Day-to-Night Adventures in Utah’s Mountain Towns

Where outdoor adventure meets downtown delights

Written By Kristen Pope

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Ogden   |  Jay Dash

Easy access between Northern Utah’s mountains and towns presents visitors and locals with the best of both worlds: outdoor adventure by day and city culture at night. In fact, flying into Salt Lake City International Airport, it’s hard not to notice just how close you are to the forested peaks. Spend the day playing outside, then transition to an evening experience in these mountain-to-metro destinations. 

Whether you prefer hiking, mountain biking, climbing, lounging on sandy beaches, paddle boarding or fishing, these nearby cities and towns offer plenty of ways to unwind after a big day in the sun. Eat a delicious meal, grab a drink or two from a local brewery or distillery, and spend the evening hours watching live music, comedy shows, musicals and plays, cheering for a local baseball team, or going out with the family for a night of bowling—or even an indoor skydiving experience. No matter how you prefer to spend your days and nights, you’ll find these mountain-to-metro escapes have a bit of something for everyone.

Willard Bay State Park to Logan

Willard Bay by Day

Set the GPS to Willard Bay State Park. Spend the day relaxing on the beach or splashing around in the freshwater reservoir. Swim, paddleboard, boat, water ski, jet ski, or fish for crappies, catfish and bass. Keep an eye out overhead for the incredible array of migratory birds that make their way through every year, including bald eagles.

Feeling extra adventurous? Take a scenic drive up Logan Canyon and explore its many hiking, biking and climbing routes. The canyon includes more than 400 climbing routes and many mountain biking and hiking trails that showcase gorgeous scenery, including towering mountains and shimmering alpine lakes. 

For a relaxing walk or bike ride, check out the Riverside Nature Trail, or if you’d like something a little more intense head up to the Wind Caves to see the natural arch and cavern. If you have more time to explore, the Jardine Juniper Trail is an 11-mile roundtrip adventure that will take you to see the world’s oldest Rocky Mountain Juniper tree, which is over 1,500 years old.

Willard Bay State Park is a freshwater reservoir that is located only miles from both Ogden and Brigham City, and offers awesome camping and boating, excellent birding and exciting fishing.

Photo: Utah State Parks

At Willard Bay, you can swim, boat, fish and more.

Photo: Marc Piscotty

Nicknamed the “Last Unspoiled Place” by National Geographic, Logan Canyon is both the winding vein connecting Cache Valley to Bear Lake and an outdoors person’s paradise.

Photo: Jeremiah Watt

Logan by Night

Bring your appetite to Logan, where adventurers find an array of culinary options, from popular breakfast and lunch spot Herm’s Inn to delicious Indian fare at Tandoori Oven, among many great restaurants. Catch a show at the Ellen Eccles Theatre or Utah Theatre, listen to live music at Whysound, or embed yourself in an escape room experience.  

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Bring your appetite to Logan, where adventurers find an array of culinary options, including Prodigy Brewing Co.

Photo: Jeremiah Watt

Red Fleet State Park to Vernal

Red Fleet by Day

Walk the path of the dinosaurs at Red Fleet State Park, home to 200-million-year-old dinosaur footprints in the heart of Dinosaur Land. Find footprints left behind by three-toed dinosaurs on the Red Fleet Dinosaur Trackway Trail. Keep your eye out because some are just a few inches long, while others are up to 17 inches long. 

Swim, boat, fish or relax on its sandy beaches at Red Fleet Reservoir, also known as “Little Lake Powell.” Hike or ride the area's intermediate and expert-level single-track mountain biking trails. Opt for a picnic or immerse yourself in the experience longer by camping at the reservoir’s campground.

After exploring Red Fleet State Park, visit one of the other nearby attractions — the Green River and Steinaker State Park

The Green River is a rafting hub. Several commercial outfitters offer guided tours and supply rentals, whether you seek a simple float or fly-fishing excursion. Steinaker State Park boasts prime angling for rainbow trout and bass. Other activities on the reservoir include kayaking, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. Since Steinaker State Park is an International Dark Sky Park, an overnight stay in its campground offers first-rate stargazing.

Known as “Little Lake Powell,” Red Fleet State Park offers swimming, fishing, hiking, camping, biking and more in a gorgeous sandstone lake setting.

Photo: Clark Goldsberry

Located in the heart of Dinosaur Land, Red Fleet is home to numerous dinosaur tracks of its own.

Photo: Clark Goldsberry

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Dinah the Pink Dinosaur, a 40-foot-tall Brontosaurus statue, greets all visitors to Vernal.

Photo: Marc Piscotty

Vernal by Night

Dinah the Pink Dinosaur, a 40-foot-tall Brontosaurus statue, greets all visitors to Vernal, Dinosaurland’s home base. The happy, vintage marker makes a great photo stop when arriving in town after a long day of adventure. Hit up the town’s local brewpub, Vernal Brewing Company, or steakburger specialty shop, Freddy’s. Enjoy local entertainment options like bowling at Dinoland Bowl, heading to the movies at Vernal Cinemas, or stopping by the Vernal Theatre for a musical or other live performance.

