Everyone spends their summer a little differently, from those who take up a months-long residency at the nearest swimming hole to the folks who see a 9:00 p.m. sunset and think “I can hike, climb and bike today!” And while some people travel far and wide to get their particular brand of outdoor summer fun, some know that there are certain places that just have it all.
Take Utah Valley, for example. Where else can you be in the middle of a bustling downtown with dozens of outdoor activities near you in the neighboring mountains? Or explore the rocky heights of local canyons in the morning before fishing the river below that same day. Not many places, so if you want the best of summer in one happy little valley, check out these unforgettable, family friendly experiences for every type of summer-er.
Your friends call you Aquaman, and it’s not because you have the body of Jason Momoa. When summer hits, you’re gettin’ in the water and staying there. You won’t even think about participating in an adventure that doesn’t involve a mountain lake or a running river. Throw in a babbling brook while you’re at it — extra babbly.
Dip your toes into Utah Valley’s waters by dipping your waders into the Provo River. There’s plenty of places in the area to tangle some trout, but Utah’s fishing community agrees — the fly fishing on the Provo is a cutthroat above the rest. From its amazing scenery to the size and volume of fish that grace its shores, it’s the place to go to catch one thiiiiiiis big. Go with a guide for access to some of the best spots.
If you’d rather hoot and holler your way down the river than stand on its banks, book a rafting adventure with a local outfitter. These pruny pros traverse the Provo on a daily basis, and have trips that are right for everyone, from whitewater excitement to easygoing floats. And don’t worry lake lovers, there are plenty of spots to enjoy an ice cold dip, an easygoing kayak or a mellow outing on their SUP. Our vote is the beautiful Payson Lakes area, which includes an epic drive on the Mount Nebo Scenic Byway.
If you’re sitting in your kayak channeling your inner Jaws and muttering “We’re gonna need a bigger lake,” head on over to Provo’s Utah Lake State Park, where you’ll find the largest freshwater lake in Utah.
Your friends call you The Flash, and it’s not because you keep trying to make those bright red tights work. When you hit the trail you’re like a blur. You're hiking every chance you can get, and it’s up to everyone else to keep up.
Utah Valley is home to the best waterfall hiking in Utah. The same towering, craggy mountains that make summit hikes a daylong, leg burning affair also create some of the state’s most powerful and majestic waterfalls. If you’re exploring Utah Valley, hikes like Stewart Falls, Fifth Water Waterfalls, Battle Creek Falls and Grotto Falls are some of the best family-friendly activities near you.
If you want to take in views of Utah Valley while hiking a scenic but moderate trail and seeing a giant letter Y, head out on the Y Trail on Y Mountain. One picnic lunch up there and you’ll be a BYU superfan for life, or at least a Y fan. And of course, if you’re up for the challenge of summiting an epic peak on a backpacking trip or a very long day hike, Utah Valley has two of Utah’s ten highest peaks, Mount Nebo (ninth at 11,933 feet) and Mount Timpanogos (tenth at 11,753 feet). Bring your hikin’ legs and plenty of water.
These popular trails can get pretty crowded in the summer months, so if you’re looking for solitude in the wilderness, explore some lesser known hikes in Utah Valley. These hidden gems are just as stunning as the Greatest Hits, and you’re far less likely to be asked to take photos of every couple on the trail. It’ll just be you, the majesty of nature, a single tear rolling down your cheek and a bald eagle resting on your shoulder.
Your friends call you Daredevil, and it’s not because you’d rather have them forget about the 2003 version of you. You’re always after the highest heights and the biggest thrills. If you can go bigger, you will.
Go scream your excitement about Utah Valley at the top of your lungs on the Sundance ZipTour. This popular zip line tour has more vertical drop than any such tour in the country, and best of all, it lies in the scenic shadow of the towering Mount Timpanogos. With its Alps-like feel, you’ll probably end up yodeling or singing “The Sound of Music” instead of screaming.
Maybe you’d rather roll up your sleeves and get your hands chalky. In that case, explore the climbing routes in American Fork Canyon. There are over 45 different crags and 560 (!) sport climbing routes in the region — that’s more than enough to keep your hands full (of rock) for a few days. If you don’t have the experience or equipment needed for your own climb, look for a guide or check out the CLAS Ropes course. This exciting destination features aerial obstacle courses, zip tours over the Provo River and exciting activities for groups of all sizes.
Don’t like any of those suggestions? Then go jump off a cliff, pal! No really, go jump off a cliff, just make sure there’s a hang glider on your back. Utah is a premier destination for hang gliding and paragliding, and Flight Park State Recreation area in Draper is where it all happens. Book a guided tandem flight for the day or enroll in flight school in the hopes of piloting yourself one day.
No matter how you choose to explore Utah Valley, there’s bound to be scenic sights, friendly faces and lots of unforgettable experiences in your future. Your friends are gonna have to start calling you “The Condiment King,” because just like an obscure Batman villain, they won’t be seeing too much of you. You’ll be off exploring Utah Valley.