I have been traveling to Park City, Utah, on family vacations ever since I was a little girl. Over the years, I’ve watched it transform into a world-class destination from a sleepy mountain town, and have seen it burst at the seams with spirited crowds during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and at numerous Sundance Film Festival celebrations.
I also have experienced Park City during every season, and can attest that fall is an ideal time of year to enjoy it. The Aspen trees turn an electric yellow and the Birch leaves become a vibrant red. The air is crisp as the weather cools down. During the fall season, many hotels and resorts in the area (even the most expensive ones) lower their prices to entice travelers to visit. Here are my must-do activities for a fall getaway in Park City.
Hiking and mountain biking
Park City has more than 400 miles of well-maintained public trails, ranked by the International Mountain Bicycling Association as the top mountain biking destination in the world. Most of the trails are accessed easily from various spots around town. During early fall, you can ride chair lifts at the Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort to embark on downhill biking adventures (or just to hike deep into the mountains).
One of my most memorable hikes in the area is the Mid-Mountain Trail. The trail cuts through the slopes above town, starting at the Deer Valley Resort and stretching all the way to the Canyons Resort. I love this trail’s one-two punch: It offers great views of town, as well as spectacular views of rolling mountains far in the distance. Hiking (or biking) up there really gives you perspective of the land.
This trail isn’t easy; all told, it is a 20-mile loop with many ups and downs throughout. If you want a less strenuous experience, you can cut the trip in half by hiking or biking only one way and a ride back on the free Park City public transit.
Taking a scenic drive
There are numerous drives in the area that enable you to experience arresting, fall views by car. You can see a full list of vetted scenic drive routes here.
The Mirror Lake drive (along the Mirror Lake Highway) is my favorite. Once you reach Mirror Lake, get out of the car and have a picnic by the shore. You will marvel at the view of the mountains and trees reflecting in the still waters of the lake.
Visiting restaurants and shops on Main Street
Exploring Main Street is essential to really getting the most out of Park City and plunging into the heart of its small-town charm. Art and photography galleries, one-of-a-kind clothing stores, interior design shops, and gift stores line the street. One of my preferred stops is the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Once I have a goody in hand—perhaps a candied apple or a chocolate covered peanut cluster—I slip through a back door into Dolly’s Bookstore, where I peruse shelves of best sellers, stationery, unique cards, and small gifts.
Viewfinder Tip: Pack accordingly; average temperatures in September are as warm as 76 degrees, but by November they drop into the low 40s.
Main Street also is lined with a variety of restaurants for travelers of every budget. The culinary scene in Park City has been on a steady upward trajectory, and the city has established itself as a legitimate foodie hub. To get an overview of what the Park City restaurant scene has to offer, take a food tour here.
My all-time favorite restaurant is the River Horse on Main, which serves up everything from American comfort food (with a Southwest slant) to Asian-inspired pot stickers. The River Horse also has live music every evening; musicians play in a dining room with a vaulted ceiling and large windows that look out over Main Street.
One restaurant gaining popularity on Main Street is Zoom, a former Union Pacific depot that since has been turned into a cozy dining space. Zoom specializes in all-American fare: Try the truffle Mac n Cheese to share for a starter, then move on to the Zoom Burger for a main course. You can work off your meal hiking in hills the next day.
Another of my beloved spots on Main Street is Wahso, an Asian fusion restaurant. Best for family-style dining, Wahso serves a delicious mix of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. During my visits to this restaurant over the years, I’ve enjoyed the steamed Chinese buns made with crispy pork belly, as well as the very delicate and delicious miso black cod.
I’d be remiss not to mention a few more highlights. For golfers, visit the picturesque Park City Golf Course, which offers 18 holes and a round of golf for US$50 per person. For equestrian lovers, a number of local ranches offer trail rides in the mountains around the city. And on Sundays until late September the Park Silly Sunday Market, located on lower Main Street, is a dynamic street market full of live music, performers, and vendors selling local art and produce.
What do you look for in a fall getaway?