Sun and Fun Below Mount Timpanogos: Explorations of Deer Creek State Park
After strapping on life jackets, we waded shin-deep into the cool water to launch our boats. I carefully settled myself into mine and, grabbing my paddle, made a few gentle strokes and took in the scene. Families lined the shoreline and plenty of sunburned and smiling people were splashing in the water, paddling all manners of contraptions — including an inflatable unicorn — in the shallow water near shore. Colorful kayaks in bright greens, blues, yellows, and oranges dotted the lake, and far out, I could see speed boats and jet skis zooming across the water.
Earlier, when picking up our equipment, I had asked the kayak shop employee where people liked to go. In the Heber Valley area he recommended the small island in the lake, which wasn’t too far away. So, once we launched, we paddled that way, stroking across the water, and taking in spectacular views of towering Mount Timpanogos.
On the Reservoir
Deer Creek Reservoir stores water from the Provo River and two other rivers and is a part of the Provo River Project, which the Bureau of Reclamation began construction on in the late 1930s. At six miles long, the reservoir has a surface area of 2,965 acres, and its deepest point is 137 feet. The area became a state park in 1971, allowing for ample recreation both on the reservoir itself and along its 18 miles of shoreline.
On the far edge of the lake, a towering white sailboat caught my eye. The area is popular with windsurfers, kiteboarders, and jet surfers, and I made a mental note to plan a wind-based water adventure in the future.
As we approached the island, I noticed a few kayaks perched at the water’s edge. People lounged on the island’s sandy beach, chomping on chips and munching on grapes, snacking and relaxing before the journey back to shore.
We decided to circumnavigate the island, making a counterclockwise loop around it. At first the water was gentle and flat, but when we reached the far side of the island, the waves kicked up in an adventurous contrast to the gentle waters on the other side. Carefully placing each stroke and darting between waves, we made it back to the calmer waters in just a few minutes.
We paddled around for another hour or two, losing track of time while alternating between relaxing in the calm water close to shore and paddling out further into the open water for a bit more turbulence. Finally, as the sun dropped down in the sky, it was time to think about heading to shore.
Back on Land
Pulling our boats out of the water, we returned them and strolled back toward our truck, walking through the shore-side park where families were spread out on blankets and lounging under umbrellas, multiple generations relaxing together and enjoying each other’s company, talking, laughing, and eating. Kids kicked soccer balls along the water’s edge and popped volleyballs up into the air.
It must have been the napping hour too: kids and adults alike snoozed on the warm afternoon. Perhaps some of them had hiked the eight-mile Deer Creek Trail along the reservoir’s western shore earlier that day. Or maybe some had tried the world’s longest “over water” zip line, traversing 3,900 feet over Rainbow Bay. There were plenty of ways to tire yourself out having an adventure nearby.
As we walked by, I caught a waft of grilling meat and my mouth watered as I saw ears of corn on the cob roasting, bulging dishes of potato salad and thick, juicy slices of watermelon piled high. We hungrily walked back to our car to head back to camp and put together our own evening meal. Returning to our shady spot in the park’s Great Horned Owl campsite, we ate dinner and spent the evening watching colorful birds flit around our site as we relaxed and enjoyed the quiet after a day of activity.
Later that night, we heard a car pull up at an adjacent site, and in the morning we were surprised to see friends from Wyoming who just so happened to snag the site next to ours, an unplanned stop on their journey home. Catching up with them about our Utah adventures was just an added bit of serendipity on our journey.
Cross-country Skiing in the Tracks of Olympians
Utah cross country skiing for beginners starts with techniques. Soldier Hollow is the perfect location and hosted 2 events for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Heber Valley is a basecamp for adventure with none of the crowds! With restaurants, bakeries, yurt dining and more there is never a shortage of places to eat.
6 Surprising Activities That Take Place at The Homestead Crater
From scuba diving and yoga to swimming and snorkeling, this hot springs offers a lot in addition to a relaxing soak.
Where to Find the Best Snowmobiling in Heber Valley
Less than an hour's drive from Salt Lake City, Heber Valley is the perfect Utah snowmobile base camp for newbies and experienced riders alike.
The Coyote Canyon Loop
An easy 20-minute trip south from Park City, the Coyote Canyon Trail is a gorgeous 20-mile loop that undulates through the sprawling expanses of Heber Valley and showcases some of its best features along the way.
Best Trails for Horseback Riding Within an Hour of Salt Lake City
Here's a list of the best trails for horseback riding within an hour of Salt Lake City, Utah. Note, these five trails are for those with access to horses and trailers.
Why Backcountry Snowmobiling Is an Unforgettable Way to Experience the Uinta Mountains
The Uinta Mountains are about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City and just a few minutes from Vernal in Eastern Utah. It's one of the state's top snowmobiling destinations.
11 More Utah Winter Experiences Outside the Ski Resorts
No matter your level of adventure, you will find good reason to save some time for a day away from the resort.
Northern Utah Adventure Gateway Towns
Looking for outdoor adventures in The Beehive State? These northern Utah cities are perfect spots to set up base camp. Start planning today!
7 Utah Artisan Cheeses to Try Now
Taste delicious hand-crafted Beehive Cheese from Utah dairies at farmers markets, restaurants and specialty shops. Visit Utah and find your favorite artisanal cheese.
Wild Heber: Close-to-Home Adventure
Just 45 minutes from Salt Lake City, Heber Valley’s state parks and national forest lands offer a world of adventure. Hike, bike, camp, kayak, watch wildlife and reel in blue-ribbon trout while learning about nature and how to protect it.
Supporting Women Entrepreneurs While Traveling in Utah
Women entrepreneurs in Utah have been particularly successful at honing their expertise. Find out about women-owned businesses you can support while adventuring in Utah.
Your Guide to Utah's Best Hot Springs
Here’s a quick guide to planning your visit to Utah’s best hot springs. The fun goes beyond sitting and soaking — you’ll find waterslides, paddleboard yoga, camping and music festivals that turn a quick visit into a weekend worth of fun.
Looking Up: Dark Skies of Heber Valley
A trio of state parks in Heber Valley offer stellar views of the Utah night sky. Come stargaze here.
Reclaiming the Stars
Utah’s public lands are beautiful and dramatic during the day, but they might well become famous for how awe-inspiring they are during the night.
How to Slow Travel in Utah
Avoid the mad scramble and consider slow travel as a better approach to your Utah trip.
Ski into Summer: Mountain Resorts in Transition
From spring skiing to golfing and fly fishing, here are tips and things to do to make the most of spring in Utah.
Top Ski Towns in Utah
The best ski towns in Utah tout easy access to The Greatest Snow on Earth®, along with lively culture, fine dining and off-mountain activities.