When Kenon and I first moved to Utah people thought we were traveling ALL THE TIME because we would post photos of us in the mountains ALL THE TIME. However, this was not the case. We have mountain access just moments away from our front door. The Wasatch Range provides endless recreation opportunities year-round.
The Wasatch Range lines the eastern side of the entire Salt Lake Valley. It is 160 miles of an outdoor wonderland that stretches all the way from the Utah/Idaho border through central Utah. One of the visitors we had our first year living here did not understand how close the mountains really are. When we picked her up from the airport she looked out the window and said, “Wow! You really do have mountains RIGHT HERE.”
No trip to Salt Lake City is complete without a visit to the Wasatch. If you have ever seen a picture of Salt Lake City with a mountain in the background, you have glimpsed the Wasatch. There are so many things you can do in this range. Here are a few of our favorite options.
Drive Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon
This is the most laidback way to get into the Wasatch. The mouth of each of these canyons is less than 20 minutes away from Salt Lake City’s downtown. They are also super easy to find: just type “Big Cottonwood Canyon Drive” or “Little Cottonwood Canyon Drive” into Google Maps and follow that blue line.
Each canyon has its own unique sights and views. Little Cottonwood is more dramatic and in late summer ends in an array of wildflowers beginning at Albion Basin. It houses the ski resorts of Alta and Snowbird. Snowbird has a tram that you can ride to the top of the mountain. Enjoy lunch or grab a drink at the chalet at the top of the tram. Big Cottonwood is home to the resorts of Solitude and Brighton. It has incredible forest views throughout. Big Cottonwood drive connects to Guardsmans Pass which ends in Park City (this is only open in the summer). Both of them are worth the drive, an hour or more excursion each depending on how many stops you make.
There is literally every type of possible trail in the Wasatch range. Is your grandma with you and you want to get up above the city? Take her to Ensign Peak. Do your kids need to get out of the house and into the fresh air? Take them to the Draper Suspension Bridge. Do you want to push your body to its limits? Hike Mount Olympus. Want to pretend you are in Europe? Summit Pfeifferhorn. Visit this link to find more hiking ideas.
Utah has the greatest snow on earth because of the low humidity mixed with the lake effect coming off the Great Salt Lake. The Wasatch boasts six ski resorts within a 30 minute drive: Park City, Deer Valley, Solitude and Brighton (located in Big Cottonwood), Alta and Snowbird (located in Little Cottonwood). These resorts have an average snowfall of 500 inches.
There is also backcountry skiing. Check out this post to learn more about backcountry skiing!
Everywhere. Everywhere there are camping and backpacking opportunities. Because its an National Forest. You can camp pretty much everywhere. Check out this site for some of the best campgrounds in the area. Check out this site for some fun beginner backpacking ideas.
The Wasatch has amazing mountain biking. There are hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails. Visit this website for some top notch mountain bike ideas. You can also mountain bike at some ski resorts throughout the summer. Take a lift up to the top of Park City Resort and enjoy riding down.
The rock climbing is unlimited. There is sport climbing, trad climbing, and bouldering. There are also rappelling opportunities throughout the range. Visit Mountain Project to learn more!
On the Water Opportunities
Alpine lakes and reservoirs are dispersed throughout the range, some more accessible than others. Tibble Fork is an easy access boating destination in American Fork Canyon. You can also swim, stand-up paddle board, and hang out on the shore. A lot of upper elevation lakes are part of the watershed and therefore swimming and boating are not allowed. Always check the rules of the lake before heading out to an alpine lake.
It has hunting, trail running, snowshoeing, fishing, rappelling, animal watching, amazing photo opportunities, dirt biking, and more. It’s an outdoor mecca.
The Wasatch Range comes with so many opportunities to explore nature. It is what makes Salt Lake City what it is. Every age and ability level can find a way to enjoy the great out doors in the Wasatch.