Northern Utah Adventure Gateway Towns
One of the best ways to extend your time in the great outdoors is to temporarily move your home base. Spending the night in a town that’s a gateway for adventure, or even getting closer and camping near the trailhead, ensures that at the end of an activity-rich day, you don’t have to worry about driving home. Read about these awesome gateway adventure towns below and map out your next vacation today!
If you dream of the vivid blues of the Caribbean, Garden City’s location in Rich County at the end of the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway and on the shores of Bear Lake will make you happy. Some call it the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” and many fans of the region prefer to stay in Garden City to spend more focused time with the beautiful scenery and enjoy a raspberry shake. The lake measures 20 miles long and 7 miles across, and straddles Utah’s northern border with Idaho. Here, with all the space, it can seem as if you have the lake all to yourself, whether you prefer swimming, waterskiing, jet skiing, sailing, speed boating, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), fishing, just dipping your toes in the water, or biking along the lake’s bike trail. Away from the lake, more than 100 miles of trails allow hikers, bikers and ATV fans to adventure to their hearts’ content. This is more than just your average adventure town.
A little more than 80 miles north of Salt Lake City, Logan is a great launching pad with an historic main drag and a vibrant, college-town feel — even with a population of around 50,000 people. Fun mountain trails like the 20-mile Old Ephraim lure mountain bikers to test their mettle on the terrain in Logan’s mountains and valleys, some of the very best of which lend their natural beauty to the Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway.
Spelunkers flock to the caves in canyon areas near Logan and Bear Lake, like Minnetonka Cave with its nine rooms full of stalactites and stalagmites. Wind caves in Logan Canyon were carved in limestone from years of wind and water erosion, and they can be reached at the end of a 2-mile trail. Also in Logan Canyon is the Jardine Juniper Trail, which rewards hikers who climb through the forest to reach the gnarled 3,000-year-old Jardine Juniper. Those in search of trout find Logan River an ideal spot to fish, either alone, with a buddy, or with kids.
The beautiful Heber Valley is home to Heber City, which is a short drive from the Wasatch Front. Outdoor lovers head out on the trails in Wasatch Mountain State Park and the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, whether on foot, a mountain bike’s two wheels or OHV. Road bikers shouldn’t despair, because there are plenty of places to go cycling on the area’s roads. In the summer and fall, outdoor recreational activities are abundant, from golfing to off-roading to fishing, hiking, cycling and even water sports. Snorkel, scuba dive, or even take a SUP yoga class in the Homestead Crater, a geothermal spring hidden within a 55-foot-tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock. Nearby Strawberry Reservoir is an optimal spot to fish for rainbow and cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon — it’s beloved by many, not just fishermen. The 12-mile Strawberry Narrows Trail is forested and scenic, with views through the trees and out over the reservoir.
On the western slope of the Wellsville Mountains (a branch of the Wasatch Range), Brigham City has quick access to two good very reasons to get outdoors: Willard Bay State Park and Mantua Reservoir. Both, as well as the surrounding area, have a wealth of opportunities for the traveler who enjoys boating, sailing, windsurfing, climbing, fishing, camping, hiking and biking during spring, summer and fall. What about that welcome sign over Main Street proclaiming "The Gateway to the World's Greatest Wild Bird Refuge"? It's not an exaggeration. Birders from the around the world also visit the area thanks to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. During harvest season, you can fuel your visit with stops located along the famous Fruit Highway, a route which follows Utah’s Highway 89.
Just 34 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Tooele sits on the western slopes of the Oquirrh Mountains. The city’s views of the mountains and of the Great Salt Lake are only the beginning. It’s a gateway to the “fastest place on earth,” the historical Bonneville Salt Flats, which is where land speed racing has occurred every year since 1914. If you’re not a racer, turn to the more than 125,000 acres of public wilderness for camping, hiking and enjoying nature. The Deseret Peak Wilderness Area, in the Stansbury Mountain Range, includes Deseret Peak. From here, hikers get views of the Great Salt Lake and portions of the northern and southern Wasatch Front. The Cedar Mountain Wilderness Area is in the next mountain range west of the Stansbury Mountains and contains rounded hills and shallow canyons in an arid desert mountain landscape. And don't forget the rugged Pony Express National Historic Trail (see the itinerary). Snorklers and scuba divers turn to the nearby Bonneville Seabase, a warm spring-fed “inland sea” stocked with tropical marine fish.