TRAVEL: Summer Best Time to Visit Park City & Heber Valley

If you’re looking for a great place to visit this summer, may I recommend a location that doesn’t get the national park crowds, yet is close enough to any of the parks that you could hit both of them or more during the same trip? 

I’m sure you all know about Park City, the northern Utah ski town that brings in tens of thousands every winter for the world class skiing via three resorts in a town with a population of just over 8,000 people. 

Yeah, Park City is great in the winter and incredibly crowded. In summer, the crowds are (mostly) gone–local officials complain yearly that visitation in July and August isn’t what it should be, and the surrounding areas are gorgeous. So you get fewer people and lower priced lodging!

We’re talking green, green grass in the many fields, snow-capped mountains, the coolest temps in Utah (thanks to the elevation of 7,000 feet up) and miles and miles of trails that are just fantastic for hiking and biking. 

As a long-time visitor to Park City, I’ve always loved biking there, but climbing those hills was torturous. That’s all changed, thanks to the advent of e-bikes, and the pedal assist!

Park City is a 30-minute drive from Salt Lake City plus you’ve got the proximity to so many other great places that are nearby. A drive to Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole is four and a half hours away, Yellowstone is just up the road from there and Lava Hot Springs is right over the Idaho border from Utah. Plus to the south, Arches National Park in Moab and Zion National Park in Springdale are also a little over four hours away.

Old historic home off Main Street in Park City

Let me give you some ideas of what to do when you visit. 

–You will start on historic Main Street, where many buildings date back to the 1800s, when Park City began its roots as a silver mining town. Many properties still look like you might have imagined back then, but have also been updated with modern galleries, pricey knick knacks and cafes, restaurants and bakeries. (Not everything is expensive here, you just need to look selectively.) It’s very pretty though, and a fun walk. Be sure to get on the side streets to see the historic, colorful homes and stairs that go up forever. 

–Park City Mountain and Deer Valley. The Mountain ski resort stages a weekly Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays in the Mountain parking lot, which is fun, and all sorts of high-octane activities. My favorite: renting a bike and taking it to the top on the lift, then barreling down the ski run dirt roads. Deer Valley has well-attended summer concerts. 

–Rail Trail. The 28-mile biking and hiking trail goes through town over the old train tracks that brought the miners to Park City. Tip: rent an e-bike at White Pine Touring on Bonanza Road, which is at the beginning of the trail, and continue through Park City and some of the neighboring towns.

–McPolin Farm. The highlight of any summer visit to Park City–parking on the side of the road, walking in the tunnel that goes under the road, and exploring what’s billed as the most photographed farm in Utah. The farm, which dates back to 1922, is a proud, historic farm on the side of the road that’s now a Utah historic building. Trails align the farm, making it a great place for a hike. 

–Kimball Junction. Away from the history of Main Street and the ski motif of the resort is a newly built city within a city, Kimball Junction, a massive shopping center and hotel complex near the freeway, home to a giant Smith’s supermarket, fast food restaurants and specialty shops. 

A cow takes a sip of water on a hot summer day in Heber City, Utah, by Jefferson Graham

Meanwhile, down the road from Park City, about 20 minutes away, are the cute towns of Heber City and Midway, known collectively as the Heber Valley. Here you will see history–as in the old 1850s homes built by Swiss settlers in Midway that have been kept up and still look great, open land with incredible views of Mount Timpanogos and the farming community of Heber. It’s definitely worth the drive. (And don’t miss out on the 150 varieties of milk shakes at the Dairy Keen in Heber!)

–Where to stay: In Park City, all those condos for skiers have many openings during the summer, at more affordable prices. The Visit Park City tourism site has listings for them all on the website. In Heber, two resorts, the Homestead and Zermatt, have a combined 400 rooms available; on the lower scale, there’s a Holiday Inn, Best Western and Mac’s Motel in town. 

Have fun exploring and see you all on the next Photowalk!


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