If you're anything like a lot of us, during the pandemic, you might've been perfectly fine staying indoors if it involved stepping away from a cubicle for a while. Yet still anxious to absorb nature, witness beautiful views and engage with other humans - preferably conversations that didn't involve politics and a world spinning "out of our control."
You may have redirected that energy to what is in our control, like marking a few things off of your bucket list!
Exploring parts of Utah was definitely one of mine. This particular experience is suitable for multiple ways of travel - by train, car, or plane. Whether your stay is at a campground, Airbnb, or hotel, it's still an experience. The first thing I had in mind was nature.
Honestly, it was crowded at some of the national parks. So it was best to be selective about which park to explore. However, we had to consider the distance of the hikes. It's important to understand our bodies and what they can tolerate when spontaneously traveling. I think most people would like to have a good idea of what to expect.
How long is the hike?
How's the view?
How steep is it?
It's tricky to put a single grade on a hike. However, Utah's hiking committee designed a rating system that ranks the toughness of the walk on a scale from easy to difficult. It also gives a brief yet helpful description of each trail. Pretty handy, eh?
1. Capitol Reef National Park
People seem to love hiking and camping here! It's worth it to take one early morning opportunity for a short hike through this gorgeous canyon. It is pretty deep, long, and narrow. We witnessed other hikers sightseeing and even enjoying breakfast on the edge of some of the rocks. I wouldn't say I'd recommend that part, not because it's the edge but due to the risk of attracting more wildlife with food. Some hikers caught a glimpse of the domed peaks. It was a surprise how much it resembled the Capitol in DC. It's surely worth the drive. Over time you'll learn your preference. For me, it's discovering gems on the journey instead of reading reviews and solely basing my decision on someone else's experience.
What an adventure! It's so exciting to see what follows when the earth is under pressure!
I'd say Capitol Reef is perfect for someone who doesn't hike regularly or has issues with their joints. Of course, some hikes are short and sweet, but you definitely get to see the beauty you came for!
The hike to Goosenecks Overlook in Capitol Reef was short but captivating. If you're craving an outdoor adventure, this is a great choice. It didn't feel right to just drive through it, so I took my time there. One of my favorite parts was spotting limestone and sandstone in the rock and looking at the domes. The rating system gives you an accurate breakdown. Goosenecks Overlook is one of the easier hikes.
Utah's State Parks are perfect places to see wildlife like northern plateau lizards, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, yellow-bellied marmots, bats, prairie dogs, woodrats, beavers, coyotes, porcupines, etc. It's rare to come across rattlesnakes, but it happens, and they are usually spotted in high elevation slopes.
TIP: Keep your eyes open, stay alert when walking into caves, and be aware of holes!
2. Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is stunning! I remember the drive like it was yesterday. We really went out of our way to get here! Fun fact: It was discovered in the 1800s. There's a trail that guides you to the peak of the falls, and it's pretty steep. You can actually see it from HWY 189. Some stay in the lower trail. I suggest bringing hiking poles if you wish to climb higher.
We saw a lot of children playing in the stream with their parents close by. This seems to be an ideal family-friendly adventure.
We heard an old folktale about a woman named Norita. She was in love with a man named Grey Eagle. But, unfortunately, he was from a rival tribe. Grey and Norita desired marriage, but members from both tribes informed her they murdered her husband to be! Apparently, Norita was so distraught she jumped off of the cliff! Head over heels, much?
Grand Wash (Short, sweet, and beautiful.)
We drove for hours until the rising sun welcomed us-----that was lovely. It may have been one of my favorite parts of the trip! The weather was nice, which made it even sweeter.
Seeing the earth's sheer excellence gave me a sense of gratitude.
Grand Wash is a pretty narrow, flat canyon. There are a lot of small caves to explore. You could even walk back the way you came and get a nice little leg stretch once you get to Cassidy Arch and the Scenic Road.
3. Treasure Hunts in Utah
Treasure Hunts in Utah started in 2020 when the pandemic began. The hunts are guaranteed for all ages. The hosts (The Cline Family) encourage everyone to get involved in finding the hidden treasure! They even leave little clues in your inbox once subscribed to their blog. The prize money has doubled this year. ($10,000 in cash!)
Participating households can fill out their addresses and anticipate the first clue to arrive in the mail. After how well both events turned out, I'm pretty sure that this will be an annual event. Even if you don't find the hidden treasure, it's exciting to see a community come together so creatively. You'll definitely get a workout and explore! So, if you happen to be in the area and want to register, you can sign up here.
4. Places to Stay, Camp: Wonderland RV Park
Wonderland RV park is a super cool spot with beautiful views close to Torrey, Utah. I thought this was pretty neat. This gem is a full-service RV park about 5 minutes away from Capitol Reef National Park. They offer cabins and stations to shower along with well-kept campgrounds.
