the underrated : northern utah
Back in September of last year, I was given three weeks of work off (I was nannying the time) and Josh and I knew we had to take the opportunity to hit the wild. After planning a whole Washington National Park trip, the fires hit the west coast in a brutal way and we were forced to relocate for our 2 week road trip. We had heard through friends from Utah that the north half was seriously underrated and that there was so much beauty there to be seen - especially in the fall. So, we said screw it and headed there on a 9 hour trip to Salt Lake City with no campsites booked and our 4-runner full of gear.
Let's just start by saying this trip did not disappoint. The colors are like nothing we had ever seen (growing up in California, fall isn't as prominent).
Day 1 : Salt Lake City. Josh and I both had never been so we thought why not stay in the city for one night and see what it's all about. Being on more of budget, we could only afford stay at a $50 night hotel down the street from the temple. Definitely would not recommend, it reeked of cigarettes and we literally checked the bed for bed bugs. But any who, the Capitol and the surroundings are stunning. All the temples are gorgeous as well and definitely something to experience if you can! The Capitol at sunset is a must!
Day 2-3 : Woke up around 5:30 AM and ditched that disgusting hotel. Pro Tip : When you're road tripping, waking up early like this is always worth it. Whether that be for a hike to catch sunrise, heading to a first come, first serve campsite or whatever. Trust me, the wild is amazing in those early hours.
We decided to head over Cottonwood Canyon from SLC and into Park City. I had heard amazing things about that little town and thought we might as well head over there and see what the hype was about. On our way down the mountain into the valley though, we had a little bit of a hang up. Our brakes started literally smoking and we had to pull over. Josh came to the conclusion that we needed new breaks (upwards of $1,000 to get done by someone which we did NOT have the funds for). We just laughed. Every trip we go on there is always a hang up and we can either moan and groan or choose to find joy even in those harder, annoying moments. Another Pro Tip : Just LAUGH. It makes everything better. While figuring out what to do about the brakes, we explored Park City for a few hours. We got some coffee, made sandwiches in the trunk to snack on, and called some brake shops in which all were well over our budget.
From this point on for Day 2, I wouldn't recommend any of this. Proceed with caution. We decided since we weren't that far from the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest we would book it over there and hope it wasn't too much elevation for the broken brakes to get to somewhere gorgeous to spend the night. Our route went from Park City through Kamas (where a sweet park ranger told us the elevation wasn't too shabby until a certain point) so we decided to head up!
This is where we found by far the best (FREE) campsite we've ever had. We entered the National Forest and it was breathtaking. Mostly hunters roam around this area in their ATV's and trucks so it wasn't too busy with tourists. We felt like we had the whole place to our selves honestly.
There is so much dispersed camping in this area, so if you want to getaway rent free this is it. We stayed here two nights and just relaxed, not worrying about the car brakes.
Also took advantage of the area and took a Christmas card picture.
And there was an insane about of wild cows everywhere too. This was within a few yards of our campsite!
Day 4 : We had to get our car towed. We have AAA Roadside - if you are road tripping, this is a MUST. We decided to head over to Park City and get it towed for free over to our buddies house in Salt Lake. Thank goodness we had a close friend in Salt Lake to stay with because for the course of the next few days of the trip Josh had to fix the breaks himself 2x. (Only 2x because Auto Zone messed up and gave us the wrong parts the first time around.) We towed our 4 runner while our buddy picked us up in Park City. Honestly, thank goodness for our free one tow up to 200 miles a year. This saved us so much money and with Josh fixing the breaks in total it saved us over $1,500. Pro tip : Ladies, find your self a handy man.
Day 5 : Took a brake break. (; And headed up into Little Cottonwood Canyon to hike to Cecret Lake near Devils Castle. Next time, we are def hitting Devils Castle but with the stress on time with getting the brakes done we couldn't swing it. Definitely recommend driving through and exploring both Little and Big Cottonwood Canyon if you can! There are also plenty of campsites but you have to be on top of booking ahead of time. We tried to get a so called "first come, first serve" but it really wasn't and was completely booked out.
Day 6 : We said bye to our friend in SLC and headed to Provo Canyon. This was really the only place that I had on my must hit list going out to Northern Utah. I had seen SO many beautiful photos on Instagram of the views and knew it would be gorgeous. As we headed up the canyon, we stopped and used our new Camp Chef Everest 2 Burner Stove to make breakfast with a view.
High key rec this stove. It was recommended to us by a friend that road trips all the time and we love it so far. We bought ours from REI with our dividend (if you're not an REI Member, you should do that right now.) But I linked it to Amazon if you want to get one quick!Just make sure you stock up on propane! We have like 5 on hand all the time because you never know when you'll need it.
Day 7-9 : We just roamed around Provo Canyon, met some cool people and documented the beauty of the fall foliage. We stayed in a campground up in the canyon! A few that were super cool are Hope Campground, Mt Timpanogos Campground, & Timpooneke Campground. They were all first come, first serve in September for us and we didn't have trouble getting one. It was about $25 a night!
We hiked more randomly through the Canyon but one hike we absolutely loved was Sqaw Peak Trail.
Day 10 : Sundance Music Resort. This is MUST in the fall. We had driven by once and saw that they had the ski lift going so we had to check it out. It gets pretty packed (and with COVID there isn't much else to do so outdoor fun it is for most) but it was not a long wait at all. We decided to go about an hour and a half before sunset and it was SO awesome! Dressed a lil cute and it was the best views of the Canyon by far. I think it was only $15 per person to jump on the lift and most people had drinks with them for the hour plus ride depending if you hop off on the top or not to explore!
We spent some more days up here and then headed back through Southern Utah to head back home to Orange County. I definitely recommend venturing into Provo for a few hours. It's a super cute town and one of my most favorite stores is at the bottom of the Canyon heading into there - Heirloom Art Co.
Feel free to comment any questions you have on Northern Utah - we went during the middle of September hence all the fall colors. Definitely an epic place to spend fall!
Stay wild friends,