Utah’s Park City in summer: Bring along your sense of adventure and an appreciation for the arts.
When Park City sheds the last of its snow and the ski runs dry out and the wildflowers bloom, the town changes gears. Rather than packing skis, a visitor should pack hiking boots, biking gear, a great appreciation for the arts, a tremendous appetite for fine food, a love of outdoor adventure, and a credit card.
A summer day in Park City—32 miles into the Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City could be spent mountain biking through the morning, dining midday at an exceptional restaurant, then riding down the luge and bobsled track built for the 2002 Olympics in Utah. In the afternoon, stroll in and out of boutiques, a generous number of art galleries, and shops full of Olympic souvenirs—all on an old-fashioned main street. For dinner, there are many more fine restaurants to choose from. Finally, retire for the night in a cozy lodge beneath high mountain peaks.
Park City was born in silver, and the town, although growing fast with the impending Olympics, is proud of it. Today you can see how it all started by visiting the small Park City Museum on Main Street. It used to be the Territorial Jail. Or take a tour into the mountain at the Park City Silver Mine Adventure. Exhibits on the mine’s ground floor detail the area’s rich silver mining heritage. Then don a hard hat and yellow slicker for a 1,500-foot descent in an old mining elevator into the Ontario Mine. Down below, a train takes you over half a mile through the heart of the mine.
Park City’s other history started with its snow. For nearly 50 years, people have been coming here in winter and early spring to hit the slopes. When the snow melts, the surrounding mountains are shaved with tree-less vertical stripes. About seven years ago, people started realizing that the mountains offer awesome mountain bike riding and hiking all summer.
Bikers and hikers can avoid the uphill climbs by riding the lifts at Deer Valley Ski Resort. For those who want to go freestyle, trails climb up and down just about every mountain and ridge around here. The popular Sweeney Switchbacks trail jumps off just above Main Street. The Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail, running east for 30 miles through wide valleys beyond Park City, is a mellow bike ride for families. Mountain bikes (and Rollerblades, tennis rackets, and more) are available to rent at a multitude of shops.
Still have some energy? Golf options include the Park City Municipal Course, the Park Meadows Golf Club, Silver Putt Miniature Golf at Park City Mountain Resort, and the Nicklaus Flick Golf School at Park City. Or try hot-air ballooning, hay rides, and horseback riding. Or ride the Alpine Slide at Park City Mountain Resort, where you fly down the mountain in luge-like sleds on a half-mile concrete track.
This corner of the Wasatch is gearing up for the 2002 Olympics, and the enthusiasm doesn’t go away when the snow melts. Visitors can get a preview at the Utah Winter Sports Park. Adventurous? Attempt a Rocket Ride in a bobsled on the multi-million-dollar luge/bobsled track. Or, for armchair adventurers, watch future Olympic aerial skiing hopefuls train by flying off ramps into a swimming pool, or long-distance Nordic jumpers train on specially made plastic runs.
For every outdoor option in Park City, there’s a cultural one too. Park City has gained worldwide recognition as the locale of Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival, held each January. In summer, the town continues to be lively with performing arts. Deer Valley Ski Resort transforms into an outdoor amphitheater. Picnic under the stars to the sounds of the Utah Symphony (often with guest artists), a bluegrass festival, and a number of other programs. New this year: Deer Valley will be one of the venues for the first Park City International Jazz Festival, held the last weekend in August. Slated to appear are greats such as Lou Rawls and Nancy Wilson.
There’s also a film series; an International Music Festival; the Utah Music Festival, with concerts held throughout town; summer shows at the newly renovated Egyptian Theater; free live music on Wednesday evenings at City Park, on Saturday afternoons on Main Street, and at the Resort Center (at the Park City Mountain Resort). And, the second weekend in August, there’s the Park City Art Festival along Main Street, with food and entertainment.
With over 13,000 pillows, Park City can overwhelm with its lodging choices. Choose from top-end places to rest your head, say the Stein Eriksen Lodge. Or choose condo-lodgings throughout town at places like the Town Lift Condominiums, Deer Valley, The Lodge at the Resort Center, Marriott’s Summit Watch Resort, or nice hotels such as the Yarrow, Olympia, or Radisson. And there are about a dozen bed-and-breakfast lodges.
If you stay in a condo, you should still plan to eat out. Park City is fast becoming a gourmet retreat. Chef/owner Bill White has two restaurants in town—good luck picking the better of the two. Chimayo serves luscious Mexican-influenced fare. White’s other restaurant, Grappa, has been a longtime local favorite. The Italian-influenced cuisine at Grappa is complemented by a mouthwatering dessert menu and a wine list that would impress the snobbiest of sommeliers.
There’s also seafood at 350 Main Street. Menu items include baked oysters with spinach, bacon, mushrooms, and Asiago cheese; or seared sesame ahi with minted cucumber relish, oriental glaze, and sticky rice. At Robert Redford’s restaurant, Zoom, there’s grilled tri-tip steak with rosemary roasted redskin potatoes, grilled Black Angus burgers. In the Copper Bottom Inn is Chez Betty. Fine fare includes Napoleon of eggplant with Mediterranean salad and goat cheese, pan-seared pork tenderloin, grilled beef tenderloin on a potato pancake.
For casual dining, try Nacho Mama’s in Prospector Square, or Jambalaya on Lower Main Street. At both ends of Main Street there’s local brew: at the top, the Wasatch Brewery; at the bottom, the Town Lift Brew Pub.
For a summer finale, consider brunch at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, in Deer Valley amid the aspen-covered Wasatch. You could work up an appetite with some early-morning mountain biking or hiking, then have brunch on the deck. The buffet fills a room, and includes house-cured salmon, eggs Benedict, gourmet salads, made-to-order pasta, fish and meat entrées, and decadent desserts. It’s $29 per adult, and worth it for the quality and quantity. But make reservations; you won’t be alone.
Photography courtesy of Posi66/Wikimedia Commons
This article was first published in May 1998. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.