8 Sunny-Day Getaways to Tucked-Away Towns in Northern Utah

Snowbasin_Resort_Summer_Hiking_Markewitz-Scott_2020
Snowbasin Resort   |  Scott Markewitz

Sure, Northern Utah’s biggest cities — Salt Lake City, Park City, Provo and Ogden — pack a punch for action-filled fun during the warmer months. But some of us prefer the quiet and quaintness of exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations.

These 8 towns sprouted from farmland, mountain meadows and salt-infused deserts. Today, their main streets host unique personalities of eating establishments, breweries, art galleries, gear shops, markets and more. Looking for a charming town with amenities and action for a getaway or day trip? Check these out. 

In the summertime, Bear Lake State Park brims with activity on and off the water

Photo: Bear Lake Visitors Bureau

1. Garden City: A Day — or Two — at the Bear Lake

Distance from Logan: 51 minutes

Google Garden City, Utah and you’ll immediately see images of Bear Lake’s turquoise water surrounded by evergreen-blanketed mountains. Garden City is the epicenter of Bear Lake, often called the Caribbean of the Rockies. 

In the summertime, Bear Lake State Park brims with activity on and off the water. On-the-water action includes paddling, boating, waterskiing, jet skiing and fishing. Off the water, voyagers enjoy beach time, camping, glamping, hiking and cycling

Outdoor patios, diners, gastropubs and milkshake stands buzz with energy, especially in the summer. Start your day at Crepes & Coffee. Try diner favorites — Chicken Cordon Bleu, beer-battered fish and onion rings — at Cody’s Gastro Garage. Treat yourself to a local-farmed Wagyu burger overlooking the lake at Campfire Grill Restaurant. And don’t leave Garden City without a famous Bear Lake Raspberry Shake. 

As temperatures dip in late September, take a scenic drive through the park or head down Logan Canyon for leaf-peeping

Midway’s sleepy mountain-town vibe checks many boxes for an easily accessible outdoor getaway.

Photo: Adam Barker

2. Midway: A Swiss-Inspired Wasatch Mountain State Park Tour

Distance from Park City: 31 minutes

Midway’s sleepy mountain-town vibe checks many boxes for an easily accessible outdoor getaway. Spend a half-day or full-day hiking, biking or ATVing at Wasatch Mountain State Park or golfing, horseback riding or mountain biking at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center. Explore the Homestead Crater or road bike around Heber Valley.

Midway’s mild summer weather attracts traditions, including Midway Swiss Days and the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship. (Read: Swiss Traditions Meet Mountain Adventure in Utah's Heber Valley)

Despite its rural locale, Midway is quietly booming. Check out locally-owned boutiques — Haven Haus Co Fernweh, Beljar Home and Haven Living. Tour the dairy farm, then bring home some cheeses from Heber Valley Artisan Cheese. Then, fill up at local favorites — New American dining establishment Midway Mercantile, farm-to-table restaurant Back 40 Ranch House Grill, or artisan street food operator Lola’s Street Kitchen.

A Huntsville getaway can include a day on the lake, river, mountain, or all three.

Photo: Jay Dash

3. Huntsville: Resorts, Reservoirs and the Ogden River 

Distance from Ogden: 24 minutes

A Huntsville getaway can include a day on the lake, river, mountain, or all three. If driving from Ogden, start the journey by soaking in the alpine beauty of the Ogden River Scenic Byway.

Huntsville sits between three Ogden Valley ski resorts: Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Nordic Valley. On-mountain activities — think scenic gondola rides, lift-service mountain biking and hiking, mini golf, yoga, shopping, dining and live music — start in late June and end in early September. 

The small town is also a gateway to Pineview Reservoir and Causey Reservoir. At Causey Reservoir, you can kayak, canoe, swim, paddleboard or fish (motorized boats are not allowed). Pineview Reservoir welcomes motorized boats for its Blue Ribbon fishing and windsurfing. It also reserves sections for paddleboarding, tubing or swimming. Prefer something quieter? Try fly-fishing the Ogden River section in between the two reservoirs. 

No matter the excursion, the small town of Huntsville is at the center of it all, offering a big dollop of Old West charm. Stay at Compass Rose Lodge, a luxury barn-style boutique hotel. Grab a beer and burger at Shooting Star Saloon, the oldest bar in Utah. Or try gins, spirits and liqueurs from New World Distillery in nearby Eden, Utah. Find gear rentals — with a side ice cream or shaved iced —  at Detours. End the sojourn with a nighttime tour of the Huntsville Astronomic and Lunar Observatory (HALO).

Head to Flaming Gorge for fishing, boating, paddling, water skiing, swimming, and even scuba diving and road biking.

Photo: Marc Piscotty

4. Dutch John: Floating and fishing at Green River and Flaming Gorge

Distance from Vernal: 55 minutes

Dutch John is a tiny town — its population fluctuating between 150 in the winter to 250 in the summer — brimming with river and lake activities. It’s a summer marketplace of gear rental shops, fishing guides, general stores and shuttle services, 3-star lodging, brand-name chain hotels and classic roadside motels. A getaway to Dutch John (or nearby Manila, Utah) pairs perfectly with a Green River float trip or a Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area visit. 

Head to Flaming Gorge for fishing, boating, paddling, water skiing, swimming, and even scuba diving and road biking. “The Gorge” is known for its kokanee (red) salmon, lake trout and freshwater codfish. Choose from 600 camping and picnic sites and more than 100 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. For a quick trip to an overlook, hike the Red Canyon Rim Trail.

