lake Lodge and winds 1,300 feet up Bald Mountain. Along the way you’ll have sweeping views of the Jordanelle Reservoir and the Uinta Mountains. For avid bikers, the Wasatch Crest Trail atop the Park City Ridgeline has the most stunning views in the area, with a 360-degree perspective of the Wasatch Mountain range, Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Park City itself.
The rivers and mountains teem with wildlife.
You may have braved the mountain trails, but you haven’t really communed with Utah’s nature until you’ve stood in the middle of the river grappling with a rainbow trout. In Park City, fly-fishing is a way of life, and you’ll quickly understand why. The Provo River is abundant with brown trout, rainbow trout, and whitefish. If you’ve never donned a set of waders, forded a river, and got your line caught in a tree more times than you care to admit, you need to.
Even if you’ve never held a fishing pole before, Park City Fly Fishing Guides will have you feeling comfortable in no time. As a beginner, there’s no better feeling than battling a rainbow trout against a dramatic mountainous backdrop, and finally hauling it in. If you do catch one, make sure to relish the moment and take some photo-proof before letting it go.
Fishing might be one way to get the true mountain experience out west, but there’s really nothing like riding on horseback through the mountains. The guides at Red Pine Adventures offer horseback rides with incredible mountain views, in one of the most serene ways to experience the Park City wilderness. Especially in summertime, you can expect to ride alongside the area’s rugged ridges and see deer and elk, meadows full of wildflowers, and natural alpine lakes.
More adrenaline than skiing
Just because you can’t catch big air on the slopes doesn’t mean your trip will lack excitement. Adrenaline junkies can find plenty of other ways to fly through the air, especially at the Utah Olympic Park, located just a few minutes’ drive from the town center. One of the sites of Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the park offers a variety of unique activities, like zip-lining, ropes courses, and an alpine slide. If you visit the park during the winter, you can even bobsled on a real Olympic bobsled track.
If zip-lining above the treetops in the Olympic Park isn’t quite extreme (or high) enough for you, you can charter a hot-air balloon for a bird’s-eye view of one of the country’s most beautiful and rugged landscapes. You’ll fly low enough to spot wildlife like deer and elk but high enough to have perfect views of the Salt Lake Valley. Watch the sun rise over the mountains with a morning flight or enjoy a romantic sunset on an evening ride.
You’ll find plenty of relaxation, as well.
After a full day of rope climbing, zip-lining, or soaring 9,000 feet in the air, no one would think less of you for wanting a little break. Sure, you could just take a nice bath, but the Serenity Spa is right down the road. Located inside the Westgate Resort & Spa, only a few minutes from the center of town, the spa is easily accessible and offers pretty much every kind of restorative treatment you could possibly want. You don’t have to go thrill seeking all day to justify a two-hour massage, but it’s a pretty good excuse. With a heated indoor/outdoor pool and a luxurious ski lodge aesthetic, the sprawling Westgate is the perfect base for your Park City trip, and a great oasis after an adrenaline-pumping day.
Park City is the “Cool Utah”
Whether deserved or not, Utahans will be the first to admit that their state has a reputation for being rather stuffy. Residents of Park City, however, are quick to point out that their city is the exception. “We’re the cool part of Utah,” says fly-fishing guide Layne Edwards. “Even in shoulder season, you’ll never have trouble finding a busy bar.”
With two floors and an outdoor patio area with views of Main Street, No Name Saloon & Grille is always busy. The walls are adorned with quirky Americana, and even in the “slow season” the bar is packed with locals enjoying a range of locally brewed or distilled drinks. Indeed, Park City is home to both distilleries and breweries in which they take great pride. Alpine Distilling is a locally owned gin distillery that allows you to make your own gin, and the Wasatch brewery has been a local favorite since 1986.
In both winter and summer, Park City comes alive with music. Downtown, check out The Cabin or the OP Rockwell Cocktail Lounge & Music Hall. Winter regulars know that for ski-season nightlife, Canyons Village is the place to be, but many forget that it’s no less lively in the summer. Canyons Village is the heart of the Park City ski resort, with shops, restaurants, hotels, and bars, designed as a comprehensive entertainment hub. In the center of the village, the Umbrella Bar offers food and drink in a lively outdoor atmosphere, and there’s even a summer concert series every Thursday and Saturday night through August 29. And if you’re staying at the Westgate Resort, Canyons Village is right in your backyard.
Good food all year long
Ski towns don’t always have the best food reputation. But Park City isn’t just a ski town, and its food certainly isn’t reminiscent of disappointing lodge fare. For tapas-style bites, head to Handle right off Main Street. These delicious sharing plates, especially the shishito peppers — which are a local staple — will make you want to order one of everything on the menu.
After a long weekend of reeling in trout, flying over the treetops, and partying on Main Street, you deserve to treat yourself. The Edge Steakhouse, inside the Westgate Resort, is undoubtedly one of Park City’s most delicious restaurants, serving up quality domestic steaks and some of the best scallops you’ve ever had. Since the hotel is on the cusp of Canyons Village, the restaurant is perfectly located near both the mountains and some of the city’s premier shopping and entertainment, so you can enjoy a post-dinner drink pretty conveniently. Edge isn’t cheap, but this multi-course dinner isn’t just a meal — it’s an experience, and the perfect way to cap off an epic Park City trip.