Outside of tent and RV camping, there's plenty of vacation rentals in Utah. We had the opportunity to book an affordable Airbnb in Salt Lake City. I usually prefer a private Air BnB where I don't have to contact the host. But I took a chance on a private room vs. a private house. The host was very accommodating, super clean, and informative. He arranged a brilliant setup downtown next to the Trax. The backyard is such a nice getaway! The tabletop fire pit and hot tub were so relaxing and homey. We had a fantastic time!
Capitol Reef Resort
Capitol Reef Resort is another great option. It features a buffet breakfast, 24-hour fitness center, outdoor pool, hot tub, etc. The Pioneer Kitchen is in the very building as the Capitol Reef Resort lobby. You could really amp up the experience with horseback trail rides, jeep safaris, and Llama Day Hikes (open from March-early November). It's in the mountains, right outside Capitol Reef National Park. But, not too far from Goosenecks Overlook.
5. Places to Dine, Sip, & Such: The Coffee Shop at Little America Hotel
Little America's upscale hotel has a cute restaurant called The Coffee Shop. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner...from scratch. This place is so elegant! It was such a great dining experience. We especially liked the decor. It's an exciting combination of old-fashioned and modern. The first night we showed up for dessert and coffee. The flavor of the coffee paired so well with the sweetness of the creme brulee and strawberry shortcake. The items were reasonably priced. We literally came back the next day for lunch by Trax.
Travel By Train!
Frontrunner Stations are near top-rated attractions and city centers. This is certainly a cost-effective way of exploring Utah. You can purchase your ticket at one of the kiosks. The trains run from Ogden to Provo and serve a sum of 15 stations. If you're interested in bar hopping, dancing, or simply exploring, taking the train is a great alternative.
6. Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant
Ahh, this place! Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant created an amazing atmosphere. It's roughly one mile from Solitude Mountain Resort ski lifts. So we were able to eat and drink...while looking at the mountains! Our waitress personalized the service. The staff made the experience much more pleasant. They had an extensive wine, beer, and spirits list. I enjoyed the buffalo cauliflower wings. It had a bit of a kick, but I couldn't deny that the flavor was spectacular. I'll be returning to this establishment.
La Cueva Restaurant
How awesome is it that they had a mini sheep farm outside of the restaurant? This place is a short walking distance from Noor Motel on the road from Torrey to Capitol Reef. The restaurant is in the same building as a gas station. There weren't a lot of options for dining in the area, but the clerk referred the Chuck Wagon. We stopped here for lunch, and I'm so glad we did. We got there around 11:30 AM and waited until they opened at noon. We started with chips and homemade salsa. I had the tostadas -superb!
Utah's Interesting Alcohol Laws
I noticed the bars were pouring less than the full amount of liquor. I discovered if you, let's say, order Pale ale, they're only permitted to serve customers a 3.2% of tap, and if you want more, you have to buy a bottle!
The experience at the bar was lovely; however, the drinks in Utah kind of threw me off guard. I ordered my typical double shot of vodka with lime, chilled with salt on the rim. Little did I know I could only order a single shot. We didn't realize the bar only served alcohol. But it is BYOF, so it worked out quite well. Luckily there was a taco stand outside of the bar. They actually allowed us to bring our nachos inside.
On their website, they have a list of places to eat near the pub. They have one of the largest selections of beers in Utah. Keep in mind that the online menu may say they have food, but they don't.
I also met a woman from Zimbabwe here, and she was relocating to Texas. We connected being the only African American people in the bar. In fact, she was the one who recommended some of the best nightlife spots such as Twist, London Belle, and Echo.
We had the opportunity to walk on foot to the nearest liquor store, which allowed us more time to explore the city. Although, I can't say that it was as welcoming as the area downtown...
I hope the previous photo didn't steer you away too much. I found it hilarious because while we were making our way around, a security guard let us know the place we were looking for wasn't in the best area, and a lot of creepers hung out around the store. We had no problems on our way there. But as soon as I started walking back, I said, "What was that guy talking about? The area is fine." And then I came across that message on the sidewalk! Ha!
Anyway, the sole purpose is to "explore." I'm quickly learning the difference between an explorer and a traveler. Sometimes people have a desire to go but may not have a specific place in mind. And that sometimes turns out to be the most enjoyable part. Along the way, you tend to embrace what feels right.
In my opinion, it's usually more enjoyable to discover a thing, place, or person you were never actually looking for. So it's great to keep these spots in mind, but I encourage others to just show up and discover! While you're at it, don't forget to tell others what gems you come across. No matter which season, solo traveling or with friends, planned or unplanned, I think you'll enjoy it.
Ultimately, the majority of the beauty was right there in the middle of nothing! The further I walked, the smaller my problems felt. This getaway revealed that problems seem minor when you see this big, beautiful world and what it has to offer.
Do you have plans to travel to Utah?
If you've visited, what parts of Utah did you enjoy the most?