On the quieter side of things, the Green River (Section A, below the Flaming Gorge Dam) provides a peaceful, beginner-friendly rafting tour through red canyon walls. Diehard and novice fly-fishers flock to Green River (below the Flaming Gorge Dam) for trophy trout and salmon. Not a fly-fisher? Pack a lunch — in a waterproof bag — and enjoy a leisurely float down the majestic river. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Picnicking in a boat, raft or on a sunny beach is your best pairing to the day’s adventures, but if you want something warm to eat, head to Flaming Gorge Resort’s Restaurant for classic breakfast fare, burgers, fries, soups and pasta. 

Thirty minutes from Helper, Scofield State Park is a hot spot for fishing, boating, wakeboarding, jet skiing, waterskiing and camping.

Photo: Utah State Parks

5. Helper: Main Street, Mining, Art and Scofield State Park

Distance from Provo: 1 hour and 9 minutes

A getaway to Helper is unlike any. The sleepy town is known for its ghost town lore, alleged paranormal activity, mining and railroad history and a main street that almost mirrors its 1881 self. Take a walking tour of its history and discover its great coffee and eclectic art scene. Walk, bike or jog along the Helper Riverwalk for birdwatching, swimming and wading.

Thirty minutes from Helper, Scofield State Park is a hot spot for fishing, boating, wakeboarding, jet skiing, waterskiing and camping. Helper — and its nearby neighbor, Price — welcome road trippers from the north to San Rafael Swell and Goblin Valley State Park, where sandstone canyons provide ample opportunities for stargazing, hiking, mountain biking, canyoneering, kayaking and camping. 

Feeling hungry? Try Balanced Rock Eatery and Pub, Helper Beer or Grogg's Pinnacle Brewing Company. Stop for coffee, pastries, tea and boba at Happiness Within Coffee.

In the Utah Valley and its side canyons, you’ll find some of the state’s most impressive collection of waterfalls.

Photo: Emily Sierra

6. Springville: The Art City and West Mountain 

Distance from Provo: 10 minutes

A day trip to Springville is effortless. It sits at the foothills of Provo’s Wasatch Mountains, with easy access to Hobble Creek Canyon and Spanish Fork Canyon. Cycle the West Mountain Loop—camp or golf in Hobble Creek Canyon. Mountain bike, hike or trial run the Spring Canyon Trail. Drive the Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway or chase waterfalls in Utah Valley.

Known as “Art City” for its spring development of the arts, Springville’s beacon of the arts is the Springville Museum of Art. Even if you don’t consider yourself an art gallery person, stop at this museum, a Spanish-inspired villa loaded with Utah art, Soviet pieces, early Americana and the European Steed collection. Springville touts a museum for motorcycle enthusiasts, Legends Motorcycle, and an annual festival for cultural dance groups from around the world, World Folkfest.  

After a day in the mountains, stop at Strap Tank Brewery for local brews, Magelby’s for surf & turf, Ginger’s Garden Cafe for healthy juices, or Saida for sushi. Stock your own kitchen with grass-fed local beef from Jones Creek Beef

The Bonneville Salt Flats are a 30,000 acre expanse of hard, white salt crust on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake basin in Utah.

Photo: Marc Piscotty

7. Tooele: Motoring the Bonneville Salt Flats or West Desert

Distance from Salt Lake City: 37 minutes

Tooele is worth a spring or fall (unless you like summer temperatures above 90 degrees) day trip for many reasons. First, it has a fascinating history of mining, milling, the Pony Express Trail, Mormon Pioneers and U.S. Army weapons testing.

Second, it’s a great stop before or after exploring the Great Salt Lake, Bonneville Salt Flats, the Pony Express Trail or the West Desert. The area boasts top ATV trails (check out the Prospector Trail Complex), hiking trails and great gaming and hunting. Museum-goers enjoy Historic Wendover Airfield & Museum, Camp Floyd State Park and Oquirrh Mountain Mining Museum. 

Tooele hosts several annual events to pair with your outdoor excursions: Country Fan Fest, rodeos, farmers markets, garden tours and pumpkin walks. Utah Motorsports Campus hosts competitions in BMX, motocross, archery and motorsports. Fan favorite eateries include Bonneville Brewery, Jim’s Family Restaurant, and Chubby’s Cafe.

Only 20 minutes from Richfield, Fishlake National Forest showcases aspen forests for scenic drives, mountain biking, hiking, camping and OHV use.

Photo: Andrew Burr

8. Richfield: Central Utah OHV Hub and Minutes from Fishlake National Forest 

Distance from Provo: 2 hours

Plan a getaway to Richfield, the outdoor recreation hub to Central Utah. Not only is it the largest city for more than one hundred miles, but this small college town (home to Snow College) is a great basecamp with quick access to hot springs, ATV trails, lava tubes, aspen forests, hunting, trout fishing and about 50 miles of interconnecting biking trails  along the Pahvant Trail System.

Only 20 minutes from Richfield, Fishlake National Forest showcases aspen forests for scenic drives, mountain biking, hiking, camping and OHV use. The area boasts  3,000 combined acres of lake and reservoirs for fishing and boating with lush coastlines hosting campgrounds and picnic areas. Check out the Pando, a clonal quaking aspen stand spanning 47,000+ trees across 160 acres that share a single root system, the Earth’s single most massive living organism.

After a day in the mountains, stop for a juicy steak at Sagebrush Grill or Steve’s Steakhouse, Chinese fare at South China, or bar food, cocktails and live music at Bar86.

Tucked-Away Towns in Northern Utah

Northern Utah

Northern Utah combines mountains, lakes and reservoirs, pioneer and Native American heritage with Utah's biggest cities. There are mountainous parks and forests where you can ski, hike, stargaze or camp. And there are also urban experiences, boasting vibrant main streets and downtown centers with night life, festivals, historic Temple Square and performing arts. You'll even find a distinct Americana feel among the regions more quaint towns.

Explore Northern Utah

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