Scattered around Vernal you'll find dozens of murals lining the streets.

Photo: Sara Hobbs

While in town, don't miss the local brewpub, Vernal Brewing Company,

Photo: Marc Piscotty

Alpine Scenic Loop Backway to Orem/Provo

Alpine Scenic Loop by Day

In summer and fall, the Alpine Scenic Loop Backway lures day-tripping drivers with its meandering highway through lush, aspen forest and sensational mountain views. Explore stops along the way including Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Sundance Resort. The loop, which varies from 5,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation, is known for its gorgeous fall colors, but be aware — it’s windy and narrow, so low vehicles are best (trailers are prohibited). See gorgeous scenery and peaks along the way, and consider stopping for a hike or picnic, and there are also plenty of campgrounds if you’d like to stay longer, including Mount Timpanogos Campground and Theater-in-the-Pines Campground, which are both reservable in advance.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument offers popular cave tours during summer and early fall. These tours fill fast, so reserve your tickets well in advance. Junior Ranger programs are also available on certain days and times, and a longer introduction to caving tour is also on offer for people who want to immerse themselves further in the world of caving.

Although famous for its winter ski slopes and namesake film festival, Sundance Mountain Resort fills with action during the summer months too. Try a zipline tour with more than 2,100 feet of vertical drop, scenic chairlift rides (including full moon options), and more than 25 miles of mountain biking trails. Choose from more than 20 miles of alpine hiking trails (for various levels), horseback riding, yoga on the mountaintop, fly fishing and more. To explore the area longer, stay at one of the many campsites along the loop, or book an elegant, chalet-inspired room at Sundance Mountain Resort.

The 20-mile Alpine Loop scenic drive is a seasonal stretch of paved road connecting American Fork Canyon with Provo Canyon through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Photo: Andrew Burr

Timpanogos Cave National Monument offers popular cave tours during summer and early fall.

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Although famous for its winter ski slopes and namesake film festival, Sundance Mountain Resort fills with action during the summer months too.

Photo: Andrew Burr

Provo and Orem by Night

A day of outdoor adventures, head down to Provo and Orem — which are just a few miles apart — to enjoy a delicious meal and activities. Feast on cuisine from around the world, including Salvadoran, Mexican, Peruvian, Japanese, and Mediterranean restaurants, among many others. Both Provo and Orem offer numerous activities to enjoy, including escape rooms, virtual reality experiences, axe throwing, candlemaking, and comedy shows. Head to the Hale Center Theater in Orem, or the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theater for musicals, concerts, outdoor movies and more.

Though there is plenty of parking in downtown Provo, events like the Art Stroll, Provo Farmers Market and Taste of the Valley are all within walking distance of one another.

Photo: Austen Diamond

In Provo, venues like the Covey Center for the Arts and Velour Live Music Gallery, as well as several of the area’s best restaurants, are also just a short stroll away.

Photo: Austen Diamond

Wasatch Range to Ogden

Wasatch Mountains by Day

Spend all day hiking and biking on the plethora of trails in the Wasatch Range before heading to Ogden for the evening. In the Ogden area, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest boasts around 500 trails. One popular hiking option is the Waterfall Canyon Trail, which is around 2.4 miles, with a scenic 200-foot-waterfall at the end of the fairly strenuous hike. For an even more ambitious hike, Ben Lomond Peak is one to consider, though be prepared because it covers around 16 miles with 3,500 feet of elevation gain, and snow is often present up top. The area is also packed with plenty of mountain biking options. If you’d like to stay and play longer, numerous campgrounds are available.


Sitting at the foot of the Wasatch Range north of Salt Lake City, Ogden is known for its proximity to trails and ski areas.

Photo: Jay Dash

Ogden by Night

After enjoying Ogden’s backyard playground, head downtown to enjoy an evening in the city. Explore downtown Ogden’s Historic 25th Street, grab a delicious meal, and check out the area’s breweries and distilleries, including Ogden Beer Company, Talisman Brewing Company, and Ogden’s Own Distillery, among others. See what’s playing at Ogden Amphitheater and consider seeing a concert, or opt for a comedy show nearby at Wiseguys Comedy Club. Enjoy plenty of live music options, visit Alleged’s rooftop bar, and if you’re there on the right day, be sure to enjoy the First Friday Art Stroll. During baseball season, see if the Ogden Raptors have a home game, or you can opt for a smash room or even indoor skydiving. Ogden features an array of lodging options for a comfortable overnight stay, including plenty of options downtown as well as spots a bit away from town, like Alaskan Inn and Spa, located in Ogden Canyon.

After enjoying Ogden’s backyard playground, head downtown to enjoy an evening in the city.

Photo: Andrew Burr

Local distilleries and breweries are more and more becoming an integral part of the culinary scene in Ogden.

Photo: Jeremiah Watt

Ogden’s lively historic district gives visitors plenty of other reasons to visit besides the great outdoors, including The Monarch art galleries and studios.

Photo: Jim Urquhart

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