With the craggy Wasatch Mountains to the east and the salty Great Basin Desert to the west, Box Elder County is a place of extremes. But the northwest corner of Utah is known for another extreme — extremely good peaches. The climate is perfect for big, juicy stone fruits that are the highlight of the year for many Utahns.
Within reach of big cities like Salt Lake City and Ogden, Box Elder is famous for fruit stands selling excellent produce from local farmers. City dwellers migrate to Highway 89’s Fruitway every summer to get their fresh fruit and veg. But humans aren’t the only ones stopping by, as millions of birds migrate to the nearby Bear River delta every year. When you visit, bring a pair of binoculars for bird watching and an empty cooler for your peaches.
If you can’t wait for your weekly farmers market, head to Utah’s official Fruit highway where you can buy fresh produce on the daily. On Highway 89 near Willard, Perry and Brigham City, Fruitstands line the road like plums on a branch. Some have been run by the same family for generations. Find fresh-harvested fruit like melons, peaches and cherries, along with veggies like green beans, corn and carrots. Not sure which peach variety would be best in your cobbler and which is best for canning? Just ask! The experts at the fruit stands are basically walking peach-ipedias.
The Fruitway is open Monday through Saturday from June to October or November, depending on harvest times. Peach season is usually mid-August through October.
When you have something as good as a Brigham City peach, you gotta celebrate it. Brigham City Peach Days was founded in 1904 and is the longest running harvest festival in Utah. Over 60,000 people come to eat peach shakes, see the crowning of the Peach Queen and get peach juice all over their face. Although don’t eat too many peaches before you ride the carnival roller coasters!
See the Peach Days parade, a classic showing of local pride with marching bands, floats and horses. It’s the second-largest parade in the state, so get there early to grab a patch of sidewalk in the shade.
And last but not least, don’t miss the classic car show. Brigham City Peach Days has the biggest free car show in the state. Restored and beloved cars will be all waxed, buffed and on display on the field of Box Elder High School.
Box Elder County is more than just peaches. Check out their family-friendly events throughout the year.
An oasis in the desert, Willard Bay reservoir is a paddleboarder's paradise. The huge sandy beaches and warm water attract SUPers from all over the Wasatch Front. Pelican Beach, Eagle Beach and Wiper Cove are all excellent spots with shade, picnic tables and restrooms. Don’t want to bring your board? Motorboat, pontoon, paddleboard, kayak and canoe rentals are all available onsite. Don’t forget to wear your life jacket!
To get away from the main reservoir, try the Pond at Willard Bay, a non-motorized area where you can swim and SUP without getting buzzed by motorboats. Play on the beach or paddle out to the floating obstacle course to practice your mermaid warrior skills.
Staying for the weekend? You could sleep on your paddleboard, but we recommend camping at the Cottonwood and Willow Campgrounds near the North Marina. They have modern restrooms (yay!) with showers and flushing toilets. Full RV hookups are available at Cottonwood campground as well. The South Marina also has a campground with amenities and a boat ramp. Check with the Utah State Parks website before you go as water levels can drop towards the end of summer. Willard Bay State Park is just west of Brigham City and right off Exit 363 on I-15.
Between the steep Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake Desert is another oasis — but this one is for the birds. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is nearly 80,000 acres of wetlands that have been preserved for our avian friends. The refuge was once an over-farmed wasteland but 100 years of conservation efforts brought it back to life. Birds like the tundra swan and white-faced ibis stop there to rest, nest and quest for mates.
Birds are at the refuge year-round, but springtime takes the birdseed cake. From March to May, they are out and proud with bright plumage and singing their best songs. Feel free to watch the party but stay on trails so that you don’t disturb anyone’s nest.
Learn more at the visitors center, or take the 12-mile auto tour through the refuge.
Let’s talk about mountains. The range to the east of Brigham City is one of the steepest in the entire Rocky Mountain Range. But don’t let that scare you. Peak baggers can ascend Willard and Ben Lomond Peak in one go, but everyone else can try something a little less vertical.
Box Elder Creek trail is a 4.6-mile loop with views that go for miles. It’s especially beautiful in early fall when the aspen leaves are changing. To get to the trailhead, drive up Box Elder Canyon (aka Sardine Canyon) and start the hike near the town of Mantua (aka Man-a-way).
For a hike to a waterfall, look no further than Willard Canyon. This 2.7-mile hike is short but steep (see above) and may not be best for little kids. The trail crosses the creek a few times before going up a steep and exposed incline. Don’t sweat it, afterwards you can soak those sore muscles in the mineral water of Crystal Hot Springs.
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