Salt Lake City Outdoors

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Salt Lake City Outdoors
Adventure is forever at your fingertips in Salt Lake City, a springboard into wild Utah. Swim Great Salt Lake, climb epic rock faces, hike isolated backcountry, and raft raging rivers, all within an hour or two of the city center.
By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
Photo courtesy of Eric Schramm/Visit Salt Lake
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    Horseback Riding Adventures
    Hitch a ride with Rocky Mountain Outfitters for a horse pack adventure that suits your skill level and endurance. Their Mountain Meadows Trail Ride is a great introduction to life in the saddle, and has the added benefit of touring the rider through the spectacular Wasatch Mountains. The Sunrise Trail Ride, for advanced riders, takes early risers into unspoiled territory for stunning sunrise mountain vistas and wildlife-spotting, while the Crow’s Nest Trail Ride ends at a Ute Indian hunt camp that sits in the looming shadow of Mount Timpanogos.
    Photo courtesy of Eric Schramm/Visit Salt Lake
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    Cycling around Salt Lake City
    Hop on a fat tire and hold your breath for the ride of your life—the mountains surrounding Salt Lake offer brilliant mountain biking opportunities for riders of all levels. Traverse the scenic Wasatch Crest Trail from Salt Lake to Park City as it tears through Cottonwood Canyon, or take it easy on the beautiful Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Take your road bike on a cruise along Great Salt Lake Legacy Parkway, or cycle the challenging roads of Emigration Canyon. Pedal all the way across Salt Lake City and back again by utilizing the bike share program, which allows riders to pick up and drop off a ride at any number of city kiosks.
    Photo courtesy of Adam Barker/Visit Salt Lake
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    Renowned Rock Climbing
    Look up, steady your hands, and start your climb. The best way to experience Utah is on the way up; Utah’s mountains are renowned for their technical difficulty, variability, and surface challenges—everything from granite to shale to quartzite are found out here. Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon offers climbing lessons to visitors in the spring and summer, while the canyon itself is home to four bouldering areas featuring beginner to advanced routes. The truly wild at heart can go face to face with sheets of ice with the help of Utah Mountain Adventures; strap on a pair of crampons, pick up an ice ax, and head for the Wasatch Mountains, where world-class ice climbing waits. Beginners are welcome.
    Photo by Howie Garber/age fotostock
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    Land the Big One (Or Lie Trying)
    Utah’s trout fishing, especially in high country lakes, rivers, and streams, is tremendous. In fact, trout weighing more than 30 pounds have been landed in Utah waters, while muskie, walleye, smallmouth, largemouth, and catfish are ubiquitous. Rocky Mountain Outfitters arranges Provo River float trips, while Western Rivers Flyfisher facilitates overnight pack trips on the Provo and Green Rivers that get fisherfolk (and those who wish to tell tall tales about their prodigious landing skills) deep into great fishing territory. Western Rivers hosts fly-fishing and fly tying workshops, so at least you’ll take home a bespoke souvenir if your casting skills let you down.
    Photo courtesy of Adam Barker/Visit Salt Lake
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    Enjoy the Mountains from Above
    Take to the skies for an unforgettable Salt Lake City adventure with Skywalker Balloon Company, outfitting hot air balloon rides year round, weather permitting. The Park City sunrise balloon ride is particularly spectacular; this is an hour-long float at 6,000 feet over some of Utah’s most pristine mountain landscapes. Thanks to the crisp mountain air and the gently sloping terrain, the Flight Park State Recreation Area is a great place to learn hang gliding and paragliding techniques. There are training courses on offer for people of all skill levels—just don't get too distracted by the incredible views.
    Photo by Howie Garber/age fotostock
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    Dive In to the Water
    There are plenty of swimming holes in and around Salt Lake City—some natural, like the Great Salt Lake, and some artificial, like Seven Peaks Waterpark. Antelope Island, in the middle of the lake and accessible by a drivable seven-mile causeway, is a great place to lay out a towel and take a dip. (And if you can handle the cool waters of Great Salt Lake, you may be ready to take on a high country lake.) If you’re predisposed to indoor adventure, Seven Peaks features 16 waterslides (including one of the largest in the country), a giant wave pool, kid-friendly swimming areas, and a lazy river. The Salt Lake City Sports Complex features indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, springs, and spa services.
    Photo by Nicole Hill/age fotostock
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    White Knuckles for White Water
    Utah is a spectacular rafting destination, and taking to a raging river isn’t nearly as intimidating as you might think. High Country Adventure will send you barreling down one of Utah’s picturesque canyons on the Provo River, while the less adventurous in your party can relax at Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort. Beautiful Weber Canyon is home to unique geological formations and class II and III rapids, navigable by rafters of all skill levels. All Seasons Adventures arranges thrilling kayak expeditions on the Weber River, while Barefoot Tubing outfitters can toss you into a fat chunk of rubber and send you on a leisurely three-hour float, waterproof camera in hand.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    High Country Hiking
    Toss a day pack over your shoulders and take to the high country on the one-mile Guardsman Pass, a scenic hike that delivers you to a breathtaking viewpoint at 10,000 feet. Continue on to Heber City or Big Cottonwood Canyon if you’re after a longer trek; watch your step as you’re distracted by the kaleidoscope of fall colors. The hike to Cecret Lake is easy, family-friendly, and tremendously scenic, while 7.4-mile Desolation Lake Trail is a significant challenge that yields great rewards; the view from the glacier bowl rim is worth the sweat and scraped knees it takes to reach the top. Hundreds of trailheads mean you’re never left wanting for adventure.
    Photo by Kristen Gould Case
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    National Park Base Camp
    Salt Lake City’s proximity to some of the country’s most spectacular natural attractions—21 national and 40 state parks can be reached within a few hours—makes the city an excellent base camp for exploration. Wasatch-Cache National Forest, 30 miles from SLC, is a photographer’s dream: Hansen Pond and Cecret Lake come alive under evening light, while the twin peaks of Mount Olympus just cry out to be explored (reach the summit via the 3.1-mile Mount Olympus Trail). The spooky bowels of the Timpanogos Cave National Monument, 45 miles from SLC, can be explored on guided tours, while caving expeditions can be arranged for the truly intrepid.
    Photo courtesy of Douglas Pulsipher/Visit Salt Lake
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    Sporting Events for the Adventurous
    SLC’s calendar is marked by events tailored for those with a thirst for adventure. The Salt Lake City Marathon, Half-Marathon, and Bike Tour takes place in April, and sets runners on a city course surrounded by snow-kissed peaks that begins at the Olympic Legacy Bridge and stretches into the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. Finish early and you’ll be rewarded with a great seat for the wrap party and concert. The Tour of Utah, held every August, is a major multi-stage professional cycling event that features some of the world’s finest athletes vying for the title. Join the spectators and immerse yourself in the accompanying events and activities.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Salt